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MALVERN — Teenagers are always faced with problems of growing into an adult, but some students at Malvern Preparatory School were asked to take a look at a larger problem — one that doesn’t necessarily affect them.
Twenty-one students, guided by faculty and alumni mentors, were divided into four teams and took more than just a look at a social impact, but instead dove further into the problem to try and find a solution.
“One of our primary missions, if not our primary mission, is to develop young men so that they can transform the world,” said Head of School Christian Talbot.
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The project was part of the social entrepreneurship class at Malvern.
“We developed this class as an experiment in 100 percent project-based learning,” Talbot said. “Everything was driven by the student — the questions that they formulated, the projects that they explored and the many pivots. They have been guided along the way by a coach for each team, alumni mentors and a CEO panel and many other people who have been involved in conversations with them.”
One team, “Learn to Eat, Eat to Learn,” focused on low-income youth in Philadelphia and how going to school hungry affects them academically.
“Hunger and food insecurity are huge problems in the Philadelphia School District,” said Bobby Mitchell, a member of the team. “Hungry kids are 60 percent more likely to repeat a grade and are 50 percent more likely to miss a day of school. Hungry kids are twice as likely to require special education and twice as likely to be suspended from school.”
That team went out and contacted the president of the KIND Bars and even had a meeting with him in New York City.
The three other teams — “Homelessness,” Suicide,” and “Educational Motivation,” — each went out into the community to put their ideas to the test.
Many times, the ideas had to take a pivot, or go in a different direction when the teams hit a roadblock, but in the end, each one came up with a legitimate solution to help in each of their areas.
“The work is valid in that a social impact project could potentially be brought to market, it’s reliable we believe because if you took these same guys and gave them another project, they would produce at least as good a project and it is authentic because of the feedback that they will get,” Talbot said.
All four teams presented their final projects in front of a panel of Talbot and Michael O’Neill, an alumnus of Malvern Prep and the CEO of Preferred Sands.
After each presentation, the panel asked some follow-up questions, but in the end, each team showed a viable way to make a difference in the community and, one day, even the world – an astonishing feat for anyone, let alone high school students.
“We have three seniors on our team and two juniors,” said Joe Pancerella, a junior from Glenmoore. “We want to make a difference in the world today.”