IChallengeU program offers rewarding experience for students

A few of  Hamilton’s students and teachers had a unique opportunity this past summer to work together through a program called IChallengeU, where they solved problems for west Michigan businesses with innovation and creativity.

IChallengeU lasts for two weeks during the summer program and is for 11th and 12th grade students from the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.

A total of 90 students from the area were selected to work with a local business partner on real life community, civic, and corporate questions or challenges.  Through their own research, theories, and ideas, students developed solutions to these issues.

The students were selected based on such things as academic achievements and an essay that they had to submit. Those students were able to work with master teachers and Ottawa Area leaders to learn what it takes to create modern century solutions in the competitive environment that we live in now.

This was the second summer for the IChallengeU program, and it has yet again shown how a little innovation, creativity, and team work can help not only a business and its problem, but also how it can help with a student’s personal skills that are necessary in being successful in their future.

Once the students met with their business, they would be given information about the business itself: how  it got started, why  it was started, and, most importantly, what was the problem that the business needed solved?

“The business that I was partnered up with was Prima Plastics,” senior Chelsi Proos said. “Our question was ‘What makes work more than a paycheck?'”

For the first few days, Proos’ group had to figure out how to make working at Prima Plastics more enjoyable for the employees that worked there. Their answer was family, benefits, and education. This means that the company would give more insurance, the workers would be more than just a face in the crowd, they would be family, and that more skills and training would be given to make the experience at the company better.

Hamilton senior Ambre Couturier was partnered up wit Ready For School, a non-profit organization that helps to prepared young kids for kindergarden. Their question pertained to how could Ready For School have long term funding. The answer that her group came up with was to build a store, kind of like a second hand store, which would include clothes, baby & child care items, and school supplies. Any and all donations and money made at the store could go to Ready For School.

All students who participated in the program were eligible to earn college credits, while the top performers earned 4 college credits from GRCC. All students were also given a $250 scholarship, and those who won the competition were given an extra $750 that totaled to a $1,000 scholarship.

Hamilton teachers, Mr. Brian Morrison, Mr. Gregg Stoel, and Mr. Bob Wandel, who also took part in this experience, were given a new way to look at education, how students are taught, how students collaborate, and how to help students understand their potential.

“I loved participating with IChallengeU,” Proos said. “It was a great experience to get to know the business and make new friends with my group. If I could, I’d do it again next year.”

“I had a great time over the two weeks,” Couterier said. “It was something new and exciting.”

“I had told many of my friends to take part in IChallengeU and some did,” senior Anissa Krauss said. “When I did it last year, I had a great time and I knew they would too. IChallengeU is an experience that everyone should have.”


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