Voting has kicked off for the group of Richmond Senior High School seniors who are trying to start a new program to help other students graduate.
Jennifer Byrd’s honors U.S. Government class submitted a proposal to enter a video contest with the Institute for Emerging Issues for a $5,000 prize.
If they win, they plan to use the funds as start-up money for a program to benefit other students for years to come.
“Every year IEI challenges students in North Carolina to come up with an innovative idea to address one of North Carolina’s biggest issues,” said Lane Smith, IEI, NC State University. “This year’s challenge was to submit an idea to increase North Carolina’s high school graduation rate.”
Smith reported that out of nearly 70 applications from across the state, Richmond Senior High students made it to the top five in the high school division.
“The winning teams (one from the high school division and one from the college division) are decided by a public vote,” said Smith.
The idea that landed the class in the finalist category was to create a “Studio Lounge” at the school.
“The idea is to create a class where students tutor students,” said Byrd. “It will be a full length class, offered all semester and open to any student who needs extra help with any subject. Both the tutors and the students participating will get an elective credit for the class.”
Byrd said her students came up with the idea to address the obstacles that face many students once the school day ends.
“A lot of students have to get on the bus, go to sports practice or go to work when school’s out,” said Byrd. “Not everyone is able to stay at school for extra help at the end of the day and their grades are suffering because of it. Offering support during the school day for a sufficient amount of time could be a real solution.”
Principal Cory Satterfield is supporting the group’s vision by offering up an empty room the group can transform into a study room if they win, and Byrd’s class is excited about the possibility of making a long-lasting change.
The prize money will be used for paint, desks, chairs and computers to outfit the “lounge.”
“We want to help motivate others to achieve what they need to do in order to graduate,” said student Shelby McCormick. “We’re already talking to juniors about the project to get them on board with either signing up for the class or to be tutors.”
To ensure that the prize money is used in line with the winner’s goals, the Institute requires that periodic progress reports are sent in, along with accounts of how the funds are being used.
“I think their project deserves to win because it’s realistic, logical and relatively inexpensive to maintain over the long term,” said Byrd. “I believe if we can implement their idea, it’s something that will serve the needs of students for years to come.”
RSHS students are competing against East Burke High School, Greene Central High School, Jordan Lake School of the Arts and Stanly Early College.
Byrd and the students said they hope community members will spread the word and vote for their idea.
To support the students, voters can go to http://www.ncsu.edu/iei/index.php/news-events/emerging-issues-prize-for-innovation until Feb. 6 at 5 p.m. and register to vote.
To vote at the link above, click “vote for a high school finalist,” enter your email address and click “done.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.