rEDesigning Education

Ayesha (in green) and her Internship Match Program 2015-2016 class.

Ayesha (in green) and her Internship Match Program 2015-2016 class.

Innovation in education — that’s what students in the University of Michigan’s student organization rEDesign stand for. More specifically, rEDesign members believe in making beneficial and immediate changes or additions to the education system to support students, educators, and communities now and into the future. By recognizing college students’ leverage, learning from our diverse educational backgrounds, and utilizing the skills, passions, and knowledge members in various major and minor programs provide, we collaborate and support each other in implementing well-defined projects that improve student experiences across multiple domains.

Though rEDesign’s mission to better education can seem daunting, our organization’s structure makes creating change both possible and exciting. We begin each school year with 2-3 brainstorming sessions, in which members point out areas of education they would like to improve and suggest possible solutions. These sessions move quickly, as members have only a few minutes at most to make their pitches, all of which are written and linked to similar topics on a whiteboard. Following these sessions, rEDesign holds an election party in which members decide which projects they would like to work on for the remainder of the year. At this point, project teams (usually 4-6 rEDesign members) begin to meet individually to implement their ideas.

Past projects have varied widely in terms of their goals; rEDesign has sponsored, supported, and given rise to a national ACT textbook drive, a student organization (CERP) that uses video technology to tutor Detroit Public School students writing their college admissions essays, and recruitment fair known as ConnectED that brings together groups such as the Michigan School of Education, Teach for America, and local entrepreneurial incubators like Innovate Blue and optiMize for an afternoon of networking and the opportunity to attend a formal rally concerning the importance of educational equity. rEDesign’s support of these projects in terms of ensuring each group’s goals were well-defined, giving projects feedback and suggestions on next steps, and providing contacts in- and outside of education allowed them to be implemented immediately and efficiently and has truly made an impact on education in Michigan and beyond.

The rEDesign project I have been managing for the last two years is the Internship Match Program. Our mission is to provide high school students with the opportunity to develop professionalism and practice using their skills in real-world internships. We believe that gaining work experience will prepare students for life after graduation, give them an advantage in all application processes, and, most importantly, help them develop their passions and talents in a variety of sectors. We work closely with an Ann Arbor high school that allows us to teach an 8-week professionalism course to students before securing them 8-week, for-credit internships in which they can practice their new skills.

As an aspiring teacher, this project has provided me with the invaluable experience of creating a curriculum from scratch, creating and delivering lessons, and assessing student work. I have also gained broader skills by working on this project — I learned how to develop business contacts, interact with school administrations, and how to solicit and use feedback to improve outcomes for students, internship mentors, and teachers alike. Most importantly, I experienced first-hand that committed individuals can truly make a difference by coming together and developing innovative solutions to problems or gaps in the education system.

The success of the Internship Match Program and other projects were made possible by the support and advice of rEDesign as whole. This fact, combined with the experience of being surrounded by and collaborating with peers who are passionate about education, has given me optimism that educational challenges can be met in the very near future as long as individuals are willing to dedicate themselves to solving them. As our next brainstorming session approaches, I only hope that more and more individuals begin to share and implement their ideas at Michigan, across the country, and throughout the world. Improving education to better serve all members of society is necessary, and with a little creativity and a lot of hard work, entirely possible.

Ayesha Amin is a senior in the University of Michigan’s School of Education (Go blue!). She is rEDesign’s Director of Management and Outreach and is majoring in History with minors in Psychology and English.