Ideas is a youth development nonprofit in Stark County that listens to, honors,
and advocates for middle schoolers. Unabashedly community-focused, TomTod
empowers middle schoolers to know that they have a role to play in Stark
County. TomTod is the lead partner with Strengthening Stark for middle school
portion of Stark Tank, which in 2021 went fully remote with great success, with
participation from 12 Stark County schools. The story below highlights some of
the other important work they partner with local schools on throughout the
Kiera, an 8th grader at Oakwood Middle School, participated in TomTod’s in-school program,
What If 101 (WI101) during the 2020-2021 school year. During her semester
in WI101 as a 7th grader, she
engaged with her community, learning about the assets and challenges of Plain
Township, Canton, and Stark County.
When it came time to start formulating ideas,
she had one right away. She gathered her friends Lilly, Max, and Jezlyn and
talked about the importance of telling their stories as girls in middle school.
Women’s Stories for Better Men came to fruition, and the girls excitedly shared their idea with Patrick, TomTod’s Adventure Curator at Oakwood. They have a passion for educating boys and young men about the reality of life for middle school girls and adult women, specifically around the topics of feminism, workplace inequality, sexual violence, and every day challenges. Their idea is to tell stories of real girls and women using spoken word presentations, social media platforms like TikTok, and blog posts.
Kiera formulated this idea in TomTod’s in-school program What If 101—where students are guided through the design thinking process to create ideas that meet real community needs. In partnership with schools across Stark County, middle schoolers are empowered to know they have a role to play in their community, developing skills that help them navigate school today and sets them up for workplace success in the future.
Kiera, Lilly, Max, and Jezlyn have been invited to continue their idea through TomTod’s project based mentoring program called What If You Could (WIYC). They have been matched with a community partner—Canton Girl Gang, with co-founder Alyssa Brady as Lead Mentor. During WIYC, the group will pursue opportunities to see their idea become
a reality by connecting with more community partners and pitching their idea to
adults who can make it happen.
Since 2012, TomTod has helped thousands of
middle schoolers like Kiera discover and love their community while finding
ways to help it thrive. Using the latest research about early adolescent
development, our programming allows students to explore idea creation through a
community-focused, developmentally appropriate lens.
If you would like to be involved by becoming a
community partner for Stark Tank, What If 101, What If You Could, or Camp
What If (our summer program) you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.