Kindling Young Adult Fellowship, Fall 2022

  1. What is this?
  2. Apply
  3. FAQ

Join us this fall to do creative work with a small cohort of young adults in a new gap-year fellowship.

What is this?

Powderhouse is hosting a paid gap-year fellowship for young adults, running from 1 September 2022 through 26 May 2023. Over the course of the year, we’ll design, develop, and release several issues of a new, community-driven publication we’re creating. Together, we’ll choose themes for these issues—anything from “Virtual Reality” to “Gender & Fashion” to ”Secrets”—and then use those themes to inspire projects of our own design. Eventually, these projects will turn into the pieces that make up the publications we release.

The projects and pieces we make will explore all sorts of topics, and will also be grounded in a few, central skills. Just as writing is the primary tool at many publications, computation, narrative, and design will be our primary tools. We chose these tools not because we think everyone should be computer programmers, writers, or designers, but because these are powerful tools for thinking, problem-solving, and creating—no matter what work you do.

And, just to be clear. When we say computation, we don't mean AP Computer Science or Hour of Code. We mean programming computers to make art, doing data-rich science research, and making 3D models for fabrication. When we talk about narrative, we don’t mean five paragraph essays. We mean conducting interviews, editing films, and making meaning from data. When we talk about design, we mean everything from figuring out how the publication should look to learning to go from an idea to a prototype to a finished product in your personal projects.

And these skills will serve you well no matter where you’re headed.

How?

Over the course of a year, fellows will spend most of their time pursuing hands-on projects of their own design investigating different themes for issues of our publication’s issues. These themes will be chosen collaboratively, each designed to support a wide variety of interests and projects. Work on each issue will begin with open-ended explorations of the theme, getting a shared understanding of the theme and its core ideas as we brainstorm and prototype to figure out projects to do. We’ll spend most of our time working on those projects. Only in the final weeks before we release an issue will we turn to sharing our work in publishable pieces.

Throughout, we will provide structured time for planning and doing projects; workshops in computation, narrative, and design; individual advising and support developing pieces; structures for group critique and revision; and, of course, a platform for publishing and sharing our work.

How much?

Great work requires time: This is a full-time fellowship, and Powderhouse will pay fellows ~$30,000 over nine months, the equivalent of a $40,000 annual salary. Healthcare, dental, vision, and retirement benefits will be provided, as will re-location support for those moving to the Boston area. Refer to the FAQ for more details.

For those interested, we will also offer individualized support with your transition to college or career, including:

  • Getting your GED/HiSET
  • Applying to college (including applying for financial aid)
  • Developing a personal portfolio
  • Finding and interviewing for jobs

Who?

We are looking for a small group of 5–10 people who are:

  • eligible for the program
  • transitioning to college or career
  • eager to explore computation, narrative, and design through practical work
  • excited to collaborate with a diverse group and know everyone has something to offer
  • into doing interdisciplinary work/crossing disciplinary boundaries while also having a healthy respect for the depth and power of established disciplines;
  • committed to rigorous, detail-oriented work as well as the supportive, critical collaboration that requires

Because Powderhouse is running this fellowship to inform the design of future youth programming, it is also important that fellows are excited about sharing honest, critical reflections on their experience to help us learn from and improve the program.

We also think it’s important to be explicit about the social contract at the heart of the friendly, open-minded space we’re trying to create, one which encourages—rather than shuts down—expression and investigation. In this spirit, we want to share a few of the core responsibilities and expectations we see as central to the work we’ll be tackling together.

What does Powderhouse owe fellows?

  • A salary, equipment, benefits, and other individualized supports to make creatively and technically ambitious work possible
  • Curated resources and extensive, one-on-one and one-on-few support to work through these resources to develop fluency in computation, narrative, and design
  • Critical conversations about—as well as celebration of—fellows’ work and the powerful ideas at its center
  • Individualized support transitioning to college or career

What do fellows owe Powderhouse?

  • Fifty hours a week (some collective and some independent) of your best effort to create rigorous, interdisciplinary pieces as part of a collaborative media project
  • The energetic pursuit of critical feedback and a willingness to develop new skills and perspectives outside your comfort zone
  • Committed participation in and critical feedback on the systems and practices we're prototyping as part of Powderhouse’s mission

What do fellows owe each other?

  • Openness to collaboration with others with significantly different skills, backgrounds, and perspectives
  • Supportive, critical conversations seeking to deepen one another's work
  • Transparent, reliable, deadline-oriented collaboration

When?

This fellowship will run from 1 September 2022 to 26 May 2022, 10AM–5PM each weekday, excluding state and federal holidays. In addition to this time, you’ll also spend a few (≤ 10) hours each week working independently—or in self-organized groups—on workshop materials, project development and revisions.

Where?

We will be based out of a small, two story workshop outside Davis Square in Somerville, MA. You’ll have 24/7 access to that space, as well as a co-working space in Kendall Square for those interested.

Why?

People are constantly asking young people to plan their future. We think this is a mistake; very few people’s lives go according to plan. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in pursuing skills, perspectives, and interests that matter to you. We hope to offer fellows:

  • a supportive, hands-on environment building your comfort with skills which will serve you well no matter what you do (i.e. computation, narrative, and design)
  • help developing and releasing a personal website and portfolio
  • individualized support making the jump to college or career (including applying to jobs or postsecondary institutions, securing financial aid, etc.)
  • and a chance to inform the design of a novel educational institution …all while getting paid.

Apply

The application process for this program has three phases:

  1. Let us know you’re interested and tell us a bit about yourself through the form linked below.
  2. Based on those responses, we’ll follow up to schedule a 1-2 hour video interview in which we’ll get to know each other a little, further explore some of the things you shared in your application, and answer any questions you might have about us and the program.
  3. And finally, based on those conversations, we’ll get on another 1-2 hour call to get our hands dirty (or...maybe more our mouths talking?!) collaborating on some real project work. We want to get a sense of what it will be like to work together, so we’re going to spend some time coming up with project ideas live. We’ll share a little more when the time comes, but you won’t need to do any concrete preparation. Just come ready to chat and brainstorm with us!

We will be accepting applications through 15 July 2022, but we will be admitting fellows on a rolling basis, so we encourage you to get started as soon as you’re able. You can expect an initial response to your application within 24 hours.

FAQ

Below are some questions we thought folks might have. If you have a question that isn't answered here, please get in touch!

Whom will I be learning from? What is the background of the faculty running the fellowship?

You’ll be learning from other fellows as well as from Powderhouse’s team alongside other experts and advisors from the community whom we’ll bring in to support particular projects and pieces.

We’ve been developing youth and adult programming since 2009, prototyping hardware, software, and media to support rigorous, creative work across a variety of disciplines. Academically, our backgrounds span math, physics, environmental engineering, creative writing, and community performance.

Who’s behind this? Why are you running it?

Powderhouse’s team is running this fellowship. We’re running it to prototype some elements of a replacement for high school we’re working to build as part of our larger mission.

We believe that for many people, School doesn't work, with severe consequences. Although society invests in improving School-as-it-is, where will radically new approaches to School come from?

We’re trying to answer that question, and we hope you’ll help us do so!

How can I apply? What’s the process like?

We are accepting applications on a rolling basis through 15 July 2022. To get started, apply here, and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours about next steps.

Briefly:

  1. We’ll ask you to briefly describe your background, what’s interesting to you about this fellowship, and share a few ideas for or examples of projects you think are great (whether or not you want to do them yourself).
  2. Based on that, we’ll follow up with an informal video interview during which we’ll discuss those questions further, along with any questions or concerns you might have about the fellowship.
  3. And finally, based on that, we’ll ask you to join us for a second call to do some project brainstorming with us.

The purpose of all this is to give you as much of a chance as possible to showcase what you’ll contribute to the program. We don’t care whether you’ve found traditional kinds of success before (in school, sports, or wherever). We care that you’re excited to work collaboratively to make great creative projects—and that you’re willing to work for it.

If you have ideas about how we can do this better (in general, or in your case in particular), please let us know.

How do I know if I’m a good fit?

As long as you’re eligible, all we’re looking for is an interest in computation, narrative, and design; friendly and critical collaboration; and a commitment to creating great projects and publications.

If you have any doubts about whether you’re a good fit, please get in touch. We’re happy to arrange a call to discuss the program in general and your particular situation.

Who’s eligible to apply?

As long as you feel like you are a good fit for the program, can speak English at a conversational level, are fully vaccinated against COVID, and are looking to transition to a postsecondary educational institution or a job (i.e. you are no longer in high school), you’re eligible to apply.

Note that you’ll be using programming and design tools, collaborating with colleagues, and sometimes traveling for projects. If you might need accommodations to do this (e.g. for reasons of disability) or if you have questions about any of the other eligibility requirements, please get in touch.

How much does the program cost?

There is no cost to you; you will be paid. You will be responsible for your own housing and living expenses; although, we offer a stipend for re-location support for those moving to the Boston area.

How will I be paid?

You’ll be paid ~$785 weekly via direct deposit. This is the equivalent of a $40,000 annual salary. If you need a bank account, we can help you get set up with one. If for some reason direct deposit doesn’t fit your circumstances, let us know and we can work to accommodate you.

Who else will be in the program?

We’re looking for 4-9 creative, critical, and collaborative people who will bring a diverse set of skills and perspectives to this work. Everyone in your cohort will either be transitioning to a postsecondary educational institution (e.g. college) or looking to get a job after the fellowship. Everyone will be here because they are excited about computation, narrative, and design; interested in Powderhouse’s mission; and eager to do creative projects.

Do I need to be a United States citizen or permanent resident?

No.

Can you sponsor visas?

Unfortunately, not at this time.

How do you accommodate special education needs?

“Special education” can mean many things, and we are committed to supporting people to be able to comfortably and effectively participate. As long as you are eligible, we will work closely with you to ensure you have all the support needed to participate. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What if I need to miss some of the program?

We understand life happens. But, you are expected to treat this program as a full-time commitment. If you find that you are regularly missing sessions, we may ask you to leave the program and reapply when things have settled down for you. If you know already that you have a scheduling conflict, please get in touch with us to discuss it.

What equipment do I need to participate?

None. We will be working to create publications, and all fellows will be working on Mac products. All necessary equipment (e.g. laptop, tablet, and phone) will be provided if you don’t already have access to these. Fellows will have the opportunity to purchase loaner equipment at a discount at the end of the program.

Can I get academic credit or certification?

Unfortunately, we do not offer academic credit yet. But, we are eager to help you prepare whatever materials (including a portfolio) may be required to translate your experience with Powderhouse into academic credit for prior experience and learning or any employee education programs which might be relevant.

How much time does this require?

This is a full-time commitment. You’ll be expected to be available 10AM–5PM, Monday–Friday (excluding federal and state holidays) for duration of the program. We also expect that you’ll spend some time (≤ 10 hours/week) outside of that schedule working independently or with other fellows on projects, revisions, and workshop materials.

Can I reapply if I’m not admitted?

Yes, but you’ll need to wait at least one month after receiving the decision on your previous application. If and when you do reapply, we’ll be looking at what has changed since your previous application.

Is the program accessible if I have a disability?

“Disability” can mean many things, and we are committed to supporting people to be able to comfortably and effectively participate. As long as you are eligible, we will work closely with you to ensure you have all the support needed to participate. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What is the schedule for the program?

We’ll be meeting 10AM–5PM, Monday–Friday from 1 September 2022–26 May 2023 (excluding state and federal holidays). Refer to the full calendar for details.

Who pays for project supplies?

We’ll cover the costs for anything (within reason) you need to do the projects you tackle during the program.

Do you offer support for English Language Learners?

The program will be run in English and will be accessible to folks who are conversational in English; there is no expectation that you are a native speaker. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

How are publication themes and projects chosen? What if I have a particular idea I want to work on?

We’ll begin the year creating a small publication around a theme focused on who we all are to give us some time and space to get to know each other and get acquainted with the publication process.

After that, we’ll collaboratively brainstorm, refine, and choose the themes of the publications we create together. No matter the theme, though, our interest in interdisciplinary work means we are especially interested in creative or poetic interpretations of the theme. So, within a theme, we are eager to co-design and develop project and piece ideas with you.

If you have a particular idea or direction of interest and are wondering whether it might fit within the program, please get in touch.

What will I actually learn?

This is not a bootcamp or traditional skills-focused course. That means rather than working backwards from a pre-defined curriculum, we’ll be working forward from what the particular projects and pieces you’re tackling require.

Because this gap-year is part of our effort to design and prototype a replacement for high school, we are especially interested in helping you learn things you’re interested in. Throughout the fellowship, we’ll help you identify what you want to learn and work backwards from that to themes, projects, and pieces that you can pursue, documenting what you’ve learned along the way.

By the end of this fellowship, we aim for you to feel confident you could effectively contribute as a junior member or intern on a team tackling the design and production of pieces like Parable of the Polygons or How a Gray Painting Can Break Your Heart or Schematics: A Love Story. But let’s get a little more concrete.

Since we’ll be creating multimedia pieces and projects, we’ll be working with a variety of media: e.g. photo, video, audio, illustration, writing (and publishing all of this online). We will host workshops introducing the basics of working with each of these and offer structures for the critique and revision of work, with an eye toward visual, technical, and rhetorical design. As we finalize our pieces for publication, we’ll also work with external professionals (e.g. designers, editors, and developers) who will help us improve our work. You’ll leave with experience with the design process, clear best practices, and a curated collection of resources (including course materials) designed for self-study.

More specifically:

  • In design: We’ll explore what it means to design projects and stories for an audience, clean design of computer programs, and how to use rapid prototyping and specification to refine and develop designs. We’ll work with design tools like Figma/Framer to prototype visual and interactive designs, touching on the basics of color, typography, and layout as we do so.
  • In narrative: We’ll provide support for outlining and storyboarding pieces, developing your ability to clearly and compellingly communicate to a particular audience, and to speak in your own voice (through words, images, etc.). Along the way, we’ll also dig into more concrete stylistic techniques including rhythm, metaphor, telling details, show-don’t-tell, etc.
  • In computation: We’ll use computers to help us ask and answer quantitative questions, build models, simulations, and other digital creations. We’ll learn how to express ourselves through code, to debug our creations when they don’t work, and to deploy things on the web. In terms of tooling, we’ll be working with tools like HTML/CSS and JavaScript to deploy things on the web, Mathematica and spreadsheets for more mathematical challenges, and the Adafruit Feather and MakeCode/JavaScript for physical computing projects.
How are you handling COVID?

We require all participants to provide proof of booster and vaccination before attending. We’ll require daily temperature checks and offer regular on-site testing. Our studio will be equipped with sanitation stations. Participants will not be required to be masked indoors (though of course, you are welcome to mask if you’d like, and we will provide masks for anyone interested). If local guidances change before or during the program, we may reassess these plans.

How will our projects and pieces be evaluated? What are you looking for in them?

Projects and pieces can be great in two ways: The output (i.e. the project or piece) can be great, or the input (i.e. your process developing the work) can be great. In our experience, aiming to create actually great output often leads to great input.

To get more specific, we think great pieces are:

  • consistent with our publication themes and editorial priorities,
  • creatively, intellectually, and/or technically ambitious, and
  • of genuine interest to someone (i.e. people will read it)

Note that although projects and pieces will be regularly workshopped and critiqued, we offer no grades (numeric or otherwise) evaluating projects and pieces.

What about after the program? What kind of support do you offer people during that transition?

We want to make sure that you take your next step after this fellowship comfortably. This means we’ll provide individualized support through things like:

  • tutoring and test preparation for the GED/HiSET
  • campus visits and application/essay support for college admissions
  • developing and deploying a personal website, portfolio, and resume
  • searching and interviewing for jobs

In cases where we cannot provide the kind of transition support you need, we will work to find community partners and other services instead. If you have a particular transition support need you’d like to discuss, please get in touch.

Are health care or other benefits included in the program?

Yes. We offer full healthcare, dental, vision, and retirement benefits. You can read more about the benefits we offer here.

Why the name “Kindling”?

Tinder is the material that can turn a spark into a fire. Kindling refers to what turns that first flame into a small fire, e.g. the sticks and twigs just big enough catch and light the main fuel that will sustain the fire.

Our work often involves helping people spark their own intellectual and creative journeys. And we hope that our publications can offer the same to our audience, in small ways.

And not for nothing: Powderhouse’s namesake is a gunpowder magazine. Whether the forest fire that clears out the brush while fertilizing the soil for something new, the revolutionary muzzleloader, or the spark that leads to a lifelong passion, we have an affection for the fragile and new, and hope to provide some space where it can gather momentum until it can be self-sustaining.

Who owns the work I create during the program?

You’ll retain full ownership of all the work you do and artifacts you create in the program. However, Powderhouse will retain a license to be able to publish and adapt the work you create in the program. You can read the full policy here. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please let us know, and we’ll be happy to work with you to figure it out.