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By DeBruce Career Corps Members Aubrey Hacke, Hannah Noel, and Jasmin Woodruff
As members of the DeBruce Career Corps, we were invited to represent The DeBruce Foundation as judges for two MECA Explore experiences. MECA Explore, presented by Startland, tasks students with collaborating and innovating to combat real-world problems here in Kansas City. Because of both organizations’ commitment to lifting up youth voices and developing young people, it only made sense that The DeBruce Foundation and Startland partner to present MECA Explore. Having participated in MECA Challenges as students ourselves, we were in awe of the inventive and coordinated pitches that each group was able to prepare in a matter of only two days. It was humbling to have the opportunity to judge the pitches and learn from exemplary, bright, young minds! Below are some of our individual thoughts on the experience.
One of the main focuses of the MECA Explore experience is the collaboration between students within their teams. When it comes to working with peers or colleagues, individuals can either work as a group or as a team. At first glance, there may not seem to be any distinction between these two words, but there is. A group operates as many independent individuals, but a team operates as interdependent individuals focused on a common goal or task. All teams were working to solve the problems presented to them; the first challenge was to create a resource that could support students when learning virtually during the pandemic, and the second challenge was to find a way to persuade 80% of Kansas City residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. From what we distinguished during our time as judges, such incredible pitches would not have been possible without the teamwork and collaboration of the students, and their dedication to solving real-world problems. It was inspiring to see the next generation forming an alliance with one another to make a real difference in their community, and eventually the world! It was great to use my Developing Others Agility in this experience.
MECA Explore inspires innovation. As judges, we had the opportunity to hear impressive pitches. The first challenge about the difficulties of online learning motivated students to think outside the box to ideate solutions for a problem they are very familiar with. They came up with a variety of plans, including a subscription box service to provide students with personalized resources and a social media campaign designed to connect students to mental health professionals. The second challenge we judged about the COVID-19 vaccine sparked a conversation about accessibility, not only to the vaccine but to reliable information. Students came up with a plan to distribute the vaccine out of a van, an amber alert system to spread reliable information and remind community members to get the vaccine, and an incentive program to people who received the vaccine. These students used their Agilities to their advantage. To create their pitches, I noticed they used Organizing, Innovating, and Working with Information, which happen to be my top three Agilities!
Being a judge for the MECA challenge was such an enjoyable experience. We had the opportunity to see the excellence that emerges when students from around the Kansas City Metro area work together. Considering how urgent the issues are that the students were presented with, it gave them an opportunity to really interact with the KC Metro community. They worked in teams of about 3-4 people and came up with some great pitches. Quite a few teams conducted surveys and polls within the community to receive accurate feedback as to what would be best for KC residents. We were very impressed with their professionalism, presentation skills, and how coordinated they were with collecting data. The MECA Explore challenge has really granted students a way to become engaged with their community by working together to find solutions. It is so important to incorporate youth voices when finding solutions for problems facing the community. Young people are our future leaders, so teaching them to innovate and problem-solve is investing in their ability to solve future issues. This also is giving them skill sets that will benefit them as future members of the workforce. Being a team player, embracing innovation, and having good presentation skills are crucial to being successful in most professions. The MECA Explore challenge truly does help train future leaders of society and knowing your Agilities is a key to success!
MECA Explore gives students the outlet to express their opinions about the world around them. The program gives students a space to innovate, organize ideas, and manage a team project. So often, young voices are overlooked, but being part of The DeBruce Career Corps means we get to participate in programs like these that encourage students to be comfortable and confident in their ideas. The next generation is the future, and they deserve to be heard. It was an honor to hear their pitches and be a part of something this impactful in our community.