A student-led project at Columbiana High School sparks the interest of Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Paolo DeMaria.
“None of us saw this coming from the start, this was just another class project,” said Ava Bryant, Junior at CHS. “Nobody really thought we’d be having the state superintendent of Ohio coming down to our school to see us present and hear our ideas.”
Students in the Creative Entrepreneurship Class at CHS presented the Columbiana Alleyway Project to DeMaria on April 26. It’s a project the class has been working on since the fall, working with city officials in Columbiana and the Columbiana Progress Committee on ways to redo the alleyway in Columbiana.
“Here’s an educational experience that doesn’t fit into our usual buckets because it sort of brings all the buckets together in a way that’s really relevant,” said DeMaria. “ I love the fact that it’s being done in partnership with the city.
Students spent several weeks researching and developing pitches to present to the city and committee. Students presented in groups, each with a different focus. Murals, chalk art displays, firepits, a fountain and aquarium are some of the suggestions students presented to the City of Columbiana. Students also selected a name for the alleyway, "Columbiana Corridor."
“ We have gone back and changed our presentation multiple times, adding new ideas or critiquing some of our original ideas,” said Bryant.
Daniel Wilczak is a senior at Columbiana High School. For him, it’s about giving back to the community.
“We wanted to find a way to make the alleyway hospitable to the people of Columbiana, " said Wilczak. "Definitely wanted to make it really nice so it’s something the people from Columbiana can be proud of, and create something that was a way of saying thank you.”
The City of Columbiana is in the process of implementing some of the ideas the Creative Entrepreneurship Class presented. On May 11, 2021, a sign was unveiled designating the alleyway at the Columbian Corridor.
“Our fountain is going to be made out of Harvey Firestone tire just to incorporate Columbiana in our alleyway,” said Bryant. “Our chalkboards, we are going to have a really big chalkboard wall that people can come and express their own artwork.”
Students presented the project a number of times, making changes to the presentation each time. Each presentation was a learning experience.
“It helps us with our public speaking, it helps us being able to speak with our city manager city officials. We are getting really involved, and I feel like that’s a really big soft skill that we are learning,” said Bryant.
DeMaria was impressed with the presentation, and asked students several questions about the project.
“How much they really own the project because a lot of time you can deliver a script, but if you are really not immersed in it it’s hard to answer questions about it,” said DeMaria. “So every one of them you could tell really understood the project from start to finish, and were really prepared to kind of talk about it from a very personal and involved way.”