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Students pitch in toward brighter future

Conference puts focus on environmental and social sustainability

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>About 100 students pitched their ideas to local business leaders during the HP Change High School Conference on Wednesday.</p>


About 100 students pitched their ideas to local business leaders during the HP Change High School Conference on Wednesday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/5/2018 (732 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Nelson McIntyre Collegiate student Quinn Fleming went into the dragons’ den on Wednesday morning and came out with a $500 grant to help empower people in his community to build their own bicycles.

It was a solid morning’s work for the 17-year-old Grade 11 student.

Quinn had three minutes in front of a panel of judges — similar to the TV program Dragons’ Den — to pitch Nelson McIntyre Collegiate’s Earn A Bike idea of giving free bicycles, rescued from the city’s Brady Landfill, to students willing to fix them in the school’s power mechanics shop.

"Our school isn’t big, but we try to do big things," said Quinn, whose presentation was one of 11 in two categories in the first HP Change High School Conference at the Manitoba Institute of Technology.

Twenty students participated with Quinn winning the $500 award in the Environmentally Sustainable Future category. Nav Brar of the University of Winnipeg Collegiate earned the $500 award in the Socially Sustainable Future category for an idea to create an education program to create positive connections between Indigenous people and newcomers.

In his presentation, Quinn told the crowd in the MITT conference room that 5,000 bicycles each year are dumped in the landfill, often due to minor problems that can be easily fixed as a do-it-yourself job but would be expensive to pay for a repair.

"This program promotes healthy living, keeps people moving and active. It gives people, who might not be able to afford a bicycle, an opportunity to own a bicycle but to have the skills to maintain this piece of equipment for as long as they need it, essentially," Quinn said.

"Our program has already done 100 bikes for about $200. It only costs $2 to fix these bikes, for cables, brake pads and chains."

Quinn said the $500 will pay for more parts with the goal of at least another 250 bikes being refurbished, get more people on wheels and reduce dumping in the landfill.

"It will mean a lot. Our school is, like, the smallest inner-city (high) school, scratching just 200-and-some students," said Quinn, whose Grade 9-12 school has about 280 students. "For us to bring something home like this, it speaks to the teachers first off. The teachers there are amazing."

Quinn said his teacher Ryan Sabourin began the bike refurbishing program two years ago as one of the activities in the school’s Week Without Walls program, a one-week, project-based learning initiative that is held three times during the school year. The Earn A Bike program has an exclusive opportunity to receive junked bicycles by partnering with WRENCH, the local organization whose representatives have the required clearance from city officials to reclaim bikes dumped in the landfill.

Quinn said people earn a bike by coming into the power mechanics shop and fixing it using tools and parts that are provided. The refurbished bicycles are inspected for safety and go home with their new owners to become transportation or recreation while reducing landfill waste.

Sabourin said many students are involved in making the Earn A Bike program successful but Quinn stepped up to make the presentation with a plan to take the program to the next level.

"I’m very proud of him (for winning) and for taking the initiative with this program. What stands out for me with Quinn is that he was able to see the grassroots part of it and how he would be able to use this $500 to help so many people in the community," Sabourin said.

"The power of this event is (it shows students) that you can come up with a solution to a problem after you take a good look at exactly what the problem is."

The conference, held in partnership with HP Change, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and MITT, attracted student representatives from 16 high schools and community organizations.

"All of these ideas were outstanding," said Scott Angus of HP Change. He said HP stands for Higher Purpose. "Our goal is to provide some startup money (for the grant winners) and some support. We want to put students in an environment to pursue ideas that can help them make a difference in their communities."

Rebecca Knapp, Amber D’Aoust and Khristine Dilim of Miles Macdonell Collegiate pitched their idea for a city-wide, individual household composting program. Though it didn’t win the grant money, the students made a case for how individuals can reduce waste in their own homes.

"People have recycling bins at their houses and garbage bins, so if we gave out bins for composting, people would want to do it," Rebecca said.

Amber said her group was planning to contact the Green Action Centre in Winnipeg. The centre offers services to assist people in setting up programs to compost organic material, which can reduce overall waste in homes by 40 per cent.

"If we focus on that issue, a lot can be accomplished. We can give people a list of what can be composted and it’s super easy to just throw it in the bin," Amber said.

The pitches were evaluated by a panel of nine judges including The Forks CEO Paul Jordan, Downtown BIZ CEO Stefano Grande and other community leaders in areas such as architecture and poverty reduction.


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