What does it take to thrive today?

Introducing the Slingshot Project

Ted Talk - Malcolm Gladwell

David & Goliath

It's a classic underdog tale: David, a young shepherd armed only with a sling, beats Goliath, the mighty warrior. The story has transcended its biblical origins to become a common shorthand for unlikely victory. But, asks Malcolm Gladwell, is that really what the David and Goliath story is about?

F&M Next Generation Initiative

David & Goliath

Franklin & Marshall College has long offered one of the most rigorous and empowering undergraduate educations in the country, preparing independent thinkers to become leaders, creators, and problem-solvers in all walks of life. Learn more about this innovative talent strategy...

Rocket Fuel for Success (SEO)

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity

Ken Mehlman speaks at the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity 2016 Awards Dinner honoring the service and achievement for over 12,000 talented young people from underserved communities.

Mehlman Talent Initiative Announcement

Franklin & Marshall College

On April 11th 2017, Ken Mehlman announced The Slingshot Project's first partnership with Franklin & Marshall College, Ken’s undergraduate alma mater and proven leader in educating students who are the first in their family to attend college.

Op-eds, Articles, and Remarks

Remarks at Mehlman Talent Initiative launch

By: Ken Mehlman 

Why Every College Should Support 'Summer Learning Gain' In Students

By: Dan Porterfield, Phd, Forbes

Developing the Power of Grit in Higher Education

By: Dan Porterfield, Phd & Ken Mehlman, Real Clear Education

The Benefits of an Early Taste of College

By: Dan Porterfield, Phd, Forbes

A Triathlon Is Easy Next to Soviets and Polio

By: Jake Halpern, Wall Street Journal

What 'Grit' Means for College Educators

By: Dan Porterfield, Phd, Inside High Ed

Our Inspiration

Books, such as David & Goliath, by Malcom Gladwell and studies have long recognized the special ability of some who have overcome adversity to develop powerful coping and adapting mechanisms that can enhance achievement. In the Biblical story from which the book gets its title, David overcame a massive size-and-strength disadvantage to prevail, based on skill, experience, and strategy. The slingshot proved more powerful than the sword, its small user mightier than the giant.

Our Initiatives

Mehlman Talent Initiative at Franklin & Marshall College

Our first partnership is with Franklin & Marshall College, Ken’s undergraduate alma mater and proven leader in educating students who are the first in their family to attend college.  Under the leadership of President Dan Porterfield and the board, F&M's incoming classes consist of roughly 19% Pell eligible students, and the College empowers high-achieving lower income students via its Next Generation Initiative.  Franklin & Marshall College is also a leader in the American Talent Initiative in partnership with the Bloomberg Philanthropies.  Franklin & Marshall partners with Posse, the KIPP Foundation, Sponsors of Educational Opportunity and other leaders in promoting educational equity.  This includes F&M College Prep, a unique summer program for students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.

Growing Impact 

Building on this foundation, the Slingshot Project will over the next four years provide financial aid, supplemental teaching outside the classroom, faculty and upper class mentorship and a summer job/internship to 40 students (10 for each class) who are the first in their family to attend college and who have overcome significant obstacles to reach F&M.  In addition, Slingshot will finance a campus-wide workshop each semester for the next 4 years, organized by the students, and featuring a prominent outside speaker who has studied these questions or exemplifies the power of grit, persistence, rebounding, etc.  Slingshot will also oversee a process to evaluate the effectiveness of this initial program using credible 3rd party assessors.  Our hope is to develop a proven (and replicable) curriculum and program for first generation college students over the next 4 years.

Ken Mehlman with F&M Scholars

About Us

Can striving to overcome obstacles such as poverty, disability, illness and discrimination fortify people with important strengths like grit, persistence and higher EQ that can enhance success later in life?  In an era of increased professional, technological and industrial disruption, resilience and the ability to rebound and reinvent are indispensable.  Might those forced to rebound early in life be uniquely equipped to succeed in this disruptive era?   And can the rest of us learn how to adapt and persevere from those with real life experience?   


The Slingshot Project is a new initiative being launched by Ken Mehlman in 2017.  Our mission is to empower, mobilize and learn from people who have overcome the most difficult of circumstances.  Research shows that difficulties such as poverty or trauma during childhood can pose challenges later in life.  At the same time, data also shows individuals facing these challenges can develop coping and adapting skills such as persistence, adaptability, & optimism that can be empowering.  The Slingshot Project will develop partnerships with organizations focused on teaching those who have overcome poverty, disease, disability, or other adversity how to address the challenges and also identify, utilize, and potentially leverage coping and adapting mechanisms they developed in facing these obstacles to academic, professional and other endeavors.



Other Good Works

The Bench Mark Program

The Bench Mark Program invests in at-risk youth by providing the positive, long-lasting support needed to achieve successful futures.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

A project by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is focusing on science, education and engineering to advance our goals.

Bloomberg American Talent Initiative

The American Talent Initiative (ATI) brings top colleges and universities together with the philanthropy and research communities in order to expand access and opportunity for talented low- and moderate-income students.

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing supplemental educational and career support to young people from underserved communities.