Interviewing the 2018 Scholarship Awardees: Isaac

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.

Isaac Stone, a recent graduate from LASA High School, was challenged by his engineering teacher to create something that involved engineering. For the past 2 years he has been volunteering with the non-profit group, Texas Rowing For All, which focuses on bringing rowing and paddle sports to people with varying disabilities or impairments. Both of these factors inspired him to create the Invisible Cane, which emits sound to help blind people navigate their surroundings. His work earned him one of the $10,000 HGU scholarships this year.

Two things stood out to him most when working with those with visual impairments. For them to get into a boat meant largely relying on someone else for guidance and the obstacles that they could run into while in a boat are not within reach of a standard cane, until it’s too late to avoid a crash. The Invisible Cane doesn’t have the distance limitations of a standard physical cane, which would help people who are blind or have visual impairments become more independent on the water. A primary goal of Isaac’s is to allow the people with visual impairments the ability to independently row in places where programs such as Texas Rowing For All don’t exist. In addition, this will allow program volunteers to devote more resources to the parts of the community where visual impairments don’t apply.

When Isaac first started on his project, he created a prototype for the Invisible Cane. However, through more research and feedback from mentors and those in the blind community, he decided to develop an app for phones. Doing this will solve most of the current issues associated with cost and scaling, as he won’t be developing a physical product any longer. The majority of Isaac’s programming knowledge is self-taught and he plans to learn more to be able to be able develop the app. In the meantime, he will continue to volunteer with the Texas Rowing For All community. He hopes that as time goes on, his app will become widely accessible, easy to use, and highly functional for those in the blind community.

Throughout this process, Isaac has learned a lot about himself and how to challenge himself in different ways. He has learned that being a risk-taker can help him achieve his goals, even on a time-crunch. He also discovered that he already has a network of people to whom he can turn to for help, which has been a great resource to help him understand what this kind of process takes. Currently, he is working on getting in contact with a woman in his area that works with people who have recently lost their vision. She helps them learn to use a cane and to adjust to their new situations. He is hopeful that she will be able to help him better understand what is most important for their navigation needs. In addition, he would like to conduct navigation experiments himself without the benefit of sight to gain further understanding on how he can be more effective and understanding. Isaac says that through this process, he has been drawn to people with ambitious goals, good work ethics, and an abundance of self-awareness. He believes that this has been the most valuable and encouraging outcome of his project.

Isaac will continue his education at the College of Engineering at Washington University-St. Louis. His hope is to increase independence and power of an often-overlooked group within our society with the Invisible Cane. He wants to help these people build their capabilities and put them on par with the general population, which will allow them to integrate into society rather than remain dependent on others for companionship and aid.

error

Interviewing the 2018 Scholarship Awardees: Lexi

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.

With the degree to which our lives have become online, can you imagine the hindrance of being unable to navigate technology? Inspired by her Grandparents, Lexi Showalter decided to take action in her community and that is how CyberCitizens began. Her goal was to bridge the generational gap and facilitate the younger generation to teach senior citizens technical skills. Her work earned her one of the five $10,000 HGU Build A Better Future scholarships.

Lexi noticed how often her Grandparents would come to her for their technology needs; her friends and peers were also having the same experiences. Instead of doing it all for them, Lexi wanted to help them gain both independence and confidence. In the class she hosted for her project, she was able to interact with multiple senior citizens, with overall positive feedback. Participants appreciated that she was very direct and to the point. She was able to help them feel good about themselves as they learned skills that were out of their comfort zones.

CyberCitizens isn’t just focused on teaching tech skills to senior citizens. One of her other big goals is to to encourage the younger generation to take on leadership roles by teaching these classes. Lexi plans to target millenials who tend to know more about technology, giving them the opportunity to gain life experiences and learn to lead others by teaching these classes. She feels like this is a great way to better connect her community and hopes to be able to recruit both college and high school students. Creating this has helped Lexi to be more outgoing and she knows this can help her peers do the same. Lexi has also been able to get family members involved with teaching their grandparents and parents to interact with them in a different way. She feels like this has been one of the most positive outcomes of her program.

Lexi’s biggest hope for CyberCitizens is for her students to really pick up on the information that they are being taught and to make them more independent. She feels strongly that this can help with their overall quality of life, not only because of the skills themselves, but because of the way learning new skills helps curtail brain decline. Taking these classes will also help the social isolation issues that our aging population frequently faces. She hopes that one day, she will be able to teach classes at nursing homes where residents have little to no contact with the outside world. These classes could help them to interact with more people and to also learn ways that they can connect with their families with things such as Facetime and Skype.

Ultimately, Lexi plans to do extensive work in taking CyberCitizens from what it is now to a non-profit business where multiple classes are offered. In these classes, she would like to focus on topics such as photo sharing, communication, online safety, and social media. She hopes that she will be able to trademark the flip-books she created for CyberCitizens, and develop more flip-books that are focused on the different classes being taught. Lexi recently graduation from Normal Community High School in Illinois. She will be attending Illinois State University in the fall, where she hopes to connect with more people to join her in CyberCitizens. Since her new school is in the town she is from, she will continue to grow CyberCitizens as she goes to college.

error

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.

error

“The Bridge Between High School And College”

Bryan Banuelos’ second iteration of his Warrior Dream Project is underway.

From his mission statement to details of leadership within the club, we are confident that his project will be a great support to students at Taylorsville High (and possibly elsewhere) for years to come!

We are impressed with his sensitivity to the unique needs to undocumented students and their families as they participate in the program. Especially encouraging is the way his project meets an unmet need: mainly, the gap between high school and college, particularly for students who feel that funding college is out-of-reach. Check out his project presentation he shared with our office below!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

error

Announcing Our 2018 Design A Better Future Scholarship Awardees!

Over the last 6 years of running this scholarship, our program has evolved from an essay contest, to a multimedia project, to now a 3-round Design Thinking community improvement project. We can say with confidence that this year’s application process has been the most ambitious yet!

We certainly asked a lot of our 2018 applicants: a full project proposal, an artifact or prototype, and a final reflection including video. And we have been inspired by the determination of these students to strengthen their communities in diverse ways. While it was extremely difficult to make the final decision, we are very pleased to announce our final awardees are as follows:

Bryan Banuelos: Warrior Dream Program ~ Our top awardee who will receive an additional $5,000 toward another iteration of his project

Austin Fitzgerald: MindStrings free violin tutoring for low-income students

William Rand: OHBreathe wellness workshops at his school

Alexis Showalter: CyberCitizens tech class business for seniors

Isaac Stone: Invisible Cane device to assist the blind to navigate surroundings

Full details on their projects will be published on our Past Winners page within the next few weeks. Thank you to all the schools and administrators that helped spread the word on our scholarship, and thank you to every student that applied! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

error

Apparently I’m Completing a “Design A Better Future” Project, Too

Each year, the company that sponsors this blog also sponsors a scholarship for high school seniors, which I have the privilege of maintaining. I have been so inspired by the passion of so many of these students!

This year’s Design A Better Future scholarship is much more involved than the multimedia/essay submissions of previous years because we have also dramatically increased the tuition award (from five $1,000 awardees in the past to five $10,000 awardees this year). Thus, we are asking students to dig deep and utilize the design thinking framework to launch a project that will improve their local communities.

Maybe it’s that as these applications have started rolling in, their visions have rubbed off on me. Maybe it’s because my #OneWord2018 is encouraging me to better discover my capacity for influence. Maybe it’s just my innate teacher-drive to model desired expectations to students. Whatever the case, I find myself also completing a project to try and improve my community.

Based on the Design thinking Launch framework (developed by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer), here’s where I’m at so far. I’m usually the one giving feedback to students, so if you have any feedback to share with me, I would love to hear it!

Look, Listen, & Learn: 

I have been an avid urban cyclist with my kids for the past 7 years. Over the years, I’ve noticed more and more bike-friendly changes: murals on the bike trail tunnels, more marked bike lanes, increasing social media presence, and a deluge of bike events, amenities, and general interest. My family and I have directly benefited from these changes as they have made our rides safer and more enjoyable. This has led me to curiosity about why and how these changes have come about? And more importantly, how can I help?

Ask Tons of Questions:

My curiosity led me to volunteer for our local city bicycle committee and attending one of their monthly meetings, during which I unexpectedly found myself signing up for a project to increase/improve bike parking in our city. The questions came in a downpour and continue today:

  • Why is quality bike parking important?
  • What defines quality bike parking?
  • How did the bike parking that exists come about?
  • How do we encourage business/property managers to add or improve bike parking?
  • How do we work with bike rack companies to help make it easier/more appealing for business managers to obtain quality bike racks?
  • How will better bike parking impact biking in our community?
  • Who are the people I talk to about what has been done so far? How do I ask for their help?
  • What existing organizations can I collaborate with to extend our reach?
  • …and on and on and on…

Understand the Process or Problem: 

These questions led me to immersing myself in TONS of literature. I read just about every bike parking guide in existence, and I created a new RSS feed category devoted purely to biking (my growing list currently includes Strong Towns Media, BikeLeague.org, Dero Bike Racks blog, Little Bellas, Momentum Mag, and more). I am also learning a lot from other more experience bike activists in our community through emails and meetings.

Navigate Ideas: 

In this phase, I synthesized what I had learned and started creating graphics to help me distill the most important information and to be able to share moving forward.

I also came to the realization that our bike community needs a coordinated representation of all the bike parking that’s currently available so we know where to go next. This led me to…

Create a Prototype: 

…a bike map! I discovered that I could create my own Google Map with custom layers and location markers for our city. I got started right away and presented back to our committee.

Highlight & Fix: 

Feedback from others in the committee led me to create multiple layers to differentiate which bike racks are in ideal condition, which need improvement, and which need to be installed. I also realized that the Maps layout can be kind of clunky for smartphones, and since we decided it would be best to use this as a crowd-sourcing tool, it has led me to tinker with other options like Google sites with an embedded Google Form.

Thanks to feedback from a particularly active member of the committee, I’m also working on incentivizing contributions to the map by asking for swag donations from local bike shops, as well as working to find discounts on bike racks to help encourage business owners to purchase.

Launch to an Audience: 

I have cycled back and forth between the “Highlight and Fix” and “Launch to an Audience” phases as I’ve met with various individuals and committees. But I’m currently working to prepare to launch to our public community for the crowdsourcing to commence. I know that my work with our bicycle committee will have me cycling through this Design Thinking framework again and again!

Whatever our role in working with students, it’s always a mutually beneficial exercise to try out what we’re asking of them. Not only does it help us develop more accurate insight on all that’s entailed in our requirements, but it demonstrates to our students that we are willing to continue to learn and grow alongside them as well.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

error