‘Let’s create something’: Student Big Table empowers young Quad Citizens to act

Jack Cullen | March 5th, 2019

About 60 high school students from across the Quad Cities spent half of their day Feb. 28 outside of the classroom, tackling issues that matter to them to improve the region.

The 2019 Student Big Table, an initiative of the Q2030 Regional Action Plan, was held Feb. 28 at John Deere World Headquarters in Moline.

Hosted in the Executive Dining Room at John Deere World Headquarters, the 2019 Student Big Table challenged emerging youth leaders from 15 public and private schools to develop an action plan for each of the following three causes:

  • Safety, Security, Support 4 All Students
  • #reduce #reuse #recycle #CleanerQC
  • Opportunities for Alternative Interests

Each topic was raised during the 2018 Student Big Table at Deere, and students who completed a survey earlier this year elected to bring them back for further expansion.

Pleasant Valley High School sophomore Taze Wilson, one of more than 300 participants at last year’s Student Big Table, helped set the tone for this event with a rousing call to action.

“What we come up with here today can and will be actualized,” he told his peers from a podium. “This is a chance for us to do some real good in our community.”

Students were divided into 10 groups or tables, each of which was staffed by a volunteer facilitator who helped guide students during the process. They spent about 30 minutes on each cause, outlining SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals and action plans on worksheets and easel pads.

“Let’s create something,” Wilson said to his tablemates in the early goings.

The end of the Student Big Table turned into a competition as each team presented a plan to the rest of the group, and participants voted for their favorite ones.

Finishing in second place with 38 percent of the vote, this group pitched a plan to host a series of QC Teen Spirit Nights this spring and summer at Modern Woodmen Park and other venues across the Quad Cities. Learn more from the charismatic Gordy Field, a senior at North Scott High School.

Finishing in first place with 62 percent of the vote, this group created a plan for a clothing drive competition between high schools in the Quad Cities. Modeled after River Bend Foodbank’s annual Student Hunger Drive, “Back to Back” would benefit charities in the area, including QC Closet2Closet. Watch the video below to learn more.

Dozens of students expressed interest in joining a new student-led Q2030 workgroup to bring these plans and more to fruition. While none of them won the most votes, several of the other initiatives focused on expanding peer support and mental health services for young adults.

The Q2030 Community Collaboration Workgroup, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and Deere & Company co-organized the event to build stronger leadership skills in young adults, a need identified during the 2018 Big Table.

Volunteer facilitator Phylicia Manley, a community development specialist at Global Communities, works with her group Feb. 28 during the 2019 Student Big Table at John Deere World Headquarters.

When selecting students to participate, Q2030 directed school administrators to consider leadership skills and diversity (ethnicity, gender and grade level).

Q2030 Champion Mara Sovey Downing played an instrumental role in coordinating the Student Big Table. She is vice president of brand management and corporate communications at Deere and president of the John Deere Foundation.

“You know, when you think about it,” Downing said, “the young people in our community really are the ones with the big ideas of what would make our community more cool, connected and prosperous.”

Participating schools: North Scott, Alleman, Assumption, Bettendorf, Davenport Central, Moline, Davenport North, Orion, Pleasant Valley, Mid City, Sherrard, Rivermont Collegiate, Rock Island, United Township and Davenport West.

Facilitators: Kelly Thompson, Pieter Hanson, Katelyn Hotle, Alvaro Macias, Andrea Olson, Michael Rogers, Phylicia Manley, Daniel Zozaya Brown, Rachel Grewe and Dan McNeil.

Stay tuned for future updates about the community-wide Big Table scheduled for April 26-27. Go to Q2030.org or connect with us @IntheQ2030 for more information about the Quad Cities’ regional action plan.

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