Meet the Judges

With judging underway, we’re thrilled to highlight the esteemed panel of judges, who draw from diverse education and tech backgrounds.

Below, read what the judges have to say about why this Challenge matters to them, along with a flashback bonus: photos from their school days, and high school career dreams.

Director, Ford Next Generation Learning

Cheryl_hsWhy is this Challenge important to you?
The reason I want to be involved in this is because I know how important my CTE classes were in helping me build my confidence to shape my future. They were the highlight of my high school education. Everything I learned in those courses I was able to apply in my high school co-op and after-school job and my eventual career. I learned to think critically and problem-solve. I learned how to work in a team and to value diverse opinions and I began to build my brand through those experiences. Helping students get connected to their interest and goals is incredibly important to me. Ensuring that every students has equitable access to quality information and data that will help them make informed decisions and take ownership of their future is key to their success. My work for the last 14 years has demonstrated my commitment to ensuring students have the social capital, tools, resources, skills and the confidence they need to be prepared for a life they have designed for themselves with support from caring adults.

In high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I wanted to be an engineer and I cannot tell you how bad a choice that would have been for me for so many reasons!

Co-founder, Hunch Analytics; Former U.S. CTO

Aneesh_hsWhy is this Challenge important to you?
I believe everyone should have a fair shot to fulfill their dreams, and that students deserve the best advice on decisions about each stage of their lives, at each stage of life.

In high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a public servant 🙂


VP of Strategic Initiatives, National Louis University

Aarti_hsWhy is this Challenge important to you?
Success starts with dreaming big and believing that anything is possible. Early career planning helps young people set their sights high and pushes them to start thinking through the steps they need to take to achieve their dreams. We don’t do enough of this in K-12, so I’m excited to assist in efforts to make career planning more prevalent with our young people.

In high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Lawyer or Psychologist or first female professional baseball player!

Counseling & Postsecondary Coordinator, Colorado Springs School District 11

Cory_hsWhy is this Challenge important to you?
While K-12 education has increased its efforts to build children’s career knowledge and access to career opportunities, gaps still exist in helping students make the best career decisions based off a child’s strengths, interests and goals. I believe the Challenge will provide access for all students to begin the career exploration at their own pace or through a guided timeline outlined by educational professionals. Having a career tool that a child can access from any mobile device has the potential to close the career knowledge gap and increase a child’s ability to enter into education that aligns with their career interest.

In high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In high school, I wanted to be a Civil Engineer. In fact, I was admitted into the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky and studied in this field for two years before changing my major to Psychology.

Co-founder & CEO, 1776

Why is this Challenge important to you?
The kinds of ideas presented in this Challenge are exactly what our nation’s youth need, so they can explore career options based on truly knowing themselves, where the job markets are going and insights into what it takes to make their aspirations become reality.

In high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly, I had zero idea what I wanted to be when I was in high school.  The only exposure I had to potential careers was based on what my parents did for a living.  I went off to college and took classes without any vision of what I should be learning and why.

Q&A Topic: Challenge Intellectual Property License

We have received some questions regarding the Intellectual Property license for the Reach Higher Career App Challenge.

The Department of Education (ED) is holding this competition to spur the development of mobile solutions to help students navigate education and career paths, and increase the capacity of career counselors.  The finalist evaluation criteria for the Challenge specify that submissions will be evaluated in part based on the ability for the solution to scale and the team’s commitment to build out the solution into a fully functional app.

Following the Challenge, ED intends to demonstrate the winning app and highlight its features with educators, counselors, and the educational technology community. ED does not intend to release a federal app nationwide, but instead, ED will present the winning app in the hopes of maximizing the adoption of the app to serve as many students as possible.

Thus, under the intellectual property provisions, the Challenge winner(s) would not receive additional payment from ED if ED presents or describes a winning process or technology. ED hopes that the winner will be involved in this process and will benefit from it, but if the winner chooses not to pursue this work, the IP provisions provide ED the right to move the concept and design of the submission forward without the involvement of the winner.

Regardless if the winner chooses to participate in outreach efforts with ED, the owner of the winning submission is free to commercialize its product.  As a reminder, all submissions are subject to the Publicity Release as described in the Official Rules, Terms & Conditions.

If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at, and remember to submit your entry by Monday, December 7, 2015, 11:59:59 PM EST!

Developer Resources Available to Reach Higher Solvers!

Open submissions for the Reach Higher Career App Challenge (RHCAC) has been underway for over a month, and we wanted to highlight some of the resources that the Challenge sponsors have made available to solvers. During open submissions, we invite you to apply for use of these free resources.

You can find a complete list of developer resources here. Please note that all links are provided for informational purposes only:

IBM Bluemix™

IBM is offering Challenge solvers the opportunity to extend their 30-day IBM Bluemix™ trial to 60 days. Bluemix is the latest cloud offering from IBM and enables organizations and developers to quickly and easily create, deploy, and manage applications on the cloud. Bluemix gives developers flexibility, offering three open-source technologies to run the app code: Cloud Foundry, IBM Containers, and Virtual Machines. Visit for quick information and short videos on How to Get Started with Bluemix.

Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft will provide the first 100 qualified teams with free developer resources to either the BizSpark program for qualified start ups and entrepreneurs or the DreamSpark program for students and academic institutions.

BizSpark is a package of open source friendly Azure cloud hosting credits, Microsoft software, and other tools that support developers in deploying cross-platform mobile apps and scalable web apps. DreamSpark provides students a suite of software design and development tools, including Visual Studio, Xamarin, and SQL Service, that could be applied to working on a mobile app solution for the Challenge.

Sokanu API

Sokanu is a career discovery platform that measures an individual’s compatibility with various careers. The assessment measures 186 traits across 8 categories including personality, needs, culture, interests, and abilities, and matches this data to a modified version of the O*NET career database.

To date, Sokanu has generated over 146,645,730 career recommendations. RHCAC solvers can leverage the Sokanu API to integrate the assessment and career data into their apps.

After you have registered for the Challenge, please email to request these solver resources.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

The Solver Webinar Archive is Now Available

Thank you to everyone who joined us on November 3rd for the solver webinar. For those who were unable to tune in or would like to watch the webinar again, a video archive is available below with closed captioning.

Topics presented during the webinar included an in-depth overview of the Challenge, detailing key aspects of the criteria and the multi-stage competition process. The webinar concluded with a Q&A session.

Albert Palacios, Education Program Specialist at the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education hosted the webinar, and he was joined by judge, Cory Notestine, Counseling & Postsecondary Coordinator at Colorado Springs School District 11.

The Reach Higher Career App Challenge is accepting submissions through December 7, 2015. If you have any further questions, please contact us at