School Project Gets Kids to Think Big & Become Generous Leaders

August 06, 2014

Four Denver-area high school students set out to make a difference by taking a look at homelessness in a new way. Rather than making assumptions about the needs in the homeless community, these students decided to ask the homeless what problems they had.  Their call to action is an example of what the Big Idea Project hopes to instill in youths across the country.

2014 CHS Winning team

From left, Bryan Halsey, Bryce Ramirez, Daniel Armstrong and Kyle Mayberry

The Big Idea Project challenges students to identify a problem or need in society and
generate creative solutions to serve this need. The students use the leadership concepts and skills learned in class to work in small teams and implement their ideas to make impactful change in their communities. There are no boundaries or limitations to the project, allowing students to dream big. Student projects have ranged from raising funds for childhood cancer research, developing a teen mentor program to fighting homelessness.


The Backpack Project received more than 248 pounds of donated hygiene products to fill backpacks for the homeless.

At the end of the year, each team presents storytelling videos describing their journey and are judged by a panel of leaders in the community. The grand prize is a scholarship to support their collegiate endeavors. The winning team from Columbine High School created a business plan to help the homeless population in the Denver metro area. After ascertaining what the homeless of Denver really needed (a way to carry their belongings), seniors Bryce Ramirez and Daniel Armstrong and juniors Landon Kramer and Kyle Mayberry asked fellow classmates to donate backpacks. The group teamed up with the Denver Rescue Mission to collect and distribute more than 248 pounds of hygiene products along with the donated packs.

The Big Idea Project was developed in 2011 by Bryan Halsey, a business teacher at Columbine High School in Denver, Colo. Halsey wanted to “develop generous leaders with a lifelong habit of giving back” and to create opportunities for his students to put their learning into action. Since its founding, the Big Idea Project has spread to seven Denver metro high schools, with plans to expand nationally.

“Now that I’ve experienced the Big Idea Project, I know I have the knowledge and capability to make a difference in the world,” Ramirez said.

The Big Idea Project is funded in part by the OtterCares Foundation. Established in 2010 by Nancy Richardson as the charitable arm of Otter Products LLC, the OtterCares Foundation champions innovative education like the Big Idea Project that inspires youth to become entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Richardson believes teaching these skills early in life creates a habit of giving that continues into adulthood and effects communities for generations to come.