Speed of LITE: Soulsville student builds an app to boost productivity

A Soulsville Charter School senior has created an app that other students and young adults can use to find motivation and organization to face daily challenges.
As a socially active high school student, Kylee Richard loves when her phone lights up with notifications. She loves them even more if a cheerful thought or quote is attached.
She’s building an iOS application that she says is designed to help teens and young adults “find their identity, get motivated about life and develop self-regulation.”

Richard knows how challenging life is. She’s keeping her eye on graduating from Soulsville Charter School and moving to a four-year college, but she’s struggled with finding the motivation to move forward.

Looking back, Richard calls her junior year of high school the worst of her life. It wasn’t because the school work was too tough or any overwhelming personal problems. Rather, she felt stuck.
“I didn’t know how to study, how to stay organized, and I definitely didn’t know how to stay motivated,” she recalled. “I felt very stuck and unmotivated. I had AP exams, the ACT. I had so much going on and thought I had no help. I had to create my own help and my happiness, and it was my most successful year so far.”
In the end, that worst year of her life had pretty positive results. Richard made the principal’s list, was nationally qualified in varsity debate and successfully passed her AP exams. It might seem simple, but she credits her success to sticking to her goals, using a planner and finding inspiration on the social media site, Tumblr.
With her app You’re.On.Up, Richard wants to help students and young adults in a similar situation find that boost and accomplish their goals.

To build the app, Richard is aided by nonprofit Let’s Innovate Through Education. The Memphis-based organization works with inner-city students over a school semester to help them develop programs and products that could improve their communities.
Hardy Farrow, executive director of LITE, said that this was the first time a LITE participant has built an app. LITE brought in a local developer to bring Richard’s vision to fruition.

"LITE is about challenging the status quo and empowering students to look differently at community and marketplace problems," Farrow said, adding that minorities are nationally underrepresented as programmers and app developers.

"If a student is passionate about something and has a great unique solution, we believe in working every hour of every day, including weekends, to make sure that students have the resources to launch their ideas."

Richard submitted You’re.On.Up for approval, and she hopes Apple will give her the go-ahead in December and add the app to its store. Richard and LITE made a small monetary investment for the app's creation, but Richard wants it to remain free to users. 

She'll pitch You're.On.Up to a group of investors and supporters at LITE's pitch night on December 9. The top two winners of the night will receive $500 to further scale their products. 

The idea for an app was simple. Richard said she looked at what she already used to help herself. Much of it was found on her iPhone with calendar reminders that help her create and complete a to-do list. She said she uses a paper planner but prefers the efficiency that comes with her phone.

Richard believes the reason some high school graduates don’t continue their education is that they lack motivation and the ability to complete deadlines.

“They aren’t self-managed to survive without a teacher helping them,” she said.

Once the app is downloaded users will find a variety of tools, including a daily to-do list, calendar and daily journals that allow them to reflect on each day.
“It’s one thing I use and I feel a lot of people should use,” she said about the digital journal. “It helps practice writing and reading skills but lets you see what are your daily patterns and obstacles. I journal during the middle of the day. If I see at that time that I’m usually down I should take a few minutes at that time to myself.”

Much like a calendar app, it will have push notifications to keep a user on track during the day. It also will have pep talks, so to speak.
“I love notifications that are quotes,” she said, adding that the notifications in her app will have a positive statement or quote along with fun emojis. “I used to have my phone wallpaper be a quote so when I’d go to my phone and was mad about something that quote will be there to remind how I should feel. Why not make it your phone to get you motivated throughout the day?”

To get the app to the public, Richard has partnered with mental health professionals. Guidance counselors at  Soulsville, Central High and KIPP Memphis will recommend the app to struggling students.
Richard graduates from Soulsville in the spring and plans to continue her education with the possibility of majoring in political science and minoring in public relations. Running a business while a student could be tough, but Richard said she wants to continue the work because she knows many people could find it useful.
“I feel like anybody, whether in college or high school or a new mother could find this useful,” she said. “I especially want to help those who are unmotivated and feel like they’re stuck.”

Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler. 
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