How BIP Connects the Classrooms, Companies, & Community

Thomas Smith Example of Generous Leadership, Generous Leadership

“Kennedy is pushing for legislation that will allow children to seek psychiatric help at a younger age. There were lots of community leaders at the table, and she belonged.”

Zak Ferry, quoted above, met Big Idea Project Horizon High School participant Kennedy at the state gala last May. The event showcases the top five teams as they present to Big Idea Project community members, sponsors and supporters. Zak, who is the Executive Director of a nonprofit called The Lion Project, was so impressed with Kennedy after her team’s presentation that he decided to invite her to The Lion Project’s discussion on mental health issues, the focus of The Lion Project’s work this year.

Another BIP team, this one from Smoky Hill High School, formed a project called Taken 4 Granted. This group connected with Brian Arnold, Executive Director of a nonprofit called Aurora Warms the Night. Brian helped the group identify a problem –  most Aurora restrooms close their doors overnight, leaving many homeless without a safe place to use the restroom. Brian wanted a mobile shower and restroom trailer that they could run from 6:30pm to 10:30pm every night, but had no means to purchase one. The students took on this challenge and helped Aurora Warms the Night earn a grant for $135,000. Brian used the money to purchase the same 24-foot, 5 shower, 5 restroom truck that the BIP students found from a national search. The trailer will be the first of its kind to hit the streets of Aurora.

Without Big Idea Project, these kinds of connections would not exist. High school is faced with the task of preparing our young adults, tomorrow’s leaders, to contribute to society.. The problem is, this preparation cannot be entirely done inside the school. That’s where Big Idea Project comes in. Big Idea Project pushes the students outside of the classroom, to go out and engage with the community to make a positive impact on their neighbors.

It starts by connecting a group of students, challenged with the task of impacting their community, with a business mentor who can help make their impact possible. Then students reach out to community non-profits, hospitals, churches and small businesses to make their plans reality. In doing so, BIP connects the classrooms with companies and the community, three sectors that otherwise operate in silos.

Big Idea Project is building a whole new ecosystem, bridging the gap between these three sectors, creating a rising tide of change that will make our students and our society stronger.