November 26, 2013


Cancer, poverty, hunger, low reading scores - problems.

Concerts, murals, 5K runs, book fairs - solutions.

For nearly a decade, Becky Boes has taught a problem/solution unit in her sophomore English class. Three years ago she incorporated a "real-world" component to the lesson.

"It gives kids in the class a sense of purpose," Boes said. "They don't have to ask why we're doing something, they can see for themselves. The ownership they take of what they work on and create - it's powerful to watch them realize they can change something."

The students team up to tackle either a global or local problem they care about, and find a creative way to address the issue. For the past several years, all of the winning projects have dealt with a local issue, said Boes.

"They find that when it affects people they know, they get a stronger response," she explained.

The students have full responsibility for their projects, contacting leaders and making arrangements before presenting them to a panel of judges from the Carroll community. The winning group implements their project for extra credit points.

But more and more students are implementing their projects, even if they don't win, said Boes. Last year was the first time it happened. This year, nearly half of the 15 student groups are moving forward with their projects.

S.O.S. - Students Out Serving

Brent Van Erdewyk, Rose Eischeid, Jenny Najarro and Chance Sturgeon were inspired by their Kuemper Catholic High School counterparts and a desire to serve.

The problem: Lack of organized high school student involvement in the community.

The solution: A school-wide service day to assist community members with chores and smaller projects.

"Some people feel like they don't have anything to contribute," said Sturgeon,

He was personally inspired by a nursing-home visit conducted for a previous English class unit. Some of the individuals in the homes don't have visitors, he explained, and spending even 45 minutes talking and laughing with them can make their week.

"It doesn't sound exciting, but look at how that person feels when you're done," he said.

The group selected April 30, 2014, for the first service day, so as not to compete with Kuemper's fall service tradition. Group members also created a website with a job-request form for community members and a service-day reflection form for students.

Eischeid explained that volunteering benefits the givers as well, often instilling confidence and higher self-esteem.

"I think our only regret will be that we didn't do it sooner," said Van Erdewyk.

Paint the Future

Shelby Miller, Dakota Holliday, Micaela Bretey and Tanner White also have plans to paint a mural. They will add a few clip art-style animals and a city skyline to the walls of the Carroll Area Child Care Center and Preschool in Carroll.

Problem: The young children at the center are greeted by plain walls that do not encourage creativity.

Solution: Paint a bright, colorful, kid-friendly mural.

"Favorite colors are one of the first things that makes us unique," said Miller. At day care, children learn to share, take turns and respect what is unique in one another.

The group researched the different effects of color, learning that bright colors like orange and yellow are lively and energetic while cooler colors like green and blue are relaxing.

"The colors in your environment can affect your mood," said Bretey. "We're not just creating a pretty and fun environment, but helping the children be more successful over time."

Corey Boyer and Steve Frank of ACE Hardware received a special thank-you from the group. ACE Hardware donated eight colors of paint and eight brushes.

Reining in the Resource Room

Levi Shield, Chandler Hagen, Bianca Irlbeck and Sarah Steffen were inspired by their special-education counterparts.

Problem: Field trips are more difficult for students with special needs.

Solution: Organizing and raising money for a field trip to Timber Creek Therapies, a Guthrie Center stable equipped specifically to assist children and adults with special needs.

"There aren't academic or social reasons they can't take field trips," explained Hagen. "It's a lack of opportunity because of greater expense."

Timber Creek offers therapeutic riding and hippotherapy, which uses equine movements to offer physical, occupational and speech treatment. Steffen became aware of the program after job-shadowing at the stables for a different English project in September.

The cost to take the nine resource room students to the stables is only $45, which the group intends to raise through a bake sale. The transportation cost is $150, which the school agreed to cover, Irlbeck reported.

The plan is for the students to depart the school at 9 a.m., ride for about an hour and a half, eat a sack lunch and return to the school by 1:30 p.m. on a weekday in early December. The arena is indoors, so weather will not be a factor.

"We hope to make it a tradition," Shield said, adding that many of the students had never had the opportunity to ride a horse before. "It might just start off as a field trip, but it could change futures."

Black Out Cancer

David Hedke, Patrick Kelly, Kyler Brinker and Melissa Miller designed their project to help raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Problem: Immunotherapy research requires funding.

Solution: A benefit concert.

Brinker is part of a hard rock band called Black Diamond. On Saturday, Dec. 7, the band will play a two-hour-long show at Renew Covenant Church at 7 p.m. The 20-song set will include classics from bands such as KISS, Van Halen and Styx.

There will be no admission charge, but a freewill donation will be collected to benefit the American Cancer Society.

According to an ACS fact sheet provided by the group, nearly 14 million people in the U.S. have had cancer, including Kelly's brother, who lost a battle with the disease.

The group hopes to pull involve its own generation in fundraising efforts.

"Every teen has a safe haven within music," Hedke said.

Redesign Hope

Jack Fordyce, Kourtney Mead, Hannah Patterson and Zach Macke have also known family and friends whose lives have been affected by cancer.

"The world becomes a little bit colder when cancer comes in," said Fordyce, whose cousin, grandfather and mother had been diagnosed.

But cancer doesn't have to be about pain, Macke said. It can be about the victory of triumphing over the disease - it can be about hope.

Problem: The negative atmosphere connected with cancer does not boost the patients.

Solution: Design an inspirational mural for the new cancer ward coming to St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll.

The group met with a group of hospital architects. They proposed a 5-by-5-foot mural of bright rainbow colors. The quote chosen, a Mead original, will read, "We may live in a world of differences, but no one is alone in this battle."

"We want to inspire people affected, to let them to never give up, that they are not alone," said Patterson.

#CCSD Stadium Rebuild

Nathan Simmons, Derrie Ridgley, Rylie Riesberg and Jacob Norgaard decided to take on a public issue for their project - the Carroll stadium.

Problem: A plan to rebuild the rundown stadium failed because voters 40 years old and younger did not go to the polls.

Solution: Run a social-media campaign to get the younger generation of voters involved.

The stadium was state-of-the-art when it was built in 1963, explained Ridgley.

But now the restrooms are hazardous, pieces fall from the ceiling of the concession stands, and visiting teams have to suit up in the elementary school, continued Riesberg.

According to Riesberg, the cost of a new stadium, complete with a turf field, would be about $5.5 million. However, the group believes there is plenty of room to compromise on a less-expensive plan. The trick is to get young voters to the polls.

The group created a website,, and social-media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, using #CCSDstadiumrebuild to get the word out.

"Carroll, Iowa, is a sports town," said Simmons, adding that Carroll, Kuemper and Glidden-Ralston school districts utilize the stadium. "We want people to see the stadium and be jealous."

According to Boes, the group has also contacted several coaches in an attempt to form some sort of student coalition to support the stadium issue.

"Everyone in the school wants it, but that's not what we're trying to do," said Norgaard. "We're trying to reach beyond that."

The top three winners were Kindles for Chemo, S.O.S. and Reining in the Resource Room.