High school students from throughout the Belize District were challenged to come up with innovative concepts to address youth and employment issues. It came down to the wire among fifteen teams today; but in the end, Ocean Academy from Caye Caulker impressed the panel of judges and won the second annual high school innovation challenge. Duane Moody reports.

[Announcement of Winners….]

Duane Moody, Reporting

…Ocean Academy from Caye Caulker wins the second annual High School Innovation Challenge. The group of five students competed against fourteen other groups from high schools across the Belize District and came out on top this afternoon, following presentations on creative projects or business plans to a panel of judges. This year’s topic was on youth and employment. Ocean Academy won with “Hire Belize,” which uses a mobile app.

Buddy Magaña

Buddy Magaña, Ocean Academy High School

“The world is mobilizing and everything you can get in the palm of your hands. So we said, what is one way in which everyone can find job in one way. So today we have this mobile app…we made a prototype of how it will look, but it will be more better because now we can make it the right way, the way we want it.”

Duane Moody

“How did you incorporate the theme, youth and employment, into this?”

Buddy Magaña

“Well for sure, we are all youths and we are all high school students. So we said youths are the future so they are the whole base of our app. So our app has to be more for them, but it will help employers to find them and hire them.”

Lia Flur

Lia Flur, Director of Corporate Engagement, Peacework International

“We are really giving students and the future of Belize the opportunity to create innovative solutions for problems that we face in Belize, in Belize City…they can take it from their schools, they can use it countrywide; it can be citywide. We are listening to fifteen teams this year. We have increased schools by five which is really amazing and we have expanded our reach to Belize District.”

Along with two mentors from PricewaterhouseCoopers, a teacher and a representative from a local organization, the students were provided with guiding questions and statistics surrounding youth and employment. And after two days of training on financial literacy, today, all fifteen groups made presentations to a panel of judges on a business plan and idea as entrepreneurs.

Lia Flur

“It doesn’t have to be a business, it doesn’t have to be a product; it could be a social policy, it could be a platform; it can be a training center…something where we develop the skills. It can be services where we help people with interview skills or resume writing. So it can really be a range of activities and it is really cool to see all the students get together and come up with different ideas for their solution.”

Duane Moody

“What really are the judges looking for?”

Lia Flur

“Innovation – is their idea unique or are they creating something that is needed or are they just recreating the wheel? We want to make sure that they are doing something really cool and new as well as their public speaking skills. How they relate to the judges, their critical thinking skills, problem solving, teamwork, but definitely the innovation of the ideas is definitely the focus. But we want to ensure that they gain the confidence as well.”

Patrick Faber

Minister Patrick Faber says the initiative works hand in hand with the aims of the Ministry of Education.

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“Very, very important and well in line with what it is we are aiming to do through our ministry and in fact the initiative of the wider government of Belize. We are very grateful to the partners who have engaged in this initiative with us, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Peacwork International, both who have come to Belize for some time and have been assisting us especially in the area of financial literacy. Sometimes the resources are scarce, but what you do with those resources can make or break what happens in the future. So we start very young and we are very happy to have our partners.”

And according to the Director of Corporate Engagement for Peacework, Lia Flur, the goal is to implement the strategy countrywide.

Lia Flur

“We’d love to have this as a model countrywide. We are not sure yet what that looks like, we don’t know if it is going to expand, but we really want to build the resources and try to have a good structure that we can hopefully—whether it is us, whether it is the ministry, whether it is the teachers, whether it is a business—we want to create this strategy to where anybody can implement a high school innovation challenge.”

Patrick Faber

“But I want people to know that this is not only something coming from our international partners. In our ministry now, in the literacy unit, we have branched off, we have gone beyond just numeracy and regular literacy. In fact we now have one of our experts in the literacy unit being a financial literacy expert. So this is something that we have embraced over the last few years and we will continue to embrace because we have seen the difference that this has made in the lives of our young, students first even our teachers.”

Duane Moody for News Five.

Ocean Academy, who won the Innovation Challenge, took home one thousand dollars each along with a laptop. Second place went to Belize Rural High School who received six hundred dollars each and a printer. Defending Champions, Ladyville Tech settled for third place with three hundred dollars each and a printer. All three teams, on behalf of BELTRAIDE, will see their projects created. 

Channel 5