Credit: Iowa BIG

What Partnerships with Students Look Like at Iowa BIG

by Morgan Flynn and Willow Weber

Welcome to Iowa BIG, and more specifically, Iowa BIG’s annual Partner Palooza. Iowa BIG is a program where students from local public schools receive high school credit for projects they work on in the community, with the community’s best business professionals as partners. The Partner Palooza is the program kick-off, where community businesses come to BIG and pitch their ideas for students to work on for the year.

On Wednesday, Oct. 3rd and Thursday, Oct. 4th, students had the opportunity to listen to a variety of community partners and students pitch ideas for projects that students could work on throughout the year.

During both days, projects are pitched “outbound” and “inbound.” Outbound projects stem from a student idea and need a community partner to come to life. Inbound projects come from the community and help someone solve a problem with a student team.

Credit: IowaBIG

One of the most important goals of Iowa BIG is to engage students in projects that they are passionate about because everyone’s interests are different. With that in mind, we select multiple projects across different areas, including agriculture, arts, education, government, healthcare, human services, information technology, law, manufacturing, marketing, and science. That being said, there is an opportunity for almost every community business, non-profit, or other organization to partner with a student team at BIG to help make ideas happen!

After the Partner Palooza comes the “great pickening,” where students sift through all of the pitches they heard in those two days, pick their top choices, and get placed on teams for the year. Things kids look for are interesting pitches, super cool ideas, and partners who are ready to work! When the partners are excited, the kids are excited, and that’s where the magic happens.

Some could say this is where BIG comes to life, giving all students the opportunity to work on projects that they are passionate about, where they are guaranteed to learn and thrive.

Last year, we worked on a documentary team called Somewhere Only We Know. This team created a documentary about a family who put a conservation easement in place to preserve their beloved land. Not only did the team create a documentary, but they helped create a community conversation about the importance of land conservation. The film was shown locally but was entered into multiple film festivals and received recognition.

We hosted another great year of partner pitches at Iowa BIG once again this fall. We had the most kids we’ve had in our six years of existence and the largest number of community partners, business leaders who believe in students and believe in how the BIG model can help their companies, and how their companies can help students at BIG.

The magic of learning in the community wouldn’t happen without the open minds of our community leaders, workers, teachers, and the public in general, coming together to make things happen for us. I’d say, we’re pretty lucky students.

In the future, you’ll hear from me, Willow Weber, hopefully as an adult influencer in the push for more traditional classrooms to transition into non-traditional classrooms. I plan on keeping up my blog started at BIG, and maintaining all of my wonderful connections here in college and after. Having been a BIG student, I have all the skills I need to go into the entrepreneurial world and make a difference.

For me, Morgan Flynn, I hope to take my verbal and written communication skills along with my public speaking and presentation apply it future career as a journalist. All that I have learned at BIG allows me to set myself apart from others by having real-world experience in a variety of situations. With Iowa BIG, I had the opportunity to jump-start my career path.

Want to work with Iowa BIG in the future? Reply to this post and let us know what you think!

Learn more about IowaBIG here.
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