Mentorship In A Louisiana Community That Could Imapct Generations To Come- All Put Together By A Teen

A high school student in Louisiana observed a lot of bullying and a lack of role models in her community. She’s come up with a plan to combat this. She writes, 

“The community I would like to highlight is fairly new to me. I moved here in May of 2022. This community has lots of kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers! Since I’ve moved into this community I’ve noticed a lot of bullying and horrible behavior going on. Not only that but there are also barely any role models in my community, so the younger children and following the older kids who are not showing excellent and responsible behaviors. I believe that making social media posts and planning a group meet-up in my community to meet the different teenagers and young adults would help start this project. Once I have a group we can do weekly meets and do fun projects and activities together with the younger kids. This would show teamwork and problem-solving. My goals for this project are to stop the bullying in my community and help everyone come together as a team. I believe this would just be the start of changing the view for teenagers and helping them understand how much they influence younger kids.”

What sticks out to us in this project is the generational effects this can have on her community. The work she puts into this will not only affect the teenagers in her area but everyone around them as well. Whether this Louisiana teen wins our scholarship or not, her determination, drive, and problem-solving skills will bring her great places in life!

A Positive Impact For Every Student in the School- What This Arizona Teen is Working Towards to Promote Inclusion

If you opened this article looking for an inspirational story, then you are absolutely in the right place. One of our scholarship applicants is working towards closing the gap between the special needs students and the neurotypical students at her school. She is putting together an inclusion carnival and working to raise funds so that the event can be free for those that attend. She writes,

“Living with a brother who is nonverbal and autistic I am more aware of the isolation of the millions with intellectual and developmental disabilities in my community. Although discrimination and bullying of children with special needs have decreased, there are still problems being faced with understanding the next step of inclusion. I am organizing an inclusion carnival where kids with special needs are able to come and be themselves and enjoy the carnival in a safe and loving environment. The Inclusion Carnival creates a safe space for kids with special needs and typically developing kids to interact and create lifelong friendships. In my community and many other communities, it is evident that there is not enough attention brought to the awareness of the growing community. It is important to me that these events take place so that we can grow to become more inclusive to all people, despite their abilities.”

“I have a brother with special needs and seeing peers go out of their way to include my brother brings tears to my eyes. I want to live in a world where this is done daily. I am working to raise all funds for the carnival so that it can be 100% free for the kids, it can get my peers involved in volunteering and raising money, and raise profit back to my school club chapter.”

Last we heard, the Inclusion Carnival is still on track and our applicant is working hard to pull this off and bring everyone together. We can’t wait to watch her find success! 

A Nebraska Teen Set To Making A Difference In His Community

Today’s scholarship highlight is a teen in Nebraska trying hard to make a difference in his community. He writes, 

“My community is a private high school composed of students from middle and upper-middle-class families. I have observed not only a shortage of awareness of sustainability issues but also a lack of self-awareness of our contribution to the problem. In a community that has a stated mission of “caring for a common home”, we seem to be falling short in this aspect.”

“My solution is to increase the awareness of environmental issues in our community, I’m deeply interested in the issue of sustainability. I’m on the leadership team of a local group called a Students for Sustainability. We organize events to raise awareness for sustainability, and bring together environmental groups from around Omaha.  I designed a solar energy and electric vehicle charger project to bring attention to these issues and start conversations. As the president of the Sustainability Club since my sophomore year, I am implementing new practices such as composting, pollinator gardens, and Earth Day activities.”

“I’ve been interested in sustainability for a very long time now. I really wanted to create a lasting impact on my school’s sustainability. Educating the student body has been a main driver for pushing these initiatives forward.”

This student is inspiring not only his hometown, but all of us reading his story. With his first feedback form, he submitted three or four different ideas on scholarship submissions, each of them just as impressive as the other. We urged him to choose one project to stick with for the final submission, and he did just that. We can see his passion shine through, and we cannot wait to see where it takes him! Regardless of how far he goes in the scholarship program, his local high school and community have already benefitted from him tenfold, and that’s what we love seeing.

A Student-Led Solution For Food Insecurity On Campus

Our scholarship applicant’s projects are underway and we are beaming with pride over what they have accomplished! The most wholesome part of this scholarship program is watching kids across the nation (and sometimes even the globe) change their communities in such an intimate but profound way. Let’s take a closer look at one scholarship applicant that has participated by submitting forms one and two for feedback.

A student in North Carolina identified a food scarcity problem within her area, specifically among her peers within her school campus. She writes, 

“I think our community has a major food insecurity problem, I have been a part of the Food Lion Feeds project for two years and I feel like it is even more important to help others now than ever. I have been working to create a food pantry on my school’s high school/college campus for students to use as needed! I want to help others because knowing that students are coming to school and can’t purchase food or are struggling to do their work because they are hungry is completely unacceptable to me and I dislike that students have to go through that. I want to do this project because I never want a student to feel that way. My goal is to be able to provide lunch or dinner meals for students so they can be more productive and find more success in the classroom. I have hosted multiple food drives and have worked to have the pantry stocked up to 1000 items. I need to build relationships with other programs on campus to connect students in need so they can create more long-term fixes to their insecurities. My community has been very supportive and helpful throughout this project but managing the budget for this project has been a struggle and I need to learn more about this aspect.” 

We have been in contact with this student to brainstorm funding and budgeting, but we are confident she is on the right track and will be able to use this feedback to continue helping her peers and growing her pantry. In the first feedback submission, we suggested sending more photo evidence of what she has accomplished, and with form two, she did exactly that. This is just a small example of why these feedback forms can be so beneficial for our scholarship applicants, it gives them the chance to know what more we are looking for and how they can better their final application. 

We are all looking forward to where this project takes her and how it benefits her school’s campus both short-term and long-term! 

Scholarship Advice Following Feedback Form One

Our new scholarship format for the ‘22-’23 school year includes more optional feedback between us and the student. The format is as follows: 

Form 1: The Idea

No idea what to do or where to start? No problem! By filling out this form, you will receive one-on-one mentoring to help you come up with a design thinking project.

Deadline: November 7th, 2022

Form 2: Plan of Action

Now that you’ve started on your project, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your goals, resources, tactics, and the steps you’ve taken (or will be taking) to build up your community. If you feel stuck or unsure, this form will provide one-on-one guidance to ensure that you have everything you need to get started. If you missed the deadline for the Idea form and are still interested in coming up with a project, you can use this form for help in determining what project would best support your community.

Deadline: December 5th, 2022

Form 3: Implementation

*speaks in the style of Kronk* “Oh yeah, it’s all comin’ together.”

This is our third and final form before final submissions are due and it is all about action. We want all the details about your project up to this point. Why you chose this project and the consequent goals that you set. Most importantly, we want to know HOW you accomplished your goals. Show us rather than tell us. We will provide personalized feedback and any tips we can to aid you in submitting your final application.

Deadline: February 20th, 2023

Now that Form One is complete and all feedback has been sent back to the students, here is some of the advice that I found myself telling students over and over. 

Enlist a mentor. This is not only required for the final submission but also incredibly helpful for the development of your project. We as a team here at Honors Graduation can help mentor you as much as we can, but having someone within your community that knows exactly what issues your community is seeing and ways to help make it better will be more beneficial to you than we ever can be! 

Establish a why. If the why behind your project is, “because I observed this issue within my community.” then I can tell you right now that there is a good chance your project won’t make it as a finalist. You need passion and drive behind your project, which brings us to our next point.

If you’re really passionate about it, it will naturally shine through. We read through each submission at least two or three times, if not more. If this project that betters your community in some way is something meaningful and important to you, it shows in your writing. Choose to do something that you love and care about. 

Think long-term. It’s not a scholarship requirement to continue working on your project for years to come, but we do prioritize the projects that will have an impact for the longest. Oftentimes graduating high school seniors will be moving away for college, how will you set your project up so that it can be a continuing thing once you’re gone? 

Don’t think too big. We’re asking you to change your community, not change the world. There are some great ideas out there for huge projects that will have a massive impact on our world! And we definitely do not want to shoot these ideas down. But what project can you do now that will better where you live? We’ve had winners and applicants that have started STEM clubs at their schools. Or planted sunflowers in their local park. Some have simply started tutoring programs. It doesn’t always have to be as massively scaled as some may think it needs to be. 

If you’re seeking additional feedback on your current project, feel free to fill out form 2 from now until Dec. 5th (this deadline is SOON!). Form 3 is also open for submissions from now until Feb. 20th. We look forward to seeing this year’s applicants and what great projects you have been working on. Choosing winners is never easy for us! 

New Logo, Who Dis?

The time has come to unveil the new branding for our scholarship! As I stepped into the role of scholarship chair and content writer, I began noticing some variations in the way that those who came before me referred to the scholarship. The original name for our scholarship was the Design A Better Future scholarship (which I’m assuming came from the fact that the projects needs to be based on the design thinking cycle). But as the years went on, it also started being referred to as the Build A Better future scholarship and both titles started being used interchangeably.

In order to *hopefully* limit future confusion, I decided to update the scholarship logo and declare one title to be the official title from now on. The HGU scholarship will henceforth be known as the Build A Better Future scholarship. I felt as though using the verb “design” was too passive and wasn’t giving our applicants enough credit. Yes, they are using the design thinking cycle but they are also going above and beyond to bring their designs to life.

design a better future scholarship high school seniors

In addition to updating the logo and title, the website has been updated with all the information needed for our 2023 scholarship! I look forward to seeing how the next group of applicants works on building a better future for their communities. If you or anyone you know is a high school senior that will be graduating in 2023, you can find more information regarding the scholarship here and here. Please email scholarship@honorsgraduation.com with any questions. Good luck!

Introducing Brooklyn Conrad: A 2022 Scholarship Winner

This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship, click here.

Up next on our scholarship winner docket is Brooklyn Conrad! Brooklyn has been a member of her local 4-H since the fourth grade, which provided her with countless service opportunities. Some of those opportunities included gathering donations for her community food shelf. She began noticing that most of the food being donated was highly processed and it opened her eyes to the lack of fresh and healthy foods available to those in need.

And thus, the “Feeding Growing Minds for a Healthy Future” campaign was born.

Brooklyn began meeting with local and county government officials, stakeholders, and community members and explaining the importance of making healthier food choices available to those in need. Through her own research, she learned how to make garden beds from IBC totes and wire cattle fencing. With the help of master gardeners and the food shelf coordinators, she received instruction on what produce was most in-demand and which plants would be best for her garden.

In May of 2021, she was ready to get to work. Brooklyn was able to use her 4-H connection to assemble a group of volunteers and together, they planted a variety of vegetables. She watered the garden throughout the summer, and by July, there were vegetables ready to be harvested and donated to the food shelf. She continued nurturing her project and at the time of her application in May of this year, they had already prepped and planted the gardens for another season of fresh produce.

By partnering with her 4-H chapter, she made certain that her food shelf will continue to receive healthier food alternatives. She has been teaching current 4-H members how to maintain the garden and she connected them with a master gardener for additional expertise. Moving forward, Brooklyn hopes to share her project with other counties and is actively gathering resources and materials to help them start their own food shelf gardens. She also wants to set up a system where community members can donate extra produce from their own gardens to local food shelves, ensuring that an even greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are going to those who need them instead of going to waste.