Undergrads Are Awesome: 21 Inspiring Summer Experiences
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I spent my summer perfecting my karaoke rendition of "Moving Out" and eating my way through every burrito in Los Angeles in an effort to find the tastiest (the stand at the Hollywood farmers market, FYI).
Oh, and I interned for GOOD. I fact-checked for the print magazine (spending much of my time learning about awesome and strange topics) and wrote a weekly books column. I even got to eat my first Dunkaroo in probably 15 years in the name of reporting.
Meanwhile, my fellow undergrads have been collectively kicking ass at creating, inventing, helping out, and generally being awesome. They traveled abroad, started their own companies, undertook amazing design projects, and directed sold-out plays. Each one of the individuals featured here provides a solid response to anyone with something negative to say about “kids these days".
So here's a look at how 21 inspiring young adults spent their summers. Consider it a preview of the newest generation of innovators.
Building Community Through Technology
Jay Shah, University of Texas, Austin
Jay and five other undergraduates spent this summer at a start-up geared toward helping people live more locally. The company, called Loku, makes it easy for people to learn what is happening in their area, share information with people nearby, and support local businesses and schools. The company's still in beta mode, but it already has more than 1,000 consumers signed up and ready to join the local movement.
"Infobombing" His City for Public Health
Adam Burtle, University of Washington School of Public Health
After auditing a class on population health, Adam became interested in creating a public dialogue around Americans’ perception of what it means to be healthy. This summer, he posted infographics, statistics, inspirational quotes, and blank boards to solicit other opinions all over Seattle—a process he calls "infobombing." In the process, he's taken the first step toward any solution: community dialogue.
Taking His Story to the Stage
Justin Kuritzkes, Brown University
Justin spent the summer directing and producing As The Boat Approaches, an improv play performed in both Los Angeles and New York City. Earlier this year, another of his plays, “An Autobiography About My Brother,” won the 2011 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival One-Act Competition. He helps run a production workshop at Brown, and is part of an improv troupe called Starla and Sons.
Bringing Veterans' Stories to Life
Bianca Giaver, Middlebury College
When Bianca heard about the Iraq war on the news, she wanted to know about soldiers' experience in the field, and what it was like to come home afterward. This summer, she decided to bike around the country with a friend to interview men and women who’ve experienced war, including a 91-year-old man who unknowingly assisted in the construction of the atomic bomb. The pair has blogged regularly and appeared weekly on public radio.
Working for Human Rights Through Radio
Leah Wong, Ryerson University
After participating in her university's chapter of Journalists for Human Rights for the last four years, Leah decided to take her dedication to the program a step further by spending her summer in Ghana. She's worked on video and photo essays, blogs, and magazine articles about human rights issues for Kapital Radio. She's especially involved in raising awareness about maternal health in Ghana, one of the station's priorities.
Using Basketball to Empower
Isaac Karsen, University of Colorado
Isaac and his teammates spent the summer working on a project called COMMON Hoops, which brings young people in Hale County, Alabama together to design and construct basketball hoops from salvaged materials. The creative expression empowers kids, the construction creates jobs, and the installation creates pride in the community.
Simplifying Customer Loyalty
Kevin Liang, Babson College
Kevin and three classmates are developing a program that could revolutionize marketing for small business owners. Redeemr is a loyalty program that uses a hassle-free concept: customers create a username and they receive a Redeemr ID, which acts as a universal loyalty card that can be used anywhere they shop.
Giving Opportunities to Disabled Kids
Kelly Gibson, University of Notre Dame
Kelly spent her summer living and working at the Vidya Sagar school in Chennai, India, an nonprofit that serves children and young adults with special needs. After spending so much time living and working with her students, she developed a passion for human rights for those with disabilities. Vidya Sagar is designed to empower Indians with disabilities, and Kelly plans to continue that work.
Comparing Cultural Identities
Hana Bowers, University of Hawaii
After moving from Iowa to Hawaii for college and spending a semester abroad in Paris, Hana wanted to study the identity and what it means to be identified within a specific cultural construct. Under a grant from the University of Hawaii, she and friend Devon DeAngelo traveled to Paris this summer to conduct interviews about what it means to be Parisian, contrasting those narratives to ones she's gathered about what it means to be Hawaiian.
Reimagining School Libraries
Ethan Bodnar, University of Hartford
Ethan has been involved in several different design projects, working at a creative think tank at his university and serving as the graphic designer for Be Playful Design. He spent the summer working for Next Chapter, a series of online challenges focused on redesigning school libraries to make them dynamic learning hubs. The project culminates in September with a national conference.
Helping Students Learn Together
Ankit Shah, University of Pennsylvania
After meeting with with entrepreneurs who were building things from the ground up, Ankit decided to make his own dream a reality. The result is Alternote, a platform for students to take, organize and share class notes in real time and discuss the material with classmates. Ultimately, Ankit hopes Alternote will create better students by making learning a social experience.
Fighting Trafficking Through Fashion
Allie Gazmarian, Virginia Tech University
In a sociology course during her sophomore year, Allie learned about the horrors of human trafficking. After spending hours researching the topic and the organizations working to eradicate the problem, she joined the Nomi Network. She’s spent the summer helping the company connect survivors and women at risk with training, design, and marketing expertise to create and sell their own clothing and accessories.
Creating a Cancer-Detection Tool
Grace Osborne, Hope College
The summer after her freshman year, Grace was diagnosed with dermatomyositis, a connective tissue disease. While undergoing treatment, she realized she wanted to make help others in the same way that her doctors were helping her. She landed an internship that allowed her to work one-on-one with a mentor to develop a method to detect aldehydes, chemicals often associated with breast and lung cancer, in humans. Her work is likely to be published before she graduates.
Mentoring Afghani Women
Heather Randall, University of Arkansas
Heather spent her summer with 20 women from Afghanistan in a program focused on women’s rights. The sessions include lectures, films, visits to cultural sites, and interactive discussions of issues important to women. The women will take what they’ve learned back to Afghanistan in an effort to improve their own lives as well as those of their countrywomen.
Building a Home for Rwandan Apes
Carol Kim, Drake University
During a class presentation by the director of the Great Ape Trust, Carol decided she wanted to get involved with the organization, which studies apes in their natural habitats. She was offered a spot as an intern working on a research project that took her and one other student to Rwanda for the summer. The students spent their time conducting vegetation surveys that will pave the way to connect three separate national parks into one nature preserve, dubbed the Forest of Hope.
Developing Brazilian Entrepreneurs
Netia McCray, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Netia worked on an educational program called Kixibu, which teaches Brazilian students about the entrepreneurial process. Kixibu invites high school kids to spend their vacation creating a company and a product. As of early August, the program has already launched four start-up companies, with products ranging from low-cost recycle bins for the visually impaired to a soda can cleaner.
Raising Awareness on a Bamboo Bike
Rose LaVelle, Portland State University
Rose, her sister Nicole, and two friends rode bamboo bikes across the country to raise awareness for an Alabama-based organization, Alabamboo, which aims to bring sustainable bamboo agriculture to the rural south. Rose didn’t know much about bikes or bamboo before the ride, but she dedicated herself completely to the project, building a bike frame entirely from bamboo and talking to people across the nation.
Recording Heart Surgeries in Iraq
Ted Harrison, Baylor University
During his time at Baylor, Ted worked as a videographer and animator for a company in Oklahoma City. His work caught the attention of the executive director of the Preemptive Love Coalition, which partners with the Iraqi government to fly surgical teams from across the globe to provide life-saving heart surgeries for Iraqi children. The director asked him if he’d like to spend the summer working on a video and a website for the organization. He took the offer immediately and spent the summer making films in Iraq.
Guiding a Student Newspaper
Jessica Kelly, Otis College of Art and Design
Jessica spent her summer working as a design intern for 826LA, a nonprofit organization that helps underprivileged kids with reading, writing, and expository skills. She worked on various projects, including a redesign for the organization's student-run newspaper, The Venice Wave. While interning, she’s also worked on various side projects of her own, including an e-book.
Teaching in Cambodia
Brianna Lawson, University of Northampton
Before heading to college, Brianna took a gap year to travel around the world. A stop in Cambodia opened her eyes to such extreme poverty that she decided she had to go back. She organized a month-long journey for herself and three friends to volunteer at the New Hope Cambodia Community Center. After she graduates, she plans on moving back to the country to run similar projects on her own.
Creating Art in All Forms
Ruby McCollister, Bennington College
Ruby spent the summer immersing herself in a myriad of artistic endeavors. After declaring a major in aesthetic criticism at Bennington, she booked her own art shows in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, began producing a play she wrote about interactions at Russian bath houses, and worked on her budding acting career.