High school students present ideas to Grand Valley State on how to tackle equity issues in higher education

ALLENDALE, MI – Grand Valley State University works with high school students across the country to develop innovative solutions to higher education challenges such as food insecurity, mental health, financial hardship, and more.

The students presented their 12 big ideas on Thursday August 5 to leaders of GVSU and five other universities across the country that make up the REP4 alliance, which stands for Rapid Education Prototyping for Change, Learners, Community, Equity.

The REP4 alliance was founded by GVSU earlier this year with the aim of encouraging high school students to design and build prototypes of solutions to the problems they see in higher education.

The idea is that the six universities in the alliance then implement these innovative ideas nationwide.

RELATED: Grand Valley State University Forms National Alliance to Address Equity Issues in Higher Education

The REP4 alliance held its first virtual conference on Thursday where students presented their 12 proposals. During their presentations, students described their personal challenges with food insecurity, mental health and financial hardship that fueled their ideas for change.

A group of students from Shippensburg, PA came up with the idea of ​​changing the way students are assessed during the college admissions process. Students created the “GRIT Score”, an app that measures student endurance and persistence to give schools a different way of seeing student abilities rather than just standardized test scores.

“Not all students are created equal,” said Alivia Snyder, co-founder of the GRIT score idea. “There are a lot of kids who are really good at standardized tests and a lot of kids who aren’t. However, sometimes the kids who work really, really hard are those kids who don’t do very well on the tests, but they put in the effort, they get the job done, they show persistence.

Snyder said the GRIT score would help measure student persistence instead of relying solely on grades.

“It’s more than a note, it’s actually you, it’s your job,” Snyder told MLive at a press conference Thursday. “No one wants to be simply represented by numbers.”

The next step for the REP4 alliance is for the university experts to work with the 12 ideas presented and determine how they can be brought to life in their schools.

The six REP4 schools collectively serve over 100,000 students across the country. The alliance includes Grand Valley State, Amarillo College in Texas, Boise State University in Idaho, Fort Valley State University in Georgia, San José State University in California, and Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

GVSU President Philomena Mantella said it was exciting to hear the ideas high school students brought to the table.

“What we have become is a learning lab for the future, a place where thousands of ideas shaped by diverse students come to life through their lived experience,” said Mantella.

Grand Valley will be forming teams of faculty and staff in the coming weeks who will focus on figuring out how to put students’ ideas into action at the university.

An idea from Grand Rapids, Find Your Fam, is a tool that would allow students with common interests to connect through a virtual reality format as well as through games.

Here is a summary of the 11 other ideas presented by high school students at the REP4 Alliance conference, including links to each virtual presentation:

  • The GRIT Score, from Shippensburg, Pa .: a score measuring student endurance and persistence that admissions teams can add to their assessments when reviewing applications
  • Lowering the Cost of Living, Idaho: An App to Help Students Meet Needs Like Food and Affordable Living Spaces, Working with Businesses
  • FAB APP, Muskegon, Michigan: A Way To Alleviate Financial Worries For Students By Providing An App That Enables Them To Connect Anonymously With Peers And Counselors For Advice And Support
  • Elevation Promise, from San Jose, Calif.: A program that combines personalized, comprehensive career and college counseling with paid internships in the final stages of students’ college careers
  • Voce (Voice) Strategy, from Shippensburg, Pa .: An app that allows the university to gain new insight into how to eliminate cultural and economic disparities on campus
  • Make Connections, San Jose, Calif.: A mentorship program that allows college students to connect with high school students to see what a student’s life is like.
  • Nutrition Box, from Macon, Georgia: a program to help create two nutritional boxes per week to send to students facing food insecurity
  • Youth Support Kiosk, Dooly County, GA: A kiosk that connects young people with a mental health professional to discuss their mental health
  • Plan of Passion, Idaho: A system through mentorship and other supports to help students find affinity groups for career exploration and the right educational path
  • Mentor Match, Amarillo, TX: Matches high school students with a college mentor to help them find resources and explore core subjects
  • Mindset Through Mentoring, Amarillo, TX: Pairs students with peer mentors to help them access resources and make them more comfortable and confident about going to college

Paul Jones, president of Fort Valley State University, said the alliance will remain dedicated to finding ways to incorporate student voices into these efforts. He said it was unprecedented for universities to engage directly with students to get their ideas on higher education issues.

“We have to be very courageous,” Jones said in a prepared statement. “It’s not our usual way of doing business. But that’s the way we should make this work.

Mona Morales, leader of Microsoft’s US higher education industry, consultant and panelist at the event, called the REP4 alliance “really special.”

“I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, and what I’ve seen here with these schools coming together across state borders and working together in that capacity, we need a lot more of that,” Morales said at the time. of a press conference. following the event.

“It creates an ecosystem that uplifts everyone and really supports students in a meaningful way. Seeing it all come together the way he did is very impressive on so many levels, but at the heart is the student, and that’s where everyone’s attention should be.

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