Michael Drezek comes from a long line of teachers. His mother was a teacher. His grandmother was a teacher and so was his grandfather. But Michael didn’t always plan on following in their footsteps. His first plan was to become an optometrist. But luckily for the Lake Shore Central School District – located in the small town of Angola, New York, roughly six and half hours from New York City – he chose to be a mathematics teacher, and eventually became the K-12 instructional technology coach.
“I was introduced to Global Problem Solvers: The Series by the staff at the Digital Citizenship Institute. We do a lot with them and we were looking for new, innovative things to do with our students,” says Michael. “The staff and I watched the episodes and developed a plan to incorporate it into a program for our students to run their own business, made possible by a grant we applied for through EdCorp Real World Scholars.”
EdCorp Real World Scholars provides schools with seed money, or grants, to make it possible for students to run their own businesses. Lake Shore was awarded a grant in December 2018, and Michael went to work partnering with 4th grade teacher Nicole Wegrzynowski to implement the Global Problem Solvers: The Series (GPS: The Series) supplemental curriculum and the student-run business.
“Using the GPS: The Series’ nine steps of social entrepreneurship as a guide, the class brainstormed which social or environmental problem they wanted to address with their business,” he says. “The curriculum really helped the kids think about what the needs are in the community, what a solution could look like, and the importance of iterating on that solution.”
The result was Kind Kids Compliments. Created to help foster greater kindness and self-esteem in their classmates and in the community at large, the business first started with tear sheets full of compliments hanging throughout the hallways in their school. That evolved into a student-run business that has grown to include student-made necklaces, keychains, and magnets. And the students are now looking into a line of upcycle products. All proceeds from the business are donated to a charity decided upon by students based on causes the class really believes in.
“They are spreading kindness through their products but also through the money they are raising,” says Nicole. “They are really making a difference in someone’s life.”
The first year the students donated the proceeds to the local family support center Community Concern. This year, they raised $700 and donated all the money to charities, both local and national, to support communities adversely impacted by COVID-19, including Feeding America, Lake Short Family Support Center, and Western New York Feeds the Frontlines.
“I can’t wait to see where the kids take it next year. Their ability to problem-solve, compassionately think about challenges in their community, and their ability to develop creative solutions keeps expanding. It’ll be exciting to see how their business evolves,” says Michael. “Programs like GPS: The Series really help spark conversation and excitement about this important work, the world around us, locally and globally, and we are grateful that it is something we can rely on to be there as a resource!”
Want to learn more about Global Problem Solvers: The Series? Visit www.gpstheseries.com to learn more.