Skip to Content

Featured Student Post: Project Fit Teen’s Journey to Change Lives

This post was generously written for us by Big Idea Project alumni and part of state winning team, Rachel Van Arsdale.

I have never felt more overwhelmed in my 17 years on this planet. The Big Idea Project was assigned to me through the honors program at my school. Everyone tells us as we grow up that we’ll be able to “change the world,” but the idea of changing the life of just one person seemed inconceivable. Hundreds of problems swirled around in my mind, but none of them seemed to have a feasible solution.

Today, the Fit Teen Project site has over 2300 views in over 60 different countries worldwide.

I have Pituitary Dwarfism, a condition that caused my body to nearly stop the production of Human Growth Hormone. Since my treatment, I’ve struggled with my weight, and can’t seem to find helpful, free resources out there to help me and other teens manage their health. My solution? Give up, and order a large pepperoni pizza. As I sunk my teeth into the gooey, cheesy concoction, I realized I could channel my frustration into a passion for helping other teens gain access to resources they need in order to lead a healthier lifestyle. The next day, I rushed into class, asked three of my friends if they’d like to join me, and the Fit Teen Project was born.

Big Idea Project quickly went from being a dread to a joy. We started by compiling resources in every field of health; from nutrition to mental wellness. Through our mentor, we got to speak to a health class at Rocky Top Middle School. There we got more information from teens about their health and wellness needs, by leading them through aspects of our program. Speaking with these younger teens was an eye-opening experience, and helped shape our project.

Through Big Idea Project, not only was I able to help others, I discovered the meaning of Generous Leadership. Being a Generous Leader involves acting with altruism, kindness, and passion in order to guide a group of people to success. Leadership is more than being in charge, it’s about putting others needs above your own, and being a driving force for others to discover greatness in themselves. Amazing things happen when people realize their own capabilities, and that’s what being a leader is truly about.

My team had the honor of competing at Big Idea Project state, representing Horizon High School. I witnessed so many incredible and unique projects, and met some of the most altruistic people. I felt inspired and amazed at just how big an impact high school students can make. When we returned for the winning group announcement, butterflies were thrashing around in my stomach. My name was announced first, but it wasn’t until our whole group was announced that it really hit me. I was in disbelief for hours after the event was over. We won the Big Idea Project. I was on cloud nine and in that moment, I knew all the hard work we had put in was worth it. Not only were we able to help provide resources to an entire community of teenagers, but we received an incredible scholarship in the process.

The Fit Teen Project is an online program designed to help teens to develop a healthier lifestyle in what we consider to be the three central pillars of health: Nutrition, Physical Fitness, and Mental Wellness. I’m working on creating a new segment of the program that will allow for a community-based aspect, where users can create their own accounts and share resources with each other. We’re applying to as many grants as possible to keep this program alive and running for generations to come. If you have any suggestions for funding for our project, feel free to email us at For more information about our mission, visit our website at