Digital Portfolios: How One High School Filmmaker Showcases Who She Is

Digital Portfolios: How One High School Filmmaker Showcases Who She Is

High school junior Bethanie Gourley is one of the hundreds of Noble Impact scholars who have created a digital portfolio in our program. As a filmmaker, she uses her portfolio to showcase her work and build her professional network and budding career in videography. Let me emphasize: She is in high school, and she is actively pursuing a career in film, with her digital portfolio as evidence of her artistic acumen. We believe this is what high school should be about for everyone: Students pursuing their passions within an educational experience and support system that’s both relevant and purposeful. That’s what we provide at Noble Impact, and for many of our scholars, the digital portfolio guides our unique learning process.

Bethanie says her portfolio is a representation of her personal story and what she has accomplished — she’s even used her digital portfolio to connect with her favorite filmmaker, New York-based videographer Casey Neistat. In short, it represents WHO she is, WHAT she’s done, and WHY.

Who You Are Is Your Biggest Asset

The Golden Circle Simon Sinek

Millions of people have viewed management consultant Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about how great leaders and companies inspire action. He calls it the “Golden Circle” and defines it as the world’s simplest idea — his focus is on “WHY” people and companies do what they do.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
Simon Sinek, Speaker and Consultant

It’s understandable “why” people are attracted to his TED Talk and “why” over 27 million people have viewed it. I myself have shown it in many different scenarios. I’ve been thinking, though: Is it really the progression of why, how, what? It made me think about who I am and how that connects to why I do what I do. BOOM. WHO!

“I am Bethanie Gourley, and I’m a filmmaker.”
Bethanie Gourley, 11th-Grade Noble Scholar

In my first year of facilitating our Noble Impact classroom curriculum, I focused on “WHO” students were and challenged them to get beneath the surface… a lot harder than I thought. Three years later, I’m still convinced that “WHO” you are is greater than “WHY” you do what you do. It’s your unique value proposition. Thus, we have a revised quote and model for Simon Sinek:

“People don’t buy what you do… they buy WHO you are.”
Chad Williamson, Noble Impact


Ask the brilliant people at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz how they invest. More specifically, ask Tristan Walker how he created Walker and Company Brands — we use his case study in our curriculum to emphasize the power of using authentic and personal stories.

If we really want to be honest about the world’s simplest idea, it’s about WHO you are. It’s about creating a life that connects to individual narrative. That’s where “meaning” manifests itself. The Walker and Company story doesn’t exist without Tristan’s story about not having a father to teach him how to shave. It’s not a fun story, no, but it’s personal, memorable, and impactful. Yes, the Walker and Company website gives you the language about “WHY”, i.e. purpose. But once you click on the video, it goes deeper and provides the “WHO”, which is the signature story.

We begin our curriculum by challenging students to identify their stories by building their personal portfolios, and Bethanie has provided a great example. We believe this approach will lead to uncovering the entrepreneur within.

2015: Looking Back On A Year Of Noble Impact

2015: Looking Back On A Year Of Noble Impact

This has been a year of growth for Noble Impact. Going into our third year, we’re laser-focused on striving toward our mission of providing every student with a relevant and purpose-driven education.

Some of the highlights from this year include expanding our curriculum into the middle school setting, launching high school apprenticeships, testing the usefulness of digital portfolios in the classroom, introducing our new website and blog, and launching our first Civic Innovation Challenge, modeled on previous problem-solving events we’ve hosted.

We want to thank our community for teaming up to make our work possible. Without the countless community partners and our students — all of whom are driven toward making a difference — our work would not be possible. As we reflect on the past year of work, we are simultaneously gearing up for a new year and refreshed goals. We invite you to be a part of that change. Find us on social media or come see us in Little Rock at the Arkansas Venture Center. You can contact us at:

In the meantime, here’s a look at what 2015 has brought for Noble Impact and its scholars.

Expanding Into Middle School

Noble Impact Middle School

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
— Benjamin Franklin

We have learned a lot since launching Noble Impact’s entrepreneurship course at eStem High School in the 2013-2014 school year. Most importantly, we learned that we can’t wait until high school. We have to start earlier and invest in the long-term creation of every student’s entrepreneurial skillset and public service mindset.

This year, we worked with eStem to expand Noble into middle school, a long-term investment in student growth starting in 5th grade. Stay tuned as we continue to expand throughout the K-12 education experience. Early exposure to problem-solving and project-based learning environments sets our students up best for success.

Launching Apprenticeships

Noble Impact Apprenticeship Partners

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

While we were piloting Noble Impact’s course in Middle School, we also launched an apprenticeship program at eStem High School with more than a dozen partnering organizations, including Few, Apptegy, Strengthen, the Museum of Discovery, John David Pittman Photography, Freiderica Pharmacy And Compounding, CHI St. Vincent Infirmary, River Market Boot Camp, and the Venture Center.

Here’s the important part — We did not hold the students’ hands in this process. From researching the companies to initiating communications, the students were in the driver’s seat the entire time. Our long-term goal for apprenticeships is for organizations to not view them just as volunteerism, but opportunities for Noble scholars to provide real value.

Testing Student Digital Portfolios

Bradley Poindexter Portfolio

“Education is all a matter of building bridges.”
— Ralph Ellison

Noble Impact’s curriculum is designed on a bridge of engagement between the classroom and community. This year, we discovered that students needed a more effective tool to communicate between those two worlds. Enter the digital portfolio.

In the first semester, more than 500 Noble Impact scholars in 5th to 12th grades created personal digital portfolios, using website building tool Weebly to test whether portfolios engage students and power community connections. Read one student’s account of how her digital portfolio helped her connect with her favorite filmmaker in NYC.

You’re going to be hearing more from us on this topic. Until then, check out VP of Product Erica Swallow’s op-ed in the Huffington Post: “The New High School Essentials: LinkedIn, a Resumé, and a Digital Portfolio.”

Introducing Our New Website & Blog

Noble Impact Home Page

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.”
— Ira Glass

A few months ago in a staff meeting, Noble Impact’s co-founder Chad Williamson said something that resonated with everyone: “We are a factory for student stories.”

Those stories reside on our new website, launched in July. If you haven’t visited lately, take a few minutes to peruse. There is a ton of great content.

In addition to doing a better job of telling our story, we wanted to provide a platform for innovative ideas and diverse perspectives. That’s why we launched the Community Blogging Program.

In the last four months, 13 guest bloggers, including teachers, parents, students and entrepreneurs, have published 47 posts about topics ranging from reimagining youth talent development to how students are using LinkedIn. If you’re interested in joining our network of talented writers and thought leaders, send us a note.

Launching the Civic Innovation Challenge

“Every citizen has the duty to be informed, to be thoughtfully concerned, and to participate in the search for solutions.”
— Winthrop Rockefeller

In July, we launched our first Civic Innovation Challenge on the opportunity gap in education. Noble Impact scholars were joined by civil rights activist and “Little Rock Nine” member Minnijean Brown Trickey. [Watch the video above for an inside look into the event.]

The Civic Innovation Challenge combines the very best of real-world learning, critical thinking, team collaboration, and community engagement. We leave the theoretical behind and introduce students to some of the most pressing challenges facing our society.

Looking at 2016

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

In the coming year, we’re focused on offering more Noble Impact courses to students earlier on in their education and will be doubling down on digital portfolios. We also look forward to continuing to build our network of community partnerships with the Noble Apprenticeship program.

If you’d like to join along in our 2016 adventures, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where we maintain a dialogue about the future of education and how we’re playing our part — from the latest articles on innovation in education to what’s happening in our classrooms.

Stories: The Power Of Sharing And Listening

Stories: The Power Of Sharing And Listening

Stories are everywhere, and everyone has one. When was the last time that you read someone a story, told a story, or shared your story? All the time, right? Stories make life fun. They make life interesting.

Before Fall Break, I had the opportunity to listen to some of our 5th graders in Noble Impact tell their stories to their classmates. They shared their values, their passions, and a story – something important to them – and they are even blogging about it! After seeing their blogs, I had no excuse not to get mine up and running. Thanks for that motivation, 5th graders!

Jessi Forster Reads a Story
Jessi Forster reads a story at eStem Public Charter School.
This is something I love about education today, especially here at eStem. We are equipping these 10 year olds with something that is intangible – it goes beyond a lesson, test, or paper. It’s the ability to have a story and share it with others.

But that’s not the only value in sharing stories – what about those students and teachers listening? They are making personal connections with these students’ stories, they are getting to know each other. Today, it just may be more important to be a listener. Can you think of the people you know who are good listeners…the ones who truly hear what you are saying? I know you can probably think of several names of those who don’t! When I know someone hears me, I know they care about me and what I have to say. This is what I want our children to learn, not only how to tell their story, but also how to listen to others.

​I wish I had learned that when I was 10.

This post originally appeared on Jessi Forster’s blog, Mrs. Jess Forster, where she writes about her work as an educator and K-8 director.

The New High School Essentials: LinkedIn, a Resumé, and a Digital Portfolio

The New High School Essentials: LinkedIn, a Resumé, and a Digital Portfolio

The Huffington Post LogoThis post originally appeared in The Huffington Post, where Noble Impact VP of Product Erica Swallow is a guest contributor, focused on the intersection of education and technology.

In a world where more than a third of college admissions officers visit applicants’ social media pages and 93% of job recruiters review candidates’ social profiles before making hiring decisions, a digital presence is now an essential for hopeful college admits, entry-level apprentices, and future employees alike.

A decade ago, high school students were sent home with supply lists that included a backpack, binders, notebooks, and pens. Today, it is becoming increasingly important for a high schooler to come prepared with his or her digital records of achievement, including a LinkedIn profile, a resumé, and a digital portfolio. These tools increase a student’s odds of success landing college admittance, job offers, and scholarships, interviewees told me.

Building Credibility

Anna Albers High School LinkedIn Profile

Recent Alma High School graduate Anna Albers has had a LinkedIn profile for years.

Anna Albers, an incoming freshman at the University of Arkansas has had a resumé since she was a freshman at Alma High School. For her, it’s a tool for building credibility. She says what began as a homework assignment, grew into a useful resource for her career progression. It started as a place to list her extensive volunteering experience with organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Ronald McDonald House, but now also showcases her academic achievements and work experiences. Her resumé, too, is highlighted on her LinkedIn profile, which she also launched as part of her course work at Alma, through a career-focused, co-curricular student club called DECA, which aims to “prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.”

“My resumé has been incredibly useful,” Albers says. “It helped me in the process of being elected and serving as a state officer for DECA. It also helped me get a job [as a life guard manager at a local state park], receive college scholarships, and push along my college applications.” Albers says the hiring manager at Lake Fort Smith State Park, where she works, was surprised she even had a resumé. “It helped me gain the managerial position. Most high school and college students don’t have a resumé,” she says. “When I spoke with other applicants applying for one of the scholarships I ended up receiving, too, no one else had submitted a resumé and many didn’t even know what a resumé is. The resumé, though, created the backbone for the interview and provided talking points for my interviewer.”

Albers assessment of her interview seems accurate, according to Chad Brown, president of the Harvard Club of Arkansas and director of research at hedge fund Circumference Group. Brown and fellow Harvard alumni conduct interviews with Harvard College applicants from Arkansas. He says he receives minimal information about an applicant leading up to an interview, including the interviewee’s name, high school, and contact information. He typically requests a resumé during his first call with an applicant and later searches for the candidate on Facebook and Google to “see if there’s anything of note,” he says.

“An applicant may be nervous or not know what Harvard is interested in knowing about them,” Brown says. “Some students don’t realize that what they’re doing is different from their peers. When I find those details online, and they’re not mentioned in the interview, I try to bring them up.” Brown adds that students seem to be getting better at hiding their social presences. Which begs the question, why aren’t more students aiming to showcase their digital goods?

It may be because most colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources yet. “For undergraduate admissions, we don’t utilized LinkedIn or online portfolios to make admissions decisions,” says Tyler Bittle, admissions counselor at University of Central Arkansas, noting that it’s not part of the college’s admissions rubric. “We look at transcripts and ACT scores. Supplemental materials become important when students apply to specific, more competitive academic programs, such as our Honors College,” he adds. Bittle says even then, online resources aren’t directly part of the application process, but they can come in handy for recommendation writers, who may use such resources to better articulate a student’s accomplishments.”

Secondary educators, though, are stepping up to meet growing demand for online media. New York-based high school counselor Steve Brown forecasts, “In the next 10 years, you’ll probably see more college admissions counselors accepting digital portfolios as a part of the application process to feel out what kind of a student body they want to bring together. Smaller private schools will likely start that trend, because a lot of them have already moved away from SAT and ACT score submissions. In the end, colleges want a well-rounded student body. Digital portfolios tell a student’s story, beyond his or her traditional academic records.

As recent high school graduate Albers puts it, “These digital resources are most valuable for high school students. A resumé is your foundation. It’s what gets you started thinking about your passion and what you’re doing in life. It’s so helpful to have those conversations early on.”

Show, Don’t Tell

High school senior Jadon Barnes has a film reel that rivals other much more established professionals in his field.

One of the key tenants of storytelling is to show, rather than tell. Digital portfolios enable students to do just that by sharing their stories in engaging, visual ways.

At education non-profit Noble Impact, where I serve as vice president of product, we expose students to 21st-Century tools that empower them to build their credibility through storytelling. Among other activities, each student is challenged to build his or her online presence to showcase his or her story, values, passions, and related projects.

Senior Jadon Barnes, for example, showcases his work via his professional-grade website and film reel, which showcases his love for and talent in videography. While still in high school, Barnes has already been a showcased filmmaker at the Little Rock Film Festival. It’s easy to see why, when viewing his online footprint. Barnes’ Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles are also in line with his professional image — something most adults can’t say themselves!

Professional videographer Lukas Deem, owner of Retrocat Media, commented on Barnes’ portfolio, “His digital game is on point. Jadon’s site showcases that he collaborates with other people and organizes his own projects. It shows that he’s doing something outside of school hours — which means that he’s a driven individual.”

High school junior Bethanie Gourley, also a filmmaker, tells her story through a frequently updated YouTube channel and a digital portfolio. In fact, Gourley wrote a blog post last month about how her digital portfolio enabled her to connect with her favorite filmmaker, director and producer Casey Neistat, last year. “Through Twitter, I had tweeted him many times in the past,” she writes. “But this time, he actually read what I had to say through my digital portfolio. The fact that Casey complimented my work showed me I had potential, even though I was just a sophomore in high school.”

The possibilities are endless as to how high school students can use their online presences to create and seize opportunities.

The Make Or Break

Bethanie Gourley Digital Portfolio

Bethanie Gourley used her digital portfolio to connect with her favorite filmmaker, Casey Neistat, during her sophomore year in high school.

An informative social media and digital presence is increasingly the make or break for college admits and job applicants. It’s certainly a must-have in some circles.

“We know applicants through their online presence weeks before we even talk to them,” says Retrocat Media Creative Director Joe Lusby, who is currently on the search for a high school apprentice. He adds, “Everybody has social profiles these days, so we look for anything that stands out. Furthermore, if you don’t have an online presence, we’re not going to find you. Our business operates entirely online. That’s how we network.”

High school counselor Steve Brown says he focuses his students’ efforts on building digital tools that enable them to be better prepared for life decisions after high school. Based in Lake Shore Central School District in upstate New York, Brown has been helping students build digital portfolios for three years now. Using a tool called CollegeOnTrack, his students are guided through tutorials on building a resumé, creating a digital portfolio, choosing a career path, and researching college options.

“From what I’ve found,” says Brown, “Digital portfolios are a chance to highlight and tell a story about a student’s growth and the things they do outside of school. I had a student who was very much into racing cars on the weekends. I had no idea, until he uploaded videos to his portfolio. He’s now a student of engineering and diesel mechanics. I had another student who was a figure skater — I learned through her portfolio that she volunteers for the Skating Association for the Blind and Handicapped, an organization that teaches blind children and adults how to skate on ice. As a counselor, it’s helpful to see what the students do, and it’s important for students to showcase these stories on college and job applications.”

Across the country in Michigan at similarly named Lake Shore High School, students — such as Sean Neal, Jessica Old, and Caitlin Beirne — use online site creator Weebly to create in-depth academic and professional track records of their work, including uploads of resumés, reference letters, academic awards, blog posts, and even work samples. For example, in her spare time, Beirne is a cake decorator and baker, and her work samples look delicious enough to prove it!

These resources are just the type of content that recruiters and admissions officers cite as make-or-break assets. A video goes a long way in showing what a student has done and can do. Show me a picture of a delicious cake, and I’m ready to hire you for my next party!

The Bottom Line

A digital presence is no longer a nice-to-have for high school students. Competition is high, and schools across the nation — and world — are preparing their scholars for a 21st Century workforce.

To students and the parents and educators who support them, I challenge: Is your digital presence ready for life after high school? These tools are the new high school essentials for those hoping to jump into a college program or the workforce. If you haven’t considered building a resumé, LinkedIn profile, and/or digital portfolio to showcase your experiences, what’s holding you back?

Header image courtesy of Noble Impact

LinkedIn For High School: A 16-Year-Old’s Thoughts On Professional Networking

LinkedIn For High School: A 16-Year-Old’s Thoughts On Professional Networking

Prior to this year, I had no idea what LinkedIn is or how it could benefit me. I’m sixteen, almost seventeen, and I have been in an entrepreneurial class called Noble Impact for the past two years. The class was introduced to us our 10th grade year. The class has taught me a lot about the way I present myself to people I would like to get potentially get to know better, both personally and professionally.

This year in our Noble 201 class, one our of assignments was to create an account on LinkedIn. When I downloaded the app and looked over it, I was very confused. It was not like Twitter or Instagram, apps which had included colorful pictures and funny updates I can “like” or “favorite.” The app mostly just had articles. It seemed pretty boring.

To set up an account, I had to input my name, job experience, and other details about myself, which I assumed LinkedIn would use to direct me to updates or posts that would interest me. After a couple of questions and clicks, it sent me to the homepage, at which point, I was still thinking it must be like Twitter, so I was looking for things that a teen would look for — something along the lines of my interests. Immediately I was bored, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t the fact that there was a lot reading — it was the fact that it didn’t hold my attention.

A couple of days passed, and we were asked to write a good summary that could show other people viewing our profile just how credible we are. I put my summary in and cleaned up my profile a little bit more and was surprised how easily connections were just coming back to me. All of a sudden, the app wasn’t boring anymore. I started to see the value of it. I was looking for jobs at the time, for example, and I would get on and search for the company I was interested in, and it would pop up with a description and sometimes an opening. We also learned in class that you can see how we’re connected to people who work at the organization on the company’s LinkedIn page.

I also got some help on how to clean up my profile from my Aunt Melba. She is a very high-profile woman and has many titles. I was at her house this summer, during which time she happened to be looking for a new job. She has so much experience and so many references that I was surprised she wasn’t getting called for new jobs by the second.

Beyond the basics of filling out my profile, Aunt Melba has also taught me about online safety. She called me recently to suggest that I remove my birthday (date and year) from my public profile, warning me that though LinkedIn is a professional site, there are still creepy people lurking around. She was basically saying that I’m in this for my professional development, not for strangers to know my whole life story.

As of now, I still use the app, and I constantly get on to check for interesting articles and people I can connect with. The app isn’t boring; I was just taken aback at first, because I didn’t know what to do with it. But now I realize I can use LinkedIn for high school growth.

I’ve learned so much just with this app alone. It taught me how other people look at me and how I want other people to look at me. Also, it is not like Twitter. The concept of Twitter is to connect and engage with other people however that may be. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is for professional use only. It is for getting connected with people in the same area as you, who may share similar career goals or interests.

So, while it can be difficult to get used to for first-timers, LinkedIn is not boring.

Header image courtesy of LinkedIn

How My Digital Portfolio Enabled Me To Connect With My Favorite Filmmaker

How My Digital Portfolio Enabled Me To Connect With My Favorite Filmmaker

During the spring of 2015, my Noble Impact 101 class empowered me and my classmates to each create a digital portfolio.

The portfolio was a platform Noble gave us to help share our passions, stories, values, and projects. We used the Weebly student blog platform to portray our websites. The purpose of the digital portfolio was to show my accomplishments and what I can offer. So, if a business person wanted to network with me, for example, I’d be prepared. You can check out my portfolio here.

A film I created with my sister to showcase my digital portfolio experience

I personally enjoyed the opportunity to create a personal website. It was an opportunity to share my story and achievements on something not connected to a social media platform. Check out the video I created above that describes my experience!

I have a strong passion for film and it was all sparked by a New York-based filmmaker Casey Neistat. He portrays strong stories in his short movies — I look up to him as a role model. Being exposed to his work has enabled me to find my own sense of film and style. Casey is also a successful businessman through creating his own social media platform, Beme. Therefore, I thought of no one better to send my digital portfolio out to other than the famous Casey Neistat.

Bethanie Gourley Digital Portfolio

The homepage of my digital portfolio, which features one of my illustrations and a Casey Neistat quote

Through Casey’s personal website, I sent him a short email sharing my digital portfolio. The key quotes used in my portfolio were all from Casey, and I was excited to finally share what I had made with the man who stated those quotes.

Exactly an hour and two minutes later, Casey emailed me back saying, “Good Job, Bethanie.” Through Twitter, I had tweeted him many times in the past, but this time, he actually read what I had to say through my digital portfolio. The fact that Casey complimented my work showed me I had potential, even though I was just a sophomore in high school.

“You have never made it, with each success must come a never and more invictus goal.”
—Casey Neistat

My digital portfolio helped me connect with my favorite filmmaker and helped me grow my potential. I am very thankful for joining Noble Impact and using what they have taught me to further my goals as a filmmaker.

Header image of Casey Neistat courtesy of Resource Magazine