Upper Arlington High School held a daylong event Feb. 9 to help students and staff envision their own capabilities while forging paths to concepts and careers that could change the world.

The first UA Idea Day was the culmination of months of planning by UAHS students and staff, members of the Upper Arlington Education Foundation, the community and business partners.

It featured morning keynote presentations at the high school from Chris Hawker, founder and president of Trident Design LLC and cofounder of Next Level Columbus, and Shaun Derik, a life coach and performing artist.

There also were discussions about being resilient through life and careers, led by Jody Carbiener Dryer, a 1979 UAHS graduate who held 22 positions at Disney and became an executive for the company.

After lunch, students could choose from 45 different workshops held at the high school and throughout the community in which they heard from business leaders, social activities, artists and refugees about myriad topics designed to foster creative thinking and pathways to social change and professional development.

"We gave (presenters) the parameters that we wanted kids to be moving, doing, thinking -- not sitting and getting -- and we told them the workshop needed to fit within the theme of creativity, innovation and dreams," said Laura Moore, instructional leader for the UAHS research and design lab.

UA Idea Day was inspired by Chicago Ideas Week. Alice Finley, UA+Ed programs and project specialist, visited the event two years ago and wanted to bring it back to central Ohio.

Foundation Executive Director Joanie Dugger, Finley and Moore wrote the proposal for UA Idea Day last year, and a group of students and teachers began developing its framework. Students took an active role by organizing logistics and identifying potential speakers and workshop topics.

"We really wanted to make this a day where students can just explore their passions and explore any of their interests and just have fun," said Lily Goldberg, a UAHS senior. "I think people are really going to enjoy it and be very impassioned by these conversations."

During the day, classrooms, the school cafeteria spaces, the gymnasium and auditorium were active with discussions and hands-on exercises.

In the auditorium, students interested in entertainment and stepping out of their comfort zones took part in a performing arts workshop on improv comedy.

They learned some improv concepts and activities from the central Ohio troupe #Hashtag Comedy. The group's director, Sarah J. Storer, encouraged students to let inspiration take over.

"The first rule of improv is to always say 'yes,' " Storer said. " 'Yes' just means you have an acceptance of your environment."

Storer later told students that through brainstorming by what many might consider "weirdos" in improv groups, "good ideas become great."

Across the hallway in a cafeteria space, a much more somber discussion was taking place in a Social Entrepreneurship and Female Empowerment session where a multicultural group of teen girls and young women from some of central Ohio's more impoverished neighborhoods discussed the importance of understanding people who are different.

The talk ventured into how people raised in different environments can have different views about police or people who have been incarcerated, with some participants imploring the rest to follow passions that can help break stereotypes and promote equality among different races and genders.

In the school's Learning Center, Columbus allergy specialist Dr. Bryan Martin discussed "emotional intelligence," such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social management, and how to use them to communicate more effectively and gain a better understanding of others.

"Social management is not trying to manipulate people," Martin said. "But you have to be able to communicate with people in a way they will understand. So you focus on what other people think is important."

Down another hallway, Dreyer and her sister, Jill Owston, led a "Show Your Character" session in which students, including a number with special needs due to developmental disabilities, were encouraged to think about their character and their story.

Students compared the good and bad traits of Disney characters as they examined facets of their own personalities.

"We're talking about how we're a mix of characters," Dreyer said. "It takes a great cast of characters to make a great story."

Other workshop topics ranged from civility to how to write songs, how to turn hobbies into careers and how ideas get prototyped and tested to become engineering projects.

"We're trying to create an experience for students and teachers to immerse themselves in a different way of seeing a subject, the work, themselves, and give them an energized space to do that," Moore said.

"We want students to have an opportunity to take what they get that day and to find ways to carry it forward."

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