Grand Valley State University faculty, students and staff pitched ideas in the Laker Effect Challenge, where six teams gave presentations at the L.V. Eberhard Center Auditorium on Thursday, April 12. Five thousand dollars in prize money was split among the top presenters, and $500 was divided between the highest-voted poster presentations.
“Students showcasing their work is a way for the work to get noticed by the community,” said Len O’Kelly, assistant professor of multimedia journalism at GVSU and event speaker. “Things don’t happen without funding and attention; this event gives students that chance.”
“DECA Blazers” was awarded $2,500 and the largest sum of money for their presentation. DECA is an international association for high school and college students, as well as teachers. The five-minute presentation detailed the need for students to get 34 new blazers. Many students at Innovation Central High School and other schools have blazers that don’t fit properly or are worn, the presenters explained.
“The school can use them for the next 10 years, so a minimum of 500 students will have their futures impacted,” said Shorouq Almallah, presenter and director of the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “Future careers and college test scores can be affected by the blazers as it boosts students’ confidence.”
One thousand dollars each was given to two different teams of presenters. “Cultivating the Garden of Eatin’,” led by student K’Mystry Taylor-Jackson, offered to build a greenhouse to increase the growing season of a local garden in Grand Rapids. Cooking classes will also be offered, and pots and pans will be given out to people who complete the training, encouraging more home cooking and healthful eating.
The second winner of $1,000 was “Harrison Park Uniform Project.” GVSU student Steven Sholten described how the Harrison Park Elementary School students often don’t have clean clothes that fit them. With the money, Sholten said, the school can get a washer and dryer, as well as establish a program to exchange clean clothes between older and younger students.
“Imagine your first day of school with your new clothes and sense of belonging,” Sholten said at the start of his presentation. “Imagine now how these students feel without their sense of belonging.”
The last presentation award in the amount of $500 was given to “Ride Your Way, LLC,” a company started by brothers and GVSU students Thomas Sikkema and Bradyn Sikkema. Their pitch was to offer patients rides to their medical appointments. The Sikkema bothers hope to create a more personable approach for patients by catering to their music needs, only driving one person at a time and installing a wheelchair-accessible front seat. This way, patients would be more inclined to go to their appointments, saving medical costs in the long run, Thomas Sikkema said.
After the presentations ended around 7:30 p.m., the audience voted on which poster presentations they found the most intriguing. The money was split between “Crush Collateral,” a group removing barriers from people with criminal records ($300), and “Teen Impact,” a support group for students with at least one parent who isn’t authorized to live in the U.S. ($200). Lastly, “Successful Parenting: Trauma-Focused Support Group,” an organization to help with parental trauma, was awarded $100.