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High School students, businesses partner for IChallengeU program

Krystle Wagner • Jul 14, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Some local high school students this summer are working to solve real-world problems facing West Michigan businesses.

During this past week and next week, 65 students are working with 12 businesses through the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s futurePREP’d IChallengeU program.

During the two-week program, the students are given a challenge facing their business partner. They then develop solutions, which they will present at the end of next week.

Grand Haven and Allendale students and educators working with Opportunity Thrive, based in Holland, are working to answer the driving question, “How can Opportunity Thrive help schools build a sustainable culture that fosters social and emotional resiliency?” The students interviewed community members and sent email surveys to parents and students from three schools to learn more about their perceptions regarding mental health.

In addition to researching the topic, they also listened to a panel of speakers — a principal, a first responder and a teacher — who shared their perspectives. The students will compile the information and develop ways they can help people become more resilient.

Rylee Snellenberger, a Grand Haven High School junior this fall, said there’s a possibility they could help make a difference locally and in other communities.

Snellenberger said the IChallengeU program seemed like a great opportunity and it could possibly lead to college scholarships.

Oliver Shampine, who will be a sophomore at GHHS, said his oldest sister participated in IChallengeU. It’s a project-based learning opportunity that’s different and involves real-world applications, he said.

This is the second year that GHHS teacher Nate Kepler has participated in the IChallengeU program. He said the role of educators in the program is to act as facilitators, and it is also a way to learn how to implement project-based learning into their classrooms.

Kepler said his classes worked on a project-based learning project last year that was aimed at helping their school become greener.

“It’s amazing what young minds can do,” he said.

Snellenberger said she hopes their work helps people and reduces the stigma surrounding mental health. She personally hopes to gain a better understanding of project-based learning and understand more about the community.

While the group discussed survey responses, Opportunity Thrive Executive Director Rebekah Schipper noted that she’s fascinated with the work they’ve done so far.

“This is one of the best learning opportunities they have,” she said.

To take the group’s survey, visit: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1WJrjx6QrqBENuk6hhH-tImo4KFxlgj2EJTiPiz6Vtrs.

School districts involved in the program include Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Allendale, Coopersville, Holland, Black River, Hamilton, Hudsonville, Jenison, Saugatuck, West Ottawa and Zeeland. Participating businesses include Grand Haven Township Fire Rescue Department, Ottawa County Services/OASID, JR Automation, Grand Valley State University, Haworth, Royal Technologies, Warehouse 6, Code Blue, Benteler Automotive, Boys and Girls Club, ITW Drawform, and Opportunity Thrive.

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