0-Gap Masks: 2020 Scholarship Winner

This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2020 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our 2021 program, click here”. 

Sarah Lee and Angela Rhee are our first international students to apply to our scholarship. They come from South Korea and have made a huge impression on the team at Honors Graduation. During this unprecedented time in our world, Sarah and Angela wanted to help their community the best they could. When schools in South Korea were reopened after being shut down due to COVID-19, masks were strictly required to be worn for all students. Unfortunately, not all students had access to a mask and therefore, couldn’t attend school.

Together, they set out to develop the 0-gap mask initiative. A program to deliver masks that maximize facial fit to healthcare workers, low-income families, and people in high risk groups for COVID-19. The 0-gap masks are antiviral and conform precisely to the users’ face. They also developed a beard version which utilizes an additional layer that seals all gaps. Both serve to maximize facial fit to prevent pollutant/bacterial leakage. As many high quality masks remain unaffordable to low-income families, their main goal is to distribute free masks to underprivileged families and senior citizens. 

After donating masks to the Da-ll charity organization and receiving positive feedback earlier this year, Sarah and Angela realized that regardless of the number of individuals, their initiative helped low-income families and individuals in their local community. The impact they feel they have made feels much bigger than they realized, especially at a time when masks are in such high need. They also feel that their initiative helped people to understand the importance of facial fit and not just the filtering abilities of the masks they choose to wear. 

Longterm, Sarah and Angela hope to obtain a provisional patent and connect with the UN Development Programme to distribute 0-gap masks to underprivileged students, outdoor workers, and individuals with facial hair and facial disfigurements. Targeting countries like Bangladesh, India and China they hope to expand efforts to the most severely populated regions around the world. Using the funds they currently have, they plan to purchase mask filters, breathable fabric and a programmable sewing machine to continue producing masks. 

They have plans to bring their respective universities since that would allow them to reach a wider pool of resources and connections. Sarah will be attending The University of Chicago, while Angela will be attending Northwestern University. Both universities have an opportunity for them to further their initiative. At Northwestern, there is a center for research innovation which would help them in further developing the 0-gap mask prototype. The University of Chicago hosts a competition called The College New Venture Challenge, which would help them obtain more funds. 

Announcing The 2020 Top Scholarship Winner!

This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2020 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our 2020 program, click here”. 

The top recipient for our scholarship this year is Caitlin Gill from Plano, Texas where she graduated from Plano West Senior High School.  At the beginning of her Freshman year of high school, Caitlin became ill and was diagnosed with two chronic conditions. She experienced delays in her speech, reading and writing, and overall daily living activities. Caitlin was drawn to the special needs community at her school after she was made fun of for reading slow and not completing her work as quickly as other students, both results of her chronic health conditions. She started to notice that the kids in the special needs community were often overlooked and gained compassion for them. She became committed to improving the lives of those with special needs and giving them the resources to lead happy, independent, and fulfilling lives. 

Students all across the world faced a different challenge during the spring of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our communities, ultimately sending everyone home. Many kids who weren’t able to attend school suffered during this and was something Caitlin took note of. The friends she made in the special needs community especially, rely on the day to day interaction with their peers. Her desire to continue to help them drove her to start F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E.(which stands for Friendship. Lifestyle. Exercise. Special. People. Acceptance. Compassion. Experience.). 

F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. is a virtual program where Caitlin leads daily exercises with her special needs friends over a zoom call. The main goal of this program is to provide friendship and inclusion, while also promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. When immersing herself in the special needs community, she was able to identify the different needs of each student. Some peers needed more encouragement, while others desired opportunities to feel needed. Despite these differing challenges, she realized that what they all need is at least one peer to look past their disabilities and embrace them with love and friendship. Through F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. she is able to be that peer for them. She advocates for their needs and encourages them to work towards their aspirations and recognize their own potential. Caitlin’s biggest hope for the program is that each of her peers walks away with a friend. Someone they can depend on to be kind and accepting. Caitlin has noticed a positive change within many of her peers. At school, she noticed they were tired, overwhelmed, and didn’t interact with each other. Within the first two weeks of the zoom workouts, they were expressing themselves more and had achieved overall happiness within themselves and with life. 

Caitlin will be attending Texas Woman’s University in the fall of 2020. With staying local to her community, she will be able to continue growing the F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. program while attending school. She would eventually like to hold in-person activities once it is safe to do so. While this is a program she started at her home, she has close relationships with teachers at Plano West and hopes to be able to implement F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. in a school setting. 

You can see her website at https://www.specialwordsforspecialpeople.com/

My Own Design A Better Future Project

Recently I’ve been put on the board for our Design A Better Future scholarship. The whole scholarship has nothing to do with grades, GPA, or academics at all. It’s based on a student serving in their community some way, seeing a path they can take to make it a better place. 

Mary wrote about how she unknowingly conducted her own Design A Better Future (DBF) project in her community so it got me thinking, is there something I am already doing, or can do to participate in this as well? After some time, I realized I have been working on my own project in my hometown. 

From the framework of our scholarship: 

Look, Listen, and Learn: 

This summer my kids have been enrolled in Infant Swim Resource (ISR) swim lessons at Utah Swim Acadamey in Provo. It’s life saving swim lessons that first teach kids to save their life if unexpectedly found in water alone, then teach the strokes and work to get out of the pool unassisted. After posting about it on my social media, I had multiple friends in my hometown of Idaho Falls ask how and where they can access these lessons for their kids. Unfortunately after some research, there wasn’t any options. 

So, I set out to change that. 

Ask Tons Of Questions:

  • Why aren’t they available in the area? 
  • What steps do I need to take to make them accessible? 
  • Where is most of the need? 
  • What would it cost to build a pool? Rent a pool? 
  • How much does a heating element in a pool cost and does it extend our window for teaching swim lessons? By How much? 
  • Who are my allies in this? 
  • How do I learn how to teach these lessons? 
  • Who can I hire to help me teach so that we can access more kids? 
  • How can we maximize the number of kids we teach while still starting small and reasonable? 
  • How do we spread the word? 
  • And so many more….. 

Understand The Process Or Problem: 

The problem is the lack of swim lessons in general the area, with the complete absence of ISR lessons. Why? I believe it’s linked with the lack of pools in the area, given the cooler climate. 

The process is taking research upon research. Reading articles and ordering some new books to read. How To Teach Your Baby To Swim by Douglas Doman and Teaching Your Baby To Swim by Françoise Barbira Freedman. More ways I am learning is by observing my children’s current swim lessons and seeing how something like this is run. 

Navigate Ideas:

During this phase I realized that living four hours away from the location I want to make this happen would be difficult for it to work out to run lessons from far away. I called in more resources and had my sister, who lives in the area, join in with me on this. 

This is my daughter at 2 years old, five lessons in. Can you hear my gasp because I was so excited?!

Create A Prototype: 

We brought swim lessons to the area! Our swim instructor committed to teaching for two weeks in the Idaho Falls/ Ammon area. We worked really hard to market, find useable pools, and organize schedules. And after two weeks we had about 35 kids floating and swimming! 

Highlight and Fix: 

From our initial launch, we are working on navigating a smoother way to schedule parents, have access to our own pool, and an easier way to get the word out about these lessons. We asked parents for feedback or what they would like to see happen. 

One common comment was a solid platform for communication with parents. We were answering questions and posting information about the swimming lessons by sometimes posting on my Instagram, sometimes posting on the swim instructors and various texts/ calls from both our phone numbers. Because of this, we are working at creating social media platforms just for this purpose and a website we can refer everyone to. 

Launch To An Audience: 

Because swim lessons will be happening outdoors and summer is coming to a close, we are nativating each of these steps over the next few months so that we can launch next spring to the Idaho Falls area! We are excited to bring such an important and life-saving service to an area that is lacking. I can’t wait to see where this project will go! 

Our instructor and my daughter after a successful two weeks teaching ISR lessons in Idaho Falls

Have You Heard About Our Scholarship?

Hello! McKenzie here with some news! Not only can I say I am an educational blogger, but I am now a scholarship chairperson! Honors Graduation does a very generous scholarship every year, they hand out five $10,000 scholarships to high school seniors attending college the next school year. You can read more about the scholarship here. 

I’ve always wanted to be part of a scholarship organization in some way since college. I was fortunate to receive many scholarships, both large and small amounts, throughout my four years and have felt inclined in some way to provide this for other college students. I know first hand the excitement and relief that comes with the award of scholarship money. When presented with the opportunity to be on the scholarship board for Honors Graduation I was thrilled, to say the least! 

The scholarship outline is to design a better future. Students create a project in their community that better it in some way. This is the second reason I love being here for this! One of my strengths is to look around at a situation and think, “How can I improve this?” When I was in high school I worked in the Sears shoe department where I was constantly moving shelves, reorganizing, and making the process more efficient for all, my supervisor loved it! 

As I’ve been researching this scholarship and reading about every past winner, I had a light bulb moment that I am unknowingly conducting my own design a better future project that I am excited to share with you soon. Stay tuned! And until then, check out our scholarship and see how you, or a high school senior you know, can win $10,000! 

Cover photo by Lacey Ross Photography

The Aftermath of Awarding $55,000 in Scholarship Funds

The past couple of weeks since announcing our scholarship awardees have been a incredible whirlwind. Most of it has been a joy as we have enjoyed the enthusiastic responses from students and their families. Some has been unfortunate as we had do deal with some plagiarism, which is always taken very seriously at HonorsGradU.

We especially love it when it works out to surprise our recipients with the news.

Xelah Baca, creator of BHS Recycle, received the news from her mentor during an awards ceremony:

And I was able to fly down to surprise Anthony Neil Tan with the news that he was selected as our top recipient during his senior awards night for his creation of the Maker Hub Club:

Check out the newly updated Past Winners page to view all 5 students’ prototypes, reflection videos, and colleges. We look forward to sharing more about the background of these 5 outstanding students this summer, and to seeing Anthony’s project grow with another fully funded iteration. Thank you again for your efforts to design a better future!

For you incoming seniors, be sure to stay tuned for the details at the end of the summer on our 2020 scholarship program!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Announcing Our 2019 Design A Better Future Scholarship Awardees!

This is our seventh year of running a scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. Over the past two years, we have offered a program in which students develop a community-improvement project based on the model of design thinking.

We were inspired by the ambitious, generous, and innovative projects from this year’s applicants. The vision of these high school students gives us so much hope for the future. Our scholarship committee is pleased to announce this year’s 5 recipients:

Anthony Neil Tan, top recipient to receive an additional $5,000 toward another iteration of his project: Maker Hub Club

Xelah Baca: BHS Recycle

Elizabeth Hansen: Composting For A Cause

Sruthi Kundur: Stay Healthy, Be Confident Hygiene For Women

Cobi Reed: Envisioning a Better Future

Congratulations to our awardees! Watch for additional updates, including on our Past Winners page.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Our Scholarship Finalists Have Been Emailed!

For those students who applied for our this year’s Design a Better Future scholarship program, we are pleased to announce that we have selected 10 finalists.

These outstanding students have been emailed some follow-up questions about future potential iterations of their project, as well as how they might continue local impact post graduation. Please check your email inboxes ASAP to respond to our questions so that we can make our decision on our final 5 awardees. We plan to make that announcement next week on Monday, May 20th!

Thank you to everyone for your participation. We are extremely impressed at the efforts and passion we have seen in this year’s group.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto