A local nursing student’s idea for an after-school and community education program has netted her a $1,000 scholarship prize.
Rebecca Henry is the winner of the first Middletown Idea Challenge, sponsored by the Middletown Community Foundation, Middletown Moving Forward and the Community Building Institute. Area students were encouraged earlier this year to submit “What if Middletown” ideas that could be implemented by the community, volunteers, and public and private sectors to benefit the city.
More than 45 college students used their imagination and creativity in this competition to come up with ideas that were later narrowed down, and the community selected the best idea through a vote on the contest’s Facebook page. The idea with the most “likes” won the prize. The topics ranged from education to the environment and beautification of the city and from arts and culture to local jobs and the economy. Students were encouraged to write their essays on ideas that had not been done before and had a reasonable chance of becoming a reality.
Henry’s winning idea was for a program that would provide homework help and extracurricular activities for K-12 students through community volunteers, including college students, offered at schools, community centers, churches and libraries in walking distance for students. Health and community education classes can also be offered to the general community.
“It was awesome to win,” Henry said. “I’m really glad that people liked my idea, and the scholarship is really a big help.”
Henry said she was in a number of latch-key programs while she was growing up and believes it helped her to be a better learner.
“It sparked more of interest in learning for me,” she said. “It really helped me, and I think it could have that effect on other people. Volunteers would provide these services for free or at reduced cost so many can have access to it.”
Henry, a Franklin High School graduate who is a nursing student at Miami University Middletown, said her mother, who is a nurse, was a big inspiration for her.
She said she was watching the Facebook voting teeter between her and another student, and said it was “a big relief” when she received the call telling her that she was the winner.
Calista Smith, Middletown Moving Forward interim director, said the voting was “an exciting piece” of the competition and that more than 1,000 votes were recorded on the web page. In addition to Henry, the other finalists were Adela Deaton, E. Anne Grady, Crystal Prater, Jeremy Bailey, Kayla Philpot and Sabrina Cox.
“We want to use this as a cadre of young people for future community projects,” Smith said.
She said the sponsors were excited to get so many submissions and she thanked MUM and Cincinnati State for making the extra efforts to make students aware of the contest.
T. Duane Gordon, Middletown Community Foundation executive director, said all of the ideas submitted would go the respective community organizations for consideration and possible implementation. He said the competition was patterned after a similar program that was being utilized in Greenville, S.C. After a visit of community leaders to that city last spring, it was one short-term project that could be implemented quickly.
“I think it was a success,” he said. “This was a process of getting young people involved in the community.”