Students, their families and business professionals gathered at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum in Kitchener on Wednesday evening to celebrate the launch of the Youth Creativity Fund.
The fund, which has support from the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers of Commerce and the Business and Education Partnership of Waterloo Region, connects student-driven ideas with donations from people and businesses who want help them bring their innovative projects to life through micro grants of up to $1,000.
Syed Hashmi is a student at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School who used innovative thinking to help his grandparents.
“Over the summer, my grandparents asked me to come water their lawn because they have arthritis and can’t keep up with it like they'd like to,” Hashmi said.
“I went by and did it but it wasn’t a sustainable solution. It got me thinking, what if I made something that waters the lawn for you?”
From there came the idea of an automated system that uses rain barrels and a moisture sensor implanted into the lawn that sends a signal to a computer when conditions dry up. Hashmi can then program the valves on the apparatus to water the lawn.
“I was told once that ideas are overrated, it’s making them happen that's worth something,” he said.
“Ideas are expensive. I applied for the YCF because I was searching for parts on Amazon and they were so expensive. They liked my idea and I received the grant. It’s helped me learn so much because unless you have hands-on experience, you never realize how much goes into a project.”
Fellow St. Benedict students Lilian Lorenzo, Erin Baker, Chelsea Lorenzo and Kristian Niedzielski are part of an electronic car team at the school that meets twice a week to work on their car for various racing competitions.
At one of their recent races they noticed they were having difficulties with their suspension so they worked together to research a new, more efficient version that features carbon fibre rods.
Needing the funds to purchase parts and pay for the project, they applied for the Youth Creativity Fund.
“I’m interested in the business part,” Lilian Lorenzo said.
“We found this fund and we decided it would be a great opportunity to get support and get the community involved in what we're doing at school. It’s great to know people supported our idea.”
Baker is grateful for the opportunity provided through the fund.
“It was pretty exciting,” Baker said.
“It brought our whole team together and we all learned from the process. It was exciting to be able to accomplish it.”
Glenview Park’s Hannah Waterfall took a different approach to her project, focusing on preventing violence against women. By providing resources to school-aged children, she hopes to educate the younger generations on how to regulate their emotions.
“I’m in the research phase of how to solve this problem,” Waterfall said.
“My goal is to go into the classroom and provide resources to each kid to help them relieve their stress. I found the application process for the fund pretty easy because I’m passionate about it. When I found out I received the fund it was incredible. It was great to know that people in the community want to help with problems I want to fix.”
Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher addressed the students and their families, expressing pride and amazement at what they have and will continue to accomplish.
“This project is about providing opportunities faster and more often,” Durocher said.
“We collectively believe in the ideas and dreams of our youth. Waterloo Region is where dreams become reality every single day. We’re excited to watch as our innovative youth change the world.”
To date, the fund has already given out $10,000 in support of student projects.
For more information on the Youth Creativity Fund visit youthcreativityfund.ca.