Introducing Michael Wilson: 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.

The next scholarship recipient that I want to share with you is Michael Wilson and his work in establishing a local chapter of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association. As someone who was homeschooled, he often participated in “real life projects” as part of the curriculum. These projects included providing manual labor for his elderly neighbors, performing with his family’s band at senior care facilities (Michael is an accomplished vocalist and mandolin player), and working with kids in an after school program.

It didn’t take long for Michael to notice that there were two major problems in his community. The first issue was the isolation of seniors. Many residents were limited to their nursing homes and never received visitors. Even outside the nursing homes, many of the seniors were homebound and living alone. The lack of visitors was made worse during the pandemic and let to a steep decline in the quality of life for the elderly. The second issue was that many of the children were coming from foster care and otherwise broken homes, which limited their access to positive role models. Michael realized there was a way to hit both birds with one stone: music. Once he found the mission statement of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association, he knew it was exactly what his community needed:

“The Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association is a non-profit organization whose objective is to preserve, promote and perpetuate the art of old time fiddling, to encourage all people, young and old, to develop their musical talents and afford them opportunities to perform in public, to hold jam sessions and other musical events, for the members’ own enjoyment and to educate the public on the values of old time fiddling. And to brighten and improve the lives of “shut-ins” and other needy people, by furnishing musical entertainment and performing other charitable, civic and community services.”

He immediately got to work establishing the Payson chapter of the AOTFA. He ran booths at community events and promoted the project on the radio in order to recruit members and meet the requirements to become a chapter. A local pastor provided a building for the weekly jam sessions–although the sessions were moved outside during the pandemic–and local musicians helped lead the sessions, as well as supplying instruments and music selections. He even incorporated a potluck into the sessions so others could contribute even if they weren’t interested in playing music.

Michael had two goals going into this project: to renew a sense of purpose and inclusion for the elderly and providing structure and guidance to the younger members of the community. In addition, all ages were able to experience learning and improving new skills to increase their self-esteem and instill a sense of pride. The generational gap was bridged and lasting relationships were formed. But don’t take my word for it; the pictures speak for themselves.

Introducing Christian Duckworth: 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.

The first scholarship recipient I would like to highlight is Christian Duckworth and his project: Foldable Dome Homes. Christian was first made aware of homelessness when, as a boy scout, he was invited to help cook breakfast at a local homeless shelter. He was so moved by that experience that he later dedicated his Eagle Scout project to renovating the Light of Life Rescue Mission, which is the largest homeless shelter in Pittsburgh. Through his Eagle Scout project, he developed close and long-standing relationships with many of the employees and residents of the shelter.

When Christian became President of the Technology Student Association during his freshman year of high school, he was able to start exploring sustainable housing technologies, even winning several architectural and robotics design competitions in the process. Christian used his knowledge of the homeless community and his skills with architectural design to create the environmentally-friendly Foldable Dome Home.

In Christian’s own words, “Inspired by the work of Buckminster Fuller, the Foldable Dome Home is highly livable, highly space and energy efficient, and highly efficient to assemble, disassemble, and transport. In just 254 square feet, it provides over 10 amenities in its service core (full bathroom with sink/toilet/shower, sleeping loft for two people, stove, microwave, kitchen sink, refrigerator, washer/dryer, HVAC unit, flat-screen TV, and storage), 23 square feet of solar panels, and LEED certification. When disassembled, one entire home fits inside an 8’6” cube, which allows six homes to be transported on one 51-foot-long flatbed trailer.”

Christian’s prototype included a description of the materials used as well as explanations for why those materials were chosen. It also contains several different floor plans, a map of the plumbing and electrical systems, and assembly instructions.

Christian will be attending Carnegie Mellon University where he has been accepted into their School of Architecture. He will use resources there to help build a working prototype of his design and he hopes to attain property from the city of Pittsburgh where he can set up the homes. Once built, he plans to invite residents from the Light of Life Rescue Mission to stay in the homes and provide feedback. As he continues to make improvements to his design, he wants to collaborate with homeless shelters in other cities to test his prototype under different environmental conditions. Ultimately, he wants to identify manufacturers that would be interested in mass producing the Foldable Dome Home so it can be used to combat homelessness on a global level.

Scholar(ship)ly Advice Is A Trilogy Now

As the deadline for our scholarship draws near, I decided to reach out to winners from previous years to check in with them and see what advice they had to offer for this year’s applicants. For more information on our scholarship and how to apply, head here.

Kayla Klurman (Our 2021 Top Winner)

Check out our 2021 post on Kayla and her Design a Better Future project, Kayla’s Care Bags. Not only did she win the $10,000 scholarship, but she was awarded an additional $5,000 to continue her project.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to this year’s applicants, what would it be?

A: If I could give one piece of advice it would be to always stay true to yourself. Be genuine. It is so much easier to talk about yourself and the things you love when you are passionate about them and they hold a special place in your heart. This will radiate off of you and without a doubt, people will love you and your story!

Q: What has been the best thing to come from your scholarship project?

A: I have been able to continue my project in North Carolina while also being active in Miami.

Q: A quick update on you! What are you up to? Are you still actively involved in your project?

A: Yes! I make care bags in Miami and in North Carolina. I come home for the summer very soon so I am excited to have the opportunity to do some further work this summer!

Always stay true to yourself… This will radiate off of you and without a doubt, people will love you and your story!

Are you beginning to notice a pattern? The most common consensus between our past winners can be boiled down to one word: passion. If you start a project that you really believe in, it is very apparent in your scholarship submission. Not only that, you are much more likely to follow through with the project if you have a genuine interest in it. For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.

It’s Time to Kick Some Class! (of 2022)

Graduations across the globe are underway and thousands of students are about to enter a new chapter of their lives. Facing uncertainty can certainly be unnerving, and there are many new stressors that accompany the change. For high school students, they are figuring out which college to attend, what major they want to pursue, or if they even want to get a degree. College students are now faced with finding a lifelong career and hoping it is relevant to their degree and doesn’t turn into a dementor who sucks all the happiness from their life.

Fortunately there are plenty who have experienced graduation and lived to tell about it. Even more fortunate, I am blessed to know some pretty wise people who were willing to impart some of their wisdom with you. So for those graduating high school, college, trade school, or those who chose a different direction, these words are for you.

“Once you graduate, you quickly learn that there are two kinds of people: your friends and those who were friendly just because you had a class together that one time. And that’s okay. Treasure both friendships and learn from them.”

-Kassidy Baird (Yours Truly)

“Always expect more of yourself and take others with you on your way to the top.”

“Don’t be afraid to do something just because it seems interesting! There’s a lot of pressure to build a resume or look good for college applications or whatever, but taking time just for the things you think are cool or fun is so important in being well rounded and not getting stressed!”

“It’s okay to not have it all figured out right now, or even five years from now! Find what brings you joy, be yourself, and trust in your own personal journey.”

“Don’t rush into anything and just live in the moment. Be where you are and accept all of yourself and life will work itself out.”

“Find what you love and follow that passion. But don’t be afraid to try new things on the way. You may be surprised at what else lights your fire.”

-Twin 1

“Find something you love! So often we get caught up in ambition and what’s next, when in reality life goes so fast! Take some time for yourself to get to know what you like and what things excite you. There are so many more opportunities for your future than you could ever realize! The best part is that most people love talking about what they do and would be more than willing for you to come see their day-to-day. Explore, travel, and ask lots of questions. When what you do excites you, you will love life and make the world around you a better place.”

-Twin 2

(It isn’t super relevant that they are twins but I think it’s fun to see the similarities in their responses when they didn’t know what the other had said).

“Start applying now. And know you have more experience than you think.”

“It’s not about what you know. It’s about WHO you know. Network and be KIND.”

“Enjoy the day. Let your family take the pictures and celebrate the crap out of you. You deserve it.”

“Don’t get sucked into the rat race. After high school, for the first time, there’s all this flexibility and independence and it gets really easy to judge our own paths by the milestones we see other people hitting or not hitting (whether/when people are married, when people get degrees, if someone got a degree, other people who get right into working/careers). But life is flexible for a reason! You don’t have to have it all figured out, so don’t get caught up in measuring yourself against a measuring stick that doesn’t exist.

I hope you guys enjoyed these words of wisdom! I have plenty more nuggets of advice that I will share in a future post. What advice do you have for the graduating class of 2022? Share your advice in the comments! Who knows, you could even end up being quoted in my next post.

Scholar(ship)ly Advice: The Sequel

As the deadline for our scholarship draws near, I decided to reach out to winners from previous years to check in with them and see what advice they had to offer for this year’s applicants. For more information on our scholarship and how to apply, head here.

Ben Kim (2021)

Check out our 2021 post on the Design A Better Future project where Ben, Swetha, and Johnathan successfully developed a functioning keyboard for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to this year’s applicants, what would it be?

A: I’d advise this year’s applicants that they should not be trying to force a project into their hands–rather, they should find genuine interest and purpose to lead them forward.

Q: What has been the best thing to come from your scholarship project?

A: The best thing to come from my project has been acquiring new engineering skills and knowledge and, perhaps just as importantly, spending time with my group and making memories together.

Q: A quick update on you! What are you up to? Are you still actively involved in your project?

A: I’m currently studying engineering at Princeton University, and I am not still actively involved in the project–however, it will always be special to me.

Find genuine interest and purpose to lead (you) forward.

Did you know you can apply for our scholarship as a group? Ben, Swetha, and Johnathan submitted their application together and they won together! They had close family members with Parkinson’s and they were able to use their experiences to come up with a project that they had genuine interest in, and they knew first-hand the difference their keyboard will make. For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.

Some Scholar(ship)ly Advice

As the deadline for our scholarship draws near, I decided to reach out to winners from previous years to check in with them and see what advice they had to offer for this year’s applicants. For more information on our scholarship and how to apply, head here.

Hilton Stallworth (2020)

Check out our 2020 post on Hilton and his Design A Better Future project, All the Stars Initiative.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to this year’s applicants, what would it be?

A: My best piece of advice to this year’s scholarship applicants would be to have confidence in your work and convey your passion for the issue being addressed!

Q: What has been the best thing to come from your scholarship project?

A: The best thing that has come from the project that I worked on whilst in High School was that it enabled me to encourage some of my fellow students to pursue excellence in academia. It also helped give me experience with conceptualizing and developing planning skills!

Q: A quick update on you! What are you up to? Are you still actively involved in your project?

A: I am currently enrolled at NC State University majoring in mechanical engineering. I am not currently still involved with the specific project I worked on in High School, however; I still am trying my best to encourage my peers to pursue their dreams and fight to do the best that they can!

Have confidence in your work and convey your passion for the issue being addressed.

Hilton’s advice rings true: as I’ve been reviewing the feedback forms and final submissions, you can tell when someone is genuinely passionate about their project. Passion comes through in anything that you do, and why not use that passion to better your community! For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.

Color Me Concluded: My Final Musings on the True Colors Personality Test

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality types as found in the True Colors Personality Test. To see more, head here.

If you’ve gotten to the end of my True Colors Personality exploration, you might be asking yourself “Now what? How can I apply this knowledge to better myself as a teacher/parent/student/friend?” Ultimately, that is up to you. I know a lot of people think personality tests can be gimmicky, and when it comes to the “What Kind of Cheese Are You on the Weekends?” sort of test, I can agree. But I do think there are some personality tests that can propel you toward valuable introspection. McKenzie did a great job of covering a few of these with her deep dives of the Myers-Briggs, Enneagram , and the Child Whisperer personality tests.

As noted on Better Help, “The true colors personality test provides a method of understanding ourselves and others. The test uses the colors orange, gold, blue and green to represent four different personality types. The four colors combine in different ways to make up different personality spectrums. For most people, one of the four types is more dominant than the others. Learning about our personalities offers insights into our different behaviors, motivations and more.

“By using colors instead of labels, the true colors personality test aims to improve global understanding. The intuitive classification makes it easier for us to identify and remember the four personality types.”

These tests aren’t meant to serve as definitive labels for yourself and others; they are merely guideposts that can help you make sense of human nature. It can be easy to see your results in black and white when they should be used to recognize all the shades of gray within your personality and the personality of those around you. I could tell myself, “As someone with a blue personality, I shouldn’t be friends with gold personalities because we are too different.” And sure, there are some personalities that might clash a little more with others, but the whole point of these tests is to prove that anyone can get along with everyone if you take the time to understand them.

Another benefit of knowing different personality tests is that you can use your results to identify opportunities for growth. As a blue, maybe you need a lesson on resolving conflict instead of avoiding it. If you are a gold, you might consider trying to live in the moment rather than planning for the future. For those with a green personality, practice identifying your emotions and giving yourself permission to feel them. Perhaps an orange needs to train themselves to think before acting. 

Think of personality test a healthy reminder that we all have strengths, weaknesses, quirks (endearing or otherwise), and something unique to bring to the table. Personality tests can be a wonderful reference point in learning how to get along with others, regardless of what their results indicate. Don’t let someone’s True Color dictate to you how you think that person will act, allow them to show you. 

As a teacher, you should distribute at least one personality test within the first week of school. If your students are too young to answer questions themselves, send the test to their parents and have them answer it. Not only is it a fun activity for your class, but it allows you to better plan lessons and activities. It opens up lines of communication and sparks meaningful conversations.

Do you know your True Color? How has this knowledge helped you as a teacher?