The Potential Project unveils 29 student-led efforts

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Proving its potential, a project in Richmond that has groups of local students deciding how to spend $500 on improving their school has grown exponentially in the last three years.

On Friday, dozens of students from the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) showcased 29 school improvement projects that they launched as part of the third annual The Potential Project.

Founded and organized by Pastor Dave Clark, The Potential Project supplies youth teams with grants of $500 each to develop ways to accomplish goals listed in WCCUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which aims to improve student outcomes.

In The Potential Project’s first year, 10 applications were submitted for the the grants, Clark said. The following year, 24 applications were submitted. This year, there were 66 applications.

The grant ideas varied widely. A group of enterprising students at Making Waves Academy enriched their school’s library by purchasing nearly 400 books at bargain prices.

“We went around asking students, what books do you want to read, what books do you want to see in the library?,” said student Espanosa Matthews, adding the ultimate plan was to spark interest in reading.

A group of students at Caliber Beta Academy used their grant to launch an art contest, food drive and fundraiser. They enlisted 83 students at their school to make posters advertising their food drive, which ended up amassing more than 1,000 canned food items. They also held a fundraiser that raised $350 for the Bay Area Rescue Mission, a homeless services center in Richmond.

Another group of students put on a talent show in order to expose hidden talents of fellow students, while another group came up with a “Morning Fix” concept providing students with free, brain-stimulating snacks and hot chocolate during the mornings. The project aimed to encourage students to show up to school on time.

“The [29 projects] address some significant issues,” Clark said, “[including] the student drop out rate, literacy, English language learning, math scores, achievement rates, the correlation between athletics and academics, student health, college preparation and cultural agility in the face of systemic injustices.”

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