Students create apps for low-income and minority groups

By Ruby Thoms, Record Staff Writer

Students at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface are using technology to tackle problems they’ve identified in their communities.

Three groups from the school took part in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) regional competition Nov. 17 on the University of Louisville campus. Two of the groups advanced to the state competition, which will take place March 29 in Lexington, Ky.

During the regional competition, the groups presented their research for mobile software applications designed to help address the negative portrayal of minorities in the media and childhood obesity, said Amy Fears, who is responsible for integrating technology at Nativity.

Nativity is an independent Catholic school that serves students from low-income families in fifth through eighth grade.

In preparation for the competition, students held discussions at school about the problems they see in their communities, said Fears during an interview Dec. 6.   Male students (classes at the school are divided by gender) decided they didn’t like the “negativity” in the media, said Fears. They felt it was “sad and depressing” that news reports tend to focus on “the bad things minorities” are doing, she said.

Out of those discussions came the idea for an app called “Diversify”. It aims to share news about positive things happening in the African-American community. Fears said if the only thing you hear about people who are different from you are negative, then that fosters fear of that group.

Female students decided to work on an app focused on “Healthy Eats,” which aims to help young people make smart choices about food, nutrition and exercise in a fun way, said Fears.

Fears said the issues the students identified are ones they’re dealing with in their daily lives. For example, she noted, healthier foods are expensive and harder for low-income families to purchase. Eating the cheaper, unhealthier foods contributes to childhood obesity.

The “Healthy Eats” app includes positive phrases to motivate kids to choose a healthy lifestyle and suggested exercises. Both apps, said Fears, are meant to be kid-friendly. 

Students at Nativity Academy have a longer school day, which includes an after-school study hall. The students have been using that study time to work on their projects. The students have also created videos for social media to go with the apps.

Fears said the biggest challenge the students faced was convincing themselves that they could make a difference at their ages. 

Fears added that she couldn’t be more proud of the students. Just the fact that they were willing to identify problems and tried to find solutions makes them all winners, she said. “Those are the types of citizens we want” for the future.

The apps will be presented at the state competition.

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