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(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)February 2, 2017

Co-Founder and President of The Future Project Poses Challenge for Students to ‘Define Success on Their Own Terms’

MAHWAH, N.J. – Kanya Balakrishna’s youthful energy filled the room as she encouraged students to embrace passion for their own futures during her keynote address at the 11th Annual Diversity Convocation  on Wednesday, February 1 at Ramapo College of New Jersey. The event was sponsored by the Diversity Action Committee, the Office of the President and the Ramapo College Board of Trustees.

Ramapo President Peter P. Mercer offered the opening remarks. “A young person with a passion and an enthusiasm for positive social change, Ms. Balakrishna reminds me of many of our student leaders,” Mercer said. Student Trustee Stephen Geerlof and Associate Professor Pinar Kayaalp, Co-Chair of the Diversity Action Committee, delivered the welcome and keynote speaker introduction, respectively.

Balakrishna, a Yale graduate, is co-founder and president of The Future Project, a national movement calling on young Americans to create the future of their dreams. Since launching in 2011 in Washington, D.C., New York City and New Haven, Connecticut, the organization has spread across seven American cities, including Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Detroit. It now has nearly 100 employees and exists in more than 40 public schools.

Speaking to an audience of students, staff, faculty, trustees and guests, Balakrishna posed, “Ask this question:  what would you do if you weren’t afraid? We all have ideas about the future and what we can accomplish but if fear is holding us back, what good are those ideas? The Future Project is about making schools a place where students can discover their passions and create their own opportunities and successes.”

The Future Project dispatches full-time “Dream Directors” — highly trained, world-class leaders and entrepreneurs — into high schools and charges them with mobilizing a coalition of students and staff who channel their passions to build student-led Future Projects (campaigns, organizations, products) that impact their schools and communities.

“We want people to define success on their own terms…when ideas collide and combine, they grow and that leads to innovation,” Balakrishna said, adding that “Collective genius is the only way we can change the world.”

The annual Diversity Convocation is one of the initiatives of the Diversity Action Committee at Ramapo College.


Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice, and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others. Ramapo College is also distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by, boasts the best campus housing in New Jersey on, and is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools.

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, Data Science, Educational Technology, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education.


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