Natl Award Social Innovation to MVHS Soph

National Recognition for Social Innovation Awarded to Mountain Vista Sophomore
Posted on 05/05/2021
HIGHLANDS RANCH -- In March 2021, Sophomore Taylor Witte of Mountain Vista High School (MVHS) received national recognition in the Junior Achievement Social Innovation Challenge for her book vending machine prototype.

The Junior Achievement Social Innovation Challenge is a national competition in which high school students are invited to submit their innovative ideas for improving and impacting their communities. Students with top ideas were invited to participate in an exclusive virtual workshop experience with Chick-fil-A innovation experts, receiving guidance and resources for transforming students’ visions into reality.

Witte participated in the challenge as an assignment in Ms. Candace Dobert’s entrepreneurial class at MVHS.

“This was my first time teaching entrepreneurship,” explained Dobert, a DECA Advisor at MVHS. “I didn’t really know much about the [Junior Achievement] program.”

Dobert chose the challenge as a class assignment that students could complete individually while learning remotely. So when Dobert received news that Witte had placed in the top 11 student ideas in the nation, neither expected it.

“Being recognized nationally isn’t something that happens every day for me,” said Witte, also a DECA participant. “So I was really surprised.”

In the prototype, Witte’s book vending machine would allow students and parents to read reviews and descriptions of each book. The students would then check out the books they wanted, and the machine would notify their teacher and librarian.

Witte got her initial inspiration from a community pantry and library outside of Bear Canyon Elementary. Community members would leave books, non-perishable goods, and other items in an accessible birdhouse.

“I wanted [my project] to be more mechanical,” explained Witte. “I wanted it to have a technological aspect, so it’s an autonomous process. Something completely automated so a kid can grab books without a parent being present.”

As a contact-free, automated method of delivering books to students, Witte hopes the prototype will help empower kids to be self-sufficient and take ownership of their reading and learning.

“I’m a big reader. I just love the whole learning aspect,” said Witte. “Above all else, I think it’s important that everybody has the same opportunity to learn.”

Dobert’s entrepreneurial class belongs in MVHS’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program. After teaching CTE courses for 12 years, Dobert sees the soft skills students gain from her classes as invaluable.

“CTE teachers teach everything from curriculum to how to present an idea to a large audience,” she said. “Those are all skills that, depending on where you are fortunate enough to live, you may never experience. It is amazing the opportunities that CTE programs award our students at the high school level.”

While it is challenging to keep CTE instruction current, Dobert explains CTE skills are the kind students will need.

“I think these opportunities will allow students to look at themselves and realize they have the skill set to create a final project,” she said. “It’s a good confidence booster to get out and do these kinds of projects.”

Witte agreed, saying, “With the Social Innovation Challenge, I think there’s a lot to be said about the power of compassion and empathy. How can I take my skill set and use it for good?”

Dobert plans on incorporating the Junior Achievement Social Innovation Challenge into next school year’s curriculum. Though the prompt will change, the project as a whole will still be about social innovation and what students can do as entrepreneurs to address the biggest challenges of our times.
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