In Good Hands: Youth in Action


December 13, 2012

PROVIDENCE, RI—When Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey and New York with such fury this October, it knocked out power to millions. It also left tens of thousands struggling to find a gas station with an open pump. Overnight, a group of high school students in New Jersey devised a solution: they launched a crowdsourced map that located open gas stations in the New York-New Jersey area. Stations—over 100—were identified by green (open), red (sold out) or yellow (charging station) pins. By the end of the day, the map had received so much attention from local news stations that the site crashed for a few hours due to high traffic

"I'm a bit shocked, I didn't think it'd be such a big hit," student Dayana Bustamante told The Huffington Post. "We started this up last night, we just wanted to help. It was a small idea, I personally needed gas, we all needed gas. So we started out with five points and just had more friends and high school students get involved."

The "Need Gas" map was the brainchild of members of IMSOCIO-—short for Scholars Organizing Culturally Innovative Opportunities—at Franklin High School in northwestern New Jersey. Started as a summer program for underprivileged students, particularly Latino/a, IMSOCIO has grown into a service learning project where students use technology to create a range of maps that serve the community, a practice called "community mapping."

Within hours after their gas map debuted, the IMSOCIO team received an influx of emails and Tweets with updates from the public, using mobile devices. "If there's anything wrong, people can always update and say they only accept cash here or they ran out of gas here," Bustamante said. "You can't really fail."

Halfway across the country, a class of engineering and technology students at Sheridan High School in Indiana were tacking on their own energy challenge. At their school's "The Zone" tailgate that Friday, it would be a familiar sight under the lights. But in future years, if these students have their way, the lights on the football field—and in the classrooms and hallways and everywhere else in the school—will draw power from alternative energy sources including solar and wind.

The idea started when the class was building a model of the school. "We didn't know what we were doing at the beginning —or any point throughout it," 11th grader Boone Rose told the local television news station. "We kept adding stuff as we went."

What they came up with turned into more than wood, foam and paint; they developed an entire plan for bringing alternative energy to the campus, including solar, wind and geothermal, even contingencies for cloudy, calm days. Now, the students are planning a presentation to the school board on the energy proposal. "We're trying to make a name for this program, to make everyone aware that this isn't 'shop class' anymore. This is engineering and technology, and we're going to focuse on making changes," said teacher Ryan Cox.

For a decade, WKCD's Montana Miller has been scouring the national news, daily, for stories involving America's adolescents. If you ever wonder whether we are in good hands when it comes to the rising generation, "Kids on the Wire" sounds a resounding "Yes!"

Here we offer a tiny glimpse at this generative youth action—stories we've turned up in just the past five weeks, from when Superstorm Sandy sent a group of New Jersey students into high gear.


School Farm Connects Students to Land, Culture of Work — Thursday, November 08, 2012

BANGOR, ME: The MSAD 1 Educational Farm is a learning lab for students at Presque Isle High School and the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center. It is a source of fruits, vegetables and cider for school lunches and a supplier of produce for local grocery stores, non-profit organizations and restaurants, as well as the public. Farm products are sold through a Farm Store. Opened in 1991 on 38 acres of land donated to the school district, the original Educational Farm employed seven students. Today, the farm employs an average of 40 students at the peak of strawberry season. The farm serves as a practicum for a 10th-grade biology course in life science and a course in horticulture and nursery management for grades nine-12 that introduces students to career possibilities in the field of plant sciences. Topics include landscape design, pest management and disease control, and plant propagation using hydroponic technology. Students also may apply for a cooperative experience to work at the farm as paid employees during the summer. Anyone can work at the farm, in addition to students enrolled in agriculture-related classes. For example, an advanced placement chemistry student is using the tissue culture lab at the farm to try to clone a strawberry plant. Approximately 7,500 hours of student labor are invested in every season, according to the farm’s website. Two full-time and four part-time staff members help guide and assist students with their tasks and activities. Revenue generated by the school farm is invested back into the program and its students.

For FULL STORY, go to: the Bangor Daily News, 11/8/12

High School Students Make a Difference in Sandy-Stricken Community — Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SOMERS, NY: Two packed school buses, filled with supplies and food for Hurricane Sandy victims – everything from canned foods to baby diapers and formula, to mops and brooms, to blankets, gloves and scarves – made their way from Somers to Belle Harbor on Saturday. Somers High School students and staff distributed the supplies they had collected and also served lunch (donated sandwiches, hot soup they made at Somers High School and coffee). "The students and adults walked the neighborhood distributing supplies and helping families clean out their basements which were destroyed by the flooding," Somers High School Principal Mark Bayer said. "Every person we met shared his/her story with us and they were all so thankful for our assistance." Bayer said there were 54 students, 7 staff members and 8 parents who worked tirelessly for about five hours on November 10. "Our kids were amazing," he said. "They got knee deep in mud and helped families who were feeling hopeless make some headway with their recovery and cleanup. They brought some relief to weary victims of the storm and to tired and fatigued rescue workers." One of the most profound parts of the trip was visiting and touring the neighborhood where about 20 homes were destroyed by a fire that raged through the entire block, Bayer told Patch. "[The students] heard a first-hand account from a young lady whose family lived on that block and whose house was completely destroyed," Bayer said. "Her father is a retired firefighter who couldn’t do anything to help save his own house. The devastation was immense."

For FULL STORY, go to:, 11/14/12

Mass. Students Create Robot to Help Firefighters in Ice Rescues — Monday, November 19, 2012

NATICK, NA: Having built a remotely operated vehicle that can find underwater shipwrecks, Natick High School robotics students are tackling what their teachers say is their most complicated project yet – making firefighters’ jobs a little safer. More than a dozen students are designing and building a vehicle that can search underwater beneath the ice, helping firefighters determine if anyone is there. "It will hopefully make it a lot safer for them to do their jobs," said Ilir Kumi, a 17-year-old senior, as he worked recently on developing the brains that will control the robot. The students, who began the project over the summer, are on one of 16 teams nationwide selected to participate in the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam program. They said they hope to make a device that can travel on ice and deploy a second device to go through a hole in the ice, descend and look for anyone trapped while being controlled safely from shore. Students are involved in all aspects of the project and last week were working to stay within their $8,000 budget, experimenting on designs with robotic Lego kits and using a computer to create a program for the vehicle. "This will do things like nothing we’ve ever built before," said Doug Scott, a robotics and information technology teacher. "This is new to everybody." Students conducted patent research to make sure what they are designing is an invention. They hope to make a working prototype this school year, Scott said. He said diving under ice-covered ponds is one of firefighters’ most dangerous tasks and often turns out to be a false alarm when someone sees a hole in the ice and assumes someone fell in. The students interviewed local firefighters over the summer and are working with the District 14 Dive Team, which includes divers from Ashland, Framingham Hopkinton and Northborough. "I think it’s a great concept," said Ashland Fire Lt. Tony Duca, a member of the dive team. "I wish we had (a program) like that when I was in school." Duca said holes sometimes form because of wind or if the pond wasn’t entirely frozen. When firefighters arrive at a pond, they look for footprints or other signs and make a risk assessment, he said. "Their piece of equipment could take some of the guessing game out," Duca said, adding ice rescues are rare and firefighters emphasize ice safety every year.

For FULL STORY, go to: the MetroWest Daily News, 11/19/12

Students Design Video Game to Help Stop Abuse — Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PROVIDENCE, RI: Middle school students in Rhode Island have helped design a new video game that aims to help stop teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships. Sojourner House, an advocacy and resource center in Providence for domestic violence victims, premiered ‘‘The Real Robots of Robot High’’ on Monday at Highlander Charter School. The educational game is set at Robot High, where two of the main characters are in an explosive relationship. Players have to stop the abuse and save the school by using communication skills and positive influence. The game and accompanying curriculum were developed by Sojourner House in partnership with four middle schools and after-school programs in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls; the youth advocacy organization Young Voices; the state education department; and a publisher of ‘‘social impact’’ video games.

For FULL STORY, go to: the Associated Press, 11/20/12

New Jersey Students Create Healing Wall After Hurricane Sandy — Thursday, November 22, 2012

HOBOKEN, NJ: In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Hoboken Charter School high school students created a “Healing Wall” made of hundreds of paper bricks with writing and drawings, sharing individual stories and lasting impressions from the storm. The “Healing wall” is now mounted on the walls of the City Hall lobby and more than 20 students from Hoboken Charter High School came to talk to Mayor Dawn Zimmer about the project that has spread to other schools in Hoboken. Mira Septimus, the Hoboken Charter High School art teacher, launched the project – which now numbers 1,200 bricks – soon after the school reopened Nov. 8. The school lost power but was not flooded. “We wanted to do something for the whole city,” Septimus said. “This project helps make the students realize how everyone of us was affected and helped has them learn that through unity we all can learn how to heal.” Septimus invited other schools to take part, including Stevens Cooperative, Elysian Charter School, and Mile Square Charter School. The public were invited to add their own bricks during the weekend's Hoboken Artists Studio Tour. “It is a really nice way to bring the community together,” Zimmer said. "I am really impressed how the Hoboken Charter High School put this together so quickly." Zimmer said that she wants visitors and city employees to add to the project and sees it climbing the walls in the central staircase of City Hall. Some students wrote a short stories of their own experiences of the storm and its aftermath while others drew pictures of Hoboken after Hurricane Sandy hit. Eleazar Reyes, 17, a senior at Hoboken Charter School, said being involved in the project helped him share the "scary" experienced of being trapped in his third floor apartment by flood waters. “Instead of keeping it inside we were able to share our experiences with others so everyone understands that we weren't alone,” Reyes sad. Reyes, who trapped was with his parents and two sister at their home, had no power, heat or working phones. “Family members couldn't get in contact with us. We couldn't reach out the them and they couldn't reach us. We were running out of supplies pretty quick until the Red Cross came.” During this time Reyes said he got to know his neighbors better, and shared water with families that did not have any. Dillon Farley, 18, a senior at Hoboken Charter School, spent afternoons mounting the boards on the walls. “I thought it was touching, especially when I read what the younger kids had written and how it affected them," said Farley. "It was really surprising that young people can work so well together and make a difference, especially after something so traumatic.”

For FULL STORY, go to: the Jersey Journal, 11/20/12

Santa Cruz Enlists Youth and Sports to 'Grind Out Hunger' — Friday, November 23, 2012

SANTA CRUZ, CA: NPR'S "California Report" airs a story on Santa Cruz teens riding skateboards, surfboards and snowboards for a good cause: stamping out hunger and helping out people in need. A new not-for-profit indoor skate park channels kids' interest in action sports, using their passion for the sports as a way t get them involved in the fight against childhood hunger and malnutrition. A teen named Zane embraces the mission: "It's mind-boggling that I get to do what I love to do, skateboard, and sell skateboard accessories and still be giving back at the same time." Skaters pay to skate and the profits are donated. A 15-year-old says the message spoke to her: over the last year, she raised $9,000 by selling Grind Out Hunger T-shirts, bracelets, and stickers, and by marketing to fellow snowboarders through her own Grind Out Hunger web page, something every hunger fighter gets to track and collect donations. Founders say involvement by local schools has grown by five times. "The product is about teaching kids philanthropy and about teaching them to be advocates, and the bigger message to this whole model is that they own their community and that they're passionate about it, they're not going to turn a blind eye when they see something."

For FULL STORY, go to: the California Report, 11/23/12

Topeka High School Students Assist at Funerals — Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TOPEKA, KS: A Topeka high school has started a group that encourages its students to serve as pallbearers at funerals. The St. Joseph of Arimathea Society was started in fall 2011 at Hayden High School after a deacon at a Catholic church read an article about a similar group at a Cleveland high school. Dan Ondracek, of Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church, then spoke with an area funeral director to see if there was a similar need in Topeka. "He told me sometimes, when a person dies and doesn't have anyone to serve as pallbearers, the Knights of Columbus or American Legion sends some people out," Ondracek told The Topeka Capital-Journal. "But some of the men in those organizations are getting so old they can hardly lift a casket." Ondracek talked to Hayden High School officials, who quickly approved the group. Most of the members of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society are seniors at Hayden, but a few juniors and sophomores also help out. "We served at one where there were only four people in the congregation," said Zach Dodd, a Hayden senior who is a member of the group. "It was an opportunity to help out." Dodd said the school usually sends six students to serve as pallbearers for each funeral. The students receive community service credit for their work. Mike Monaghan, assistant principal and dean of students at Hayden, said the program has given students a valuable experience. "One of the seniors who graduated last year said of all the things he did at Hayden, this was the most meaningful and fulfilling," Monaghan said.

For FULL STORY, go to: the Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/23/12

High School Bands Become Champions for Kids with Disabilities — Monday, December 03, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA: More students with disabilities are making their way in the mainstream of high school life, and many are finding a place in high school marching bands. "It's awesome to see how far we've come," says Tom Snyder, arts coordinator and former marching band director for the West Allegheny School District. Today, band directors in his district and elsewhere work closely with special education staff and parents to ensure the success of students of all abilities. Even in the realm of band competitions, there is a new normal, said Mr. Snyder. Some students with disabilities, such as those who use wheelchairs, are recognizable on the field, but many are not. Consider Andrew Duch, a senior who plays trumpet in the Hampton High School marching band. Andrew, who has autism, began music lessons in fourth grade. Upon moving to Hampton in eighth grade, he was on track to participate in the entire range of band activities -- band camp, half time shows, parades, festivals and trips that span from the Kentucky Derby his freshman year to Disney World's Magic Kingdom this coming March. "It's really been great for me," said Andrew. "I really like it." Stephen Liebrock, a senior at North Allegheny, is also enjoying the marching band experience, made even sweeter by the football team's third consecutive WPIAL championship this season. Stephen, who has Down syndrome, plays in the percussion line. Like Andrew, Stephen is in one of the area's largest marching bands. It's "a powerful inclusive experience," said Stephen's mother, Noreen Liebrock. "The band directors have enthusiasm for every student, all abilities. Never once did North Allegheny say, 'This can't happen.' " In fact, the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities is the students' right. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state regulations, students with disabilities must have equal access to extracurricular activities and the same type of "supplementary aids and services" that support their academic education. According to Lu Randall, director of the ABOARD's Autism Connection of PA, marching band gives students with autism and other types of disabilities "a chance to show their talents, advance their social skills and participate in an activity that translates well to their adult lives." Indeed, both Andrew and Stephen said that "hanging out with friends" has been the best part of marching band. Andrew's mother, Cindy Duch, noted the natural support found in those friendships. "As a freshman, Andrew was very unsure about the moves. A senior trombone player helped him, and other kids have always helped him out. They are very understanding and make sure he's successful." "These are the lessons that all the kids take away," said Mr. Snyder of West Allegheny. "Diversity. Tolerance. It's a win-win for everybody."

For FULL STORY, go to: the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/3/12

Omaha City, County Join Youth in Signing Pledges for Peace —Tuesday, December 04, 2012

OMAHA, NE: The Douglas County Board of Supervisors and the Omaha City Council have peace on their agendas Tuesday. All members plan to sign the Omaha 360 Challenge/Pledge for Peace, to work to end violence in the community. The challenge is an extension of the violence prevention efforts. It's an initiative of the Empowerment Network, which was launched in September, in partnership with hundreds of organizations. It was joined by students at Omaha South High School following the October 21st murder of fellow classmate Montrell Wiseman. Wiseman, 16, had simply been in the wrong place at he wrong time, wearing the wrong color. He was mistaken for a gang member and shot to death. A small youth peace movement began, a group of students meeting each Wednesday in the guidance office. The students began distributing a pledge of their own at basketball games. Soon, Benson High School, which lost three students to violence in the past year and a half, jumped on board as well. "They shouldn't have to go through that when they have their whole lives ahead of them," said South High Senior Andrea Guzman. For Guzman, who often hears about murders in her family's native-Mexico, what she's doing with her classmates is empowering. "They don’t really do much about the violence over there. So, being able to get involved here and now, it’s really great. I feel like I can prevent a lot of things." Guzman's and her peers efforts have now spread to city hall. City and county leaders who sign the pledge at their Tuesday meetings will vow to do what they can to encourage mentoring, alternative activities for young people and more. A number of schools and anti-violence organizations will come together at South High Wednesday to brainstorm community strategies and to plan a peace walk to coincide with Martin Luther King Junior Day.

For FULL STORY, go to:, 12/4/12

Student Gets Patent for Ice Safety Device — Sunday, December 09, 2012

NEWTOWN, CT: High school senior Zoe Eggleston said she considered her ice-fishing trips with her father, Brad, a mixed bag: she loved the father-daughter camaraderie but had to fight her terror of falling through the ice. As she confronted her fear time and time again, she said she wanted to find a fix, but wasn't quite sure how. From her earliest days in school, Zoe said she struggled with reading and writing. Diagnosed with a learning disability, she was assigned to special education classes to bolster those skills. As the years went by, Zoe accepted that she was never going to be at the top of her class. Certainly she could not foresee that she would be Newtown High School's only Class of 2013 graduate to be a patented inventor. She said she always enjoyed a strong social circle of "ridiculously smart" friends, but was never in their classes. She played sports — she is a varsity swimmer and runner. But in middle school she felt aimless. "I didn't know where I was going ... I was completely blind about the future," Zoe said. In eighth grade, she was required to do an independent science project — and it changed her life. Of 20 initial ideas, Zoe settled on an invention that could help her conquer her fear: an ice-safety device to alert fishermen, skaters and others about whether a lake or pond is frozen enough to safely navigate. Her prototype, dubbed The Ice Device, is made from a Styrofoam kickboard, plastic pumping pipe, a paper towel roll, and a remote-controlled car. The foam float is launched into water by remote control and if the ice around it is thick enough, the water freezes around the pipe so it doesn't rise. If the ice is thin, the pipe is visible, signaling observers the area is not safe. The ingenuity of her project earned her an invitation to submit it to the Invention Convention — and an award entitling her to a formal application for a patent. Four years later; the official patent arrived. To Zoe, this patent, the first of what she hopes will be many, is the "cherry on top" of her primary education. She said her real prize was to find herself in the company of 500 other students "who think the way I think." She is applying to several top engineering colleges, and intends to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

For FULL STORY, go to: the News-Times of Danbury, 12/9/12

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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”

– Deborah Meier, educator