Beyond the classroom, high school students have access to a plethora of extracurricular activities that they can attend to engage with peers and participate in school. Think pep rallies, sporting events, plays, concerts and more.
To incentivize students to participate in after-school activities, some schools have developed point systems that can be cashed in for extra credit or other rewards.
But the recording process is tedious — students need to find a teacher with a spreadsheet and get marked off manually. Then the teacher must manually enter all that data into an Excel spreadsheet to tally points.
As a student at a high school in north Atlanta, Connor Ford saw the process as antiquated. He grew up around technology — his mother gave him a computer at a young age and taught him how to take it apart and put it back together. At 13, he started programming, which he saw as an opportunity to create a technology solution to track extracurricular activities, attendance check-in, and more, using a mobile check in and GPS tracking.
Now CEO of Spirit — and a high school grad — Ford took a year off schooling in 2016 to work on the app and create a functioning MVP. They quickly brought in five schools under a paid beta.
The app aims to promote school spirit, bridge the communication gap between the school administration and the students, and engage them in activities.
“We’re not homework,” says Ford, now in his third year at Georgia Tech. “We took a really tedious paper process and brought it to the 21st century.”
On the platform side, the school can push extra credit opportunities, automate event management and marketing, student competitions, and disseminate important messages.
The app also syncs up with digital signage around the school to keep the messaging updated. Each event automatically gets an event page that can be shared on social media as well.
The student app is free to download and comes with a GPS feature for RSVP and check-in at events, the ability to follow the calendar of activities, see real-time point rankings, and more.
“We want students to love their school and the school community. If a student cares about the school outside the classroom, then something magical is going to happen inside the classroom,” says Ford. “They care more about their environment and are more likely to pay attention in class.”
Onboarding is quick — the school administrator gets assigned a link that they share with the student body. Each student fills out their profile with any clubs, groups, teams, etc. and then downloads the app to keep up with everything.
While the administrators have been enthusiastic, says Ford, the biggest challenge they’ve encountered is the spectrum of up-to-date technology available at schools. Some have events listed on Google Calendars, others keep the list on a Microsoft Word document, he says.
“It shows the generational gap between the school administration and the students as they don’t know how the students want to be communicated to. That’s why we can step in and say, we were in your student’s shoes a few years ago. We know exactly what they want,” says Ford.
One Forsyth county school saw extracurricular attendance increase by about 40 percent after adding Spirit.
The startup has 80-plus schools across the U.S. enrolled on their free plan that includes basic calendar tools, and five on the paid tier which comes with more features like point tracking.
The five-person team is part of the Atlanta Tech Village’s It Takes A Village pre-accelerator and is in the middle of fundraising a seed round to expand marketing efforts and update the platform with new features, such as in-app ticketing for events like homecoming or prom.