Families Building Future Leaders

Ben Colas

2016 Winner
Educating for Tomorrow category

Presented in partnership with:

November 2018

Since February 2016, Ben has empowered more than 6,000 families to prepare their children for school. This year, Bedford City School District purchased KinderKits for all of their “incoming scholars,” and Ben partnered with an organization out of Pittsburgh to distribute 300 kits to families in Pittsburgh. KinderKits also participated in the 4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowship to run a pilot and gather data on the impact of the kits. The pilot showed strong results in regard to effectively teaching the skills and parent satisfaction with the kits.

As a kindergarten teacher in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Ben Colas was surprised that the vast majority of children entering his classroom were unprepared for school, and knowing that those who enter behind, stay behind, he was inspired to change that. He pitched his idea for KinderKits, an engaging module for parents to effectively prepare their child for academic success entering school and provide rewards and experiences for families that go above and beyond, at Accelerate 2016.

Since winning the $5,000 grand prize at Accelerate, Ben’s project has been creating positive waves across Northeast Ohio and has been on the receiving end positive media attention (real news), both locally and nationally. Some of the great things Ben has accomplished since February 2016:

  • From March-June 2016, KinderKits took part in the Sea Change social enterprise accelerator which was an incredible learning experience and KinderKits. Ben won $20,000 when he presented at SEA Change on June 29, 2017. This funding has made it possible to grow and scale beyond Northeast Ohio (kits are now in Toledo and Columbus, and hopefully Pittsburgh and with healthcare providers in the near future).
  • All incoming 2017 kindergarten students in Cleveland will be receiving a KinderKit along with 750 families across nine Lorain County schools (thanks to Nordson Foundation) and 100 families in the Central neighborhood (courtesy of Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland).
  • KinderKits are now being assembled at Metzenbaum Center, a center for people with developmental disabilities. This provides meaningful employment and income for the residents while allowing us to grow and scale beyond Northeast Ohio.
  • The total number of families KinderKits reached this year is over 5,000.

He has already begun planning for next year, and his plans include:

  • Looking to partner with more healthcare providers and researchers
  • Filming and producing instructional videos
  • Launching a new website.
  • Continuous improvement of the kits –  they are already significantly more effective and user friendly (anyone with a 2nd grade reading level will be able to teach the targeted skills).

Kindergarten classes receiving kits went from less than 5% of kids recognizing letters and less than 10% recognizing numbers in 2015 to over 65% recognizing letters and 75% recognizing numbers in 2016.

Ben has been profiled in Teach for America’s One Day magazine in May 2017, on Channel 5 in July 2017,  and was named one of Crain’s Cleveland Business Twenty in their 20s.

Follow Ben’s progress at, and on Facebook and Twitter.