Interviewing the 2018 Scholarship Awardees: William

By Cynthia Boyadjian

This is part of a series of interviews with our 5 scholarship recipients for our 2018 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! This is to lead up to our 2019 program announcement on September 28.

William Rand has a great passion for physical, emotional and mental health and felt concerned about the current student wellness climate at his high school. After hearing interest from fellow students and teachers, as well as having past experience with wellness groups in his community, he was inspired to create OHBreathe at Ottawa Hills High School. The goal with this organization is to promote student wellness, and in doing so, he earned one of the $10,000 2018 HGU Build A Better Future scholarships.

OHBreathe has been fortunate enough to receive support from the school community as a whole. While the program this year performed with great success under a small budget, the dream is to expand the reach as well as the resources. The local school foundation has already pledged to support ventures to bring in wellness speakers high in their fields and to do so, William will be writing a grant later this year to ask for specific funds to be set aside for this purpose. OH21, an organization that promotes family wellness in his community gave their support to OHBreathe this year by purchasing t-shirts for the entire school and are already on board to make to the same donation for next year. OHSPAA, the school’s parent association, has also pledged to provide additional support TBD. However, William’s personal goal is to gain their support of the wellness day by helping to bring in local youth empowerment specialist Jon Schoonmaker to do a fully immersive wellness experience with all of the students at the school.

William’s biggest hope is that this will be less of an institutional program and more of a culture shift over time. He also hopes that they will reach enough people to be able to implement OHBreathe into more schools in the community. The community support thus far has been overwhelming. It has become clear to William that his community craves more immersive, in-depth experiences which has inspired him to gather all possible resources.

Through OHBreathe, William organized student-teacher workshops such as yoga, meditation, cooking, team building exercises, hiking, knitting, and gardening. William has sensed an overall positive impact on the participants and on the school as a whole. He hopes to gain a larger physical presence by placing posters and artifacts from each session around the school in hopes of having more meaningful symbols to remind students what it means to live in wellness every day.

William has developed several new skills over this process, including organizational skills, budgeting skills (within major financial constraints), and communication skills. He also learned to gain the attention of an entire auditorium by playing the emcee for OHBreathe assemblies. Most importantly, he learned how to remain calm and collected under the pressure of organizing hundreds of people. William uses music and meditation to release any trapped emotions, which helped him function when problems arose on the days of OHBreathe sessions. For William, as personal as the entire project became, he discovered that he can maintain a healthy internal separation from the drama of project management and learned to be okay regardless of the success or failure of the initiative.

Now that William has graduated from Ottawa Hills High School, he is confident that with the students taking over for next year, OHBreathe will continue to grow and inspire students along the way. He will be attending St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in the fall. The college has a wide selection of student run organizations and William is excited to see what is available. He hopes to implement something similar to OHBreathe to promote wellness, culture and a sense of community.

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