Read the full article by Mike McCarthy at ABC 6 WSYX HERE.
MARYSVILLE, Ohio (WSYX) — A group of Marysville High School students is starting the new school year with plans to expand an idea that earned a national award.
The High Five REACT club won the first high school competition through “Invent2Prevent,” which is a violence prevention program run through a collaboration with EdVenture Partners, the McCain Institute for International Leadership, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Our group was really shocked,” MHS senior Jake Shafer said. “I was just so excited.”
Shafer was among five students who presented their project to a panel of judges in Washington DC this past spring.
The competition tasked students with identifying issues related to targeted acts of violence in their local community and developing solutions that could be applied across multiple communities, Invent2Prevent Deputy Project Manager Mikenzie Howard said.
The REACT club’s name stands for Respect, Equality, Acceptance, Communication, and Trust.
It chose to address concerns about hate and bullying, along with the social isolation students have felt because of the pandemic.
“We came up with the acronym when we were discussing healthy relationship qualities that we admire and what to emulate in our community,” recent Marysville Early College High School graduate Parker Riley said.
The group was comprised of 15 students with a wide range of interests. They were selected after receiving teacher recommendations and split into smaller teams focused on curriculum, mentorship, technology, social media, and branding.
The teams created a website, Instagram account, and merchandise, but a large part of the project became a mentorship strategy that involved a board game the high schoolers created to build relationships and encourage social and emotional learning with elementary school students.
“We wanted to teach third and fourth graders habits such as active listening, empathy, and things on their level that they would understand to combat issues that they might face in the future,” MHS senior Alyssa Rodman said.
The hand-painted colorful gameboard resembles LIFE or Candyland with players using a spinner to move a particular number of spaces, exchange high fives, and answer questions designed to be conversation starters.
Rodman said the game was a hit when the group tested it with students at Raymond Elementary School.
“We had a teacher sit in on the discussion,” Rodman said. “They liked how it made kids who may not have known each other really build a quick and easy relationship.”
The group’s first place finish came with $5,000 to further develop its project, which MHS Senior Stevie Rajesh said creates many opportunities.
“Our initial budget, get this is $53 and some cents,” Rajesh said. “So, that should last us a few more years.”
He and other group members said they want to create an online or app version of their game, test the board game in more elementary schools, and explore taking the game to other districts.
For some of them, including Shafer, their passion for the project is personal.
“I was bullied a little bit in elementary school. I had some hateful words that came towards me. I’ve also had friends who were bullied,” he said. “I feel like I want to help kids so they don’t get bullied.”
High Five REACT was among three finalists in the Invent2Prevent high school competition. A total of 27 high schools initially participated and 17 submitted final projects, Howard said.