Hero of the Month: Future Ready Five
In honor of surpassing 1M Lime Hero trips and donations exceeding $450K, we are thrilled to introduce a new monthly series called “Hero of the Month!”
Lime Hero is our community empowerment program that allows riders to round up the cost of their rides to support a community organization in their hometown. Through partnerships with more than 65 organizations in more than 90 cities, riders who become Lime Heroes help to improve their communities with every ride they take. More than 118,000 Lime Hero riders have already helped to raise more than $450,000 globally for non-profit organizations addressing clean-air, safe streets, youth and community programming, services for the unhoused and more.
Hero of the Month is a new series stemming from our Lime Hero program that aims to bring awareness and visibility to one of our global Lime Hero partners each month.
This month, we are kickstarting the series with Future Ready Five out of Columbus Ohio. Future Ready Five is the leading collective impact organization taking a holistic approach to kindergarten readiness in Franklin County. In pursuit of equity, access and inclusion, their focus is developing systems, elevating early childhood education and inspiring advocacy until all young children are fully prepared for kindergarten.
We spoke with Mario Basora, CEO, and Neeta Agrawal, VP of Advancement and Community Relations, from Future Ready Five for a fireside Q&A.
Can you give us a brief overview on what you do?
Basora: As CEO of Future Ready Five I work closely with our board of directors, the community, and our staff to ensure that our mission of 100% of Franklin County children being ready for kindergarten comes to fruition.
Agrawal: As the VP of Advancement and Community Relations at Future Ready Five, I am responsible for leading initiatives to advance our mission by cultivating relationships with stakeholders, securing funding, and overseeing community engagement efforts. I play a pivotal role in building partnerships, promoting awareness, and ensuring the sustained growth and positive impact of Future Ready Five within the community.
How does Future Ready measure its impact on Columbus?
Basora & Agrawal: Our ultimate impact is measured by kindergarten readiness scores on the annual KRA, an assessment taken by all Ohio kindergarteners when entering kindergarten. But we also measure our impact on a more micro-level, ensuring that our strategic initiatives are being implemented with fidelity and furthering our systems building work.
What is your favorite part about Future Ready?
Basora: I love the creative work we are doing to create an early learning ecosystem in a space that is largely void of collaborative systems.
Agrawal: Meeting other nonprofit leaders is my favorite part of the job as it provides an invaluable opportunity to share insights, collaborate on innovative solutions, and collectively work towards addressing shared challenges, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose within the nonprofit sector. Connecting with like-minded individuals also allows for the exchange of ideas, best practices, and inspiration, creating a supportive network that amplifies the impact of our respective organizations.
What is the biggest obstacle Future Ready faces?
Basora: To meet our big goal of having all kids ready for kindergarten, it takes the support of both public and private sector leaders and organizations. While we have great support from our county and city governments, the Siemer Family Foundation, AEP, Nationwide Insurance, Lime and other organizations, making a real impact will take even more engagement.
Workforce growth is one of the top challenges for the business community in central Ohio today. Future Ready Five is about building the workforce of today and tomorrow. Investing in early childhood now will free up families to re-engage their talents in the Central Ohio workforce and fill needed in-demand roles.
Long-term proactive commitment to kindergarten readiness, which has a 700% long-term return on investment for our community, is key to our future success with kids. With over 65% of our current children not ready, that has staggering implications for our future only 3 years down the road. Children not ready for kindergarten struggle reading in 3rd grade, are more likely to commit crimes as teens and adults, less likely to graduate from high school or go to college, and ultimately struggle to contribute to the workforce. Most of our societal challenges like being unhoused, engaging in crime, addiction, and joblessness all can be traced back to the first five years of life and readiness for kindergarten.
Agrawal: To meet our big goal of having all kids ready for kindergarten, it will take the support of both public and private sector leaders and organizations. Workforce growth is one of the top challenges for the business community in central Ohio today. Future Ready Five is about building the workforce of today and tomorrow. Securing leaders and organizations as investment partners in funding not just short term solutions to the workforce crisis, but also long-term solutions like kindergarten readiness, which has a 700% long-term return on investment for our community and can solve current societal challenges like crime and homelessness and is key to our future success with kids.
How did you get involved in Future Ready?
Basora: I was a longtime K-12 teacher, principal, and superintendent. After many years in the work, I saw some research that 90% of the human brain is largely developed by the age of 5. That was a wake up call to me and made me consider putting more of my time and energy into the birth-to-five space. I saw a position open up at Future Ready Five and I jumped at the opportunity to make an impact where it matters most.
Agrawal: I have been passionate about eliminating educational barriers for all students in order for them to reach their fullest potential regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic or demographic status for the past 20 years. When Mario and I met regarding a different opportunity, we knew we had to work together to help the youngest children in Franklin County. They are in a crisis and it’s all hands on deck.
What was the biggest project you worked on in 2023? What was the impact?
Basora: I think our biggest project was narrowing our plan to just 2 big focus areas: building the learning ecosystem and supporting early learning providers and families. This big shift in direction for us will have the greatest impact on young children in 2024 and beyond.
Agrawal: My work to build public awareness around the importance of early childhood education to the local community has been incredibly rewarding. Witnessing the positive impact of increased awareness on community engagement and support for early education initiatives has been fulfilling, and it underscores the transformative potential that a collective understanding of this crucial issue can have on the future well-being of our youngest community members.
What's ahead for 2024 for Future Ready?
Basora & Agrawal: 2024 is going to be a great year for Future Ready Five and our work with children! We will finish building the ecosystem in the first quarter and begin piloting with children and families in the spring. For the first time, we will be able to know which children are behind in readiness and help each of them be ready for school before it is too late. This will help us close racial and socioeconomic learning gaps that begin in infancy and persist throughout school and life.
Anything else you want to share?
Basora: We just want to say how thankful Future Ready Five is to Lime and its loyal customers for the great support you have provided our organization over the last several years.
Agrawal: Future Ready Five is sincerely grateful for Lime’s support and for generously sharing our story. Our partnership can not only provide crucial resources for our initiatives but also amplify our message, reaching a broader audience and fostering a deeper sense of community engagement. We appreciate Lime Scooters' commitment to making a positive impact, and their collaboration has contributed to advancing our mission for a more vibrant and educationally enriched community.
Rapid Fire Questions
E-bike or E-Scooter?
Favorite place to take a Lime in Columbus?
Basora: From meeting to meeting during the week.
Agrawal: In the nice weather to go from place to place around the city
Favorite part about partnering with Lime?
Basora: We love the mission and strong following of loyal riders.
Agrawal: The collaborative spirit and innovative thinking to positively shape communities worldwide
Three words that describe Future Ready?
Basora: Innovative, passionate, kids-first.
Agrawal: Passionate, dedicated and fun
If Future Ready had a superhero mascot, who would it be and why?
Basora: I would have to go with Batman. He is all about supporting the growth and vitality of his city. And I would like to believe that helping the children of Gotham (in our case Franklin County) and ensuring their success is his most central motivator.
Agrawal: Wonder Woman because she is an ambassador of peace and justice, Wonder Woman strives to bring about harmony in the world and promote equality.