High school students present ideas in Grand Valley State on how to solve the challenges of equity 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 struggles and more.

Students presented their 12 big ideas on Thursday, August 5 to leaders from GVSU and five other universities across the country that form the REP4 alliance, which means Rapid Education Prototyping for Change, Learners, Community and equity.

The REP4 alliance was founded by GVSU earlier this year in an effort to encourage high school students to design and build prototypes for solutions to problems they see in higher education.

The idea is for the six universities in the alliance to implement these innovative ideas across the country.

RELATED: Grand State State University forms a national alliance to address the challenges of equity 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 struggles that fueled their ideas for change.

A group of students from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, had the idea to change the way students are evaluated during the college admissions process. Students created the “GRIT score,” an app that measures student resilience and perseverance to give schools a different way of looking at students ’skills rather than just standardized test scores.

“Not all students are the same,” said Alivia Snyder, co-founder of the GRIT scoring idea. “There are a lot of kids who are very good at standardized testing and a lot of kids who aren’t. However, sometimes the kids who work hard and hard are those kids who don’t do so well in testing, but they strive, they doing the work, they show perseverance ”.

Snyder said the GRIT score would help measure students ’perseverance rather than relying solely on grades.

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

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

The six REP4 schools collectively serve more than 100,000 students across the country. The alliance consists of Grand Valley State, Amarillo College of Texas, Boise State University of Idaho, Fort Valley State University of Georgia, San Jose State University of California and Shippensburg University of 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 laboratory for the future, a place where thousands of ideas modeled by various students come to life through their lived experience,” Mantella said.

Grand Valley will form faculty and staff teams in the coming weeks who will be dedicated to figuring out how to implement students ’ideas in college.

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

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

  • The GRIT Score, Shippensburg, PA: Score that measures student resilience and perseverance that admissions teams can add to their assessments when considering applications
  • Idaho Cost of Living Reduction: An app to help students meet needs, such as affordable food and living spaces, in partnership with businesses
  • FAB APP, Muskegon, Michigan: A way to help alleviate students ’financial worries by offering an app that allows them to connect anonymously with peers and advisors for advice and assistance.
  • Elevation Promise, San Jose, California: A program that combines personalized, comprehensive career and college counseling with paid internships in the later stages of a student’s college career
  • Voce (Voice) Strategy, from Shippensburg to Pennsylvania: an application that allows the university to obtain new information on ways to eliminate cultural and economic disparities on campus
  • Creating Connections, San Jose, California: A mentoring program that allows college students to connect with high school students to see what life is like as a college student.
  • Nutrition Box, Macon, Georgia: a program to support the creation of two nutrition boxes a week to send to students dealing with food insecurity
  • Youth Support Kiosk, Dooly County, Georgia: A kiosk that connects young people with a mental health professional to talk about their mental health.
  • Idaho’s Plan of Passion: A Mentoring System and Other Supports to Help Students Find Affinity Groups for Professional Exploration and the Right Educational Path
  • Mentoring Match, from Amarillo, Texas: Matching high school students with a college mentor to help them find resources and explore higher education
  • Mindset Through Mentoring, Amarillo, Texas: Matching Students with Peer Mentors to help them access resources and make them more comfortable and safe going to college

Paul Jones, president of Fort Valley State University, said the alliance will continue to be dedicated to finding ways to incorporate students ’voices into these efforts. He said it is unprecedented for universities to interact directly with students to get their ideas on issues in higher education.

“We have to be very brave,” Jones said in a prepared statement. “This is not the way we do business normally. But that’s the way we should do it. “

Mona Morales, an executive in Microsoft’s higher education industry in the United States who is an advisor and served as a panelist at the event, called the REP4 alliance “truly special.”

“I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and what I’ve seen here with these schools coming together between state lines and working together in that capacity, we need a lot more of that,” Morales said during a conference call. press after the event.

“It creates an ecosystem that uplifts everyone and really supports students in a way that is meaningful. Seeing him come together the way he has is very impressive on so many levels, but the main core is the student, and this is where everyone’s attention should be ”.

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