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Madison McCormick: Building a Global Community of Brilliant Young Leaders

Madison McCormick: Building a Global Community of Brilliant Young Leaders

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the changemaking leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Madison McCormick, an associate at Schmidt Futures. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world. 

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Madison! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?

Madison: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! I work on this incredible initiative called Rise! Rise is a joint venture between Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust that finds brilliant people who need opportunity and supports them for life as they work to serve others. The program starts at ages 15-17, and the benefits include scholarships, mentorship, access to career development opportunities, funding, and more. The nature of this work addresses many challenges. The first is that we recognize that talent is created equally, but opportunity is not. The second is that by supporting these individuals, we are building a foundation for this global community who will themselves address the world's most pressing challenges over their lifetime.

Spiffy: That is wonderful! What motivates you to do it?

Madison: I feel motivated working on Rise because there is a core part of myself that connects with the motivations of each of the Rise Global Winners and wider community. I was fortunate to benefit from the opportunities of international studies where I was once a curious 15-year-old who then grew into a 20-year-old activist (spending many evenings protesting against various human rights infringements in Washington Square Park, NYC!). I’ve since continued to channel my passions into my career working in support of the UN SDGs and finding a through-line of investing in youth. My career remains committed to building a more equitable, just, and interconnected world, which is why I show up enthusiastically to be a part of the Rise team every day.

Spiffy: How would you describe the impact of your work?

Madison: The impact of Rise will continue to compound each year as we work to support each Rise Global Winner on an individual level and build this international network. Since its inception, Rise has welcomed over 150,000 people from over 170 countries to its community and selected 200 Winners from 69 countries of origin who have showcased their brilliance—from making education more accessible to mitigating global warming and developing tools to better detect cancer. Rise is not just a program for winners—everyone who applies benefits by joining a global community of young leaders and gains access to free online courses and opportunities from our partners around the world.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by Rise. What impact does that make? 

Madison: We just returned from Cape Town, South Africa, where we hosted our first official Rise Residential Summit! A benefit of becoming a Rise Global Winner is attending a fully-funded three-week residential summit. Bringing nearly 100 winners from the first cohort to Cape Town was a huge logistical feat in its own right! But the real impact was in the result of the time spent together focused on learning from each other, from local and global innovators, leaders, and historical figures. What I witnessed there was a powerful beginning for this cohort to build trust, empathy, curiosity, and connection that can lay the foundation for a lifetime network within which they innovate over and over again.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Madison: There is something powerful that happens when you join a community of peers that are equally motivated but bring unique perspectives and backgrounds. I find Rise to be a special space of endless opportunity. If you are a 15- to 17-year-old reading this and feel compelled to apply, our applications are open on our website until January 25, 2023! 

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Madison—it’s been an honor!

Madison McCormick is an associate at Schmidt Futures, focusing on community management and communications for Rise. Prior to joining Schmidt Futures, Madison worked at organizations such as Comic Relief, Global Citizen, and Global Business Coalition for Education. Her experience spans global policy and advocacy, grant-making, storytelling through film, and more. Madison holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University in International Relations and Global Liberal Studies. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 28, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.