FuturePREP'd challenges students in real-world business

·2 min read

Jul. 21—The futurePREP'd IChallengeU teams met at Odd Side Ales in downtown Grand Haven on Tuesday morning to prepare for their upcoming presentations.

The program partners Ottawa County high school students and teachers with local businesses. The students are given a problem that the local business might be facing, then have two weeks to brainstorm, research and come up with a solution.

The students worked in small groups from July 11-21. They will present their solutions to the business on Thursday over a Zoom call.

This year, the teams partnered with the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, Shape Corp. and the Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven.

Shape asked the students, "How can we improve our implementation of the 5S process in our company?" The Department of Public Safety's challenge was how to improve water safety along the Lakeshore. The museum asked students how to create more engaging experiences for visiting sixth- through 12th-graders.

Annette Coval, a futurePREP'd facilitator, said some of the challenges have involved things that neither the teachers nor students have ever heard of prior to the process. Now, after a week and a half of researching, they've developed an understanding of the issue and know how to work around it.

One of the challenges with the program, Coval said, is when it takes place — in the middle of summer.

"You have to be very creative with how you pull your students in and keep them engaged when it's a glorious day in Grand Haven and the beach is right there," she said. "Our company business partners have been so great that we have kids going home and doing extra on their own."

Some students heard about IChallengeU from school, some heard about the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District program from classmates and others were recommended by teachers.

"I've done futurePREP'd for about two years and it's just an amazing program for growing yourself professionally and personally," said Hudsonville High School student Ray Kamer. "I like being able to help other businesses while growing myself, too."

While helping the businesses, students can also strengthen their leadership and teamwork skills.

"I like it because it's a big group full of leaders and no one is doing all the work by themselves," Grand Haven High School student Sara Dalman said. "We are all sharing responsibilities and we all have a passion to be here."

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