Community Changemaker Challenge (High Schools)

Community Changemaker Challenge (High Schools)
students receiving awards

What is the Community Changemaker Challenge?

The Community Changemaker Challenge is an idea-stage competition for High School students, in which entrants identify a social, environmental, or economic problem in their community, region, or somewhere else in the world, and use an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to address it. Submissions require no formal business plan, making the barrier to entry low and room for creativity high.

The UNH Sustainability Institute, the UNH Cooperative Extension, and the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center (NH SBDC), are partnering with New England high schools to launch the Community Changemaker Challenge. This annual program engages high school students, teachers, and community members throughout the region in entrepreneurial and innovative thinking to solve community challenges. We will collaborate with teachers to provide support for students entering the Challenge, and provide quality professional development to our teacher partners so they are best prepared to use the curriculum. We are seeking more high school partners so we can continue building this exciting new program. Let us know of your interest to participate in 2022 by filling out this form.

This challenge model is based on the highly successful NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge, held annually at UNH. Over the years, the SVIC had many high school teams enter in its Community Track (indicating interest and demand on the part of high school teachers and students) but few have succeeded competitively due to the seasoned abilities of their older competitors. For the last few years, we have been piloting a High School Track in order to level the playing field for these students, and use it as an educational opportunity to teach skills in design, empathy, research and civic engagement. Today the SVIC High School Track has evolved into the Community Changemaker Challenge!

Important Dates & Reminders

November 12, 2021
2022 School Participation Interest form due

Interested in participating in 2022?
Submit the interest form

February 4, 2022
Schools commit to participation

April 29, 2022
Entries due

May 13, 2022
Culminating event

October 14, 2022
Schools notify 2023 participation interest


See past participants videos

2021 Community Changemaker Challenge Winners

Team: Green Horizons
School: Exeter High School
Team Member: Zoe O'Kane
Mentor: Adam Krauss

Team: Tenti
School: Oyster River Cooperative School District
Team Members: Robbie Follis, Foch Lovejoy, Matt Demarest, Matt Avery, Katherine Young
Mentors: Heather Healy, Sean Peschel

Team: Dawn Tents
School: Phillips Exeter Academy
Team Members: Sam Creelan, Duke Garschina, Sachin Shetty, Nathan Khuu
Mentor: Liz Reyes

Challenge Details

challenge process submit and final round presentations

The Challenge Process:

1. Open to New England high school students
2. Submit your idea (a 2-page summary and 3-minute video)
3. Final Round: finalists present their idea to a panel of judges with Q&A and prizes are awarded

The Challenge is built on three pillars:

  1. Facilitator Training: We will train teachers, Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) coordinators, and other youth-serving community leaders to work with students to address challenges in their communities.
  2. Curriculum: Facilitators will use our curriculum and materials that are based on design thinking to help identify and develop solutions to their community challenges. They will have access to a wealth of resources and activities that they can put their own personal spin on.
  3. Culminating Event: Facilitators and students from around New England will come together to present their unique solutions and meet like-minded changemakers.

The Community Changemaker Challenge has the potential to enrich the education of many high school students and enhance the professional development of teachers. We would like to further the success of this program by making it available to more public schools, especially schools in districts lacking non-traditional learning opportunities for students, such as the project-based learning the competition provides.

Participating Schools

The Derryfield School, Exeter High School, Oyster River High School, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Portsmouth High School have participated in previous years. We hope to increase the number of partner schools for 2022.

Benefits for Teachers/Facilitators
  1. School Stipends: All participating schools would be eligible for a stipend ($500-$1,000 depending on available program funds) paid after the culminating event. This money would partially compensate the school for the  time and energy spent engaging with our curriculum, provide resources for school programming, and even could allow for the implementation of student ideas within their schools and communities. In this way, funding would directly and tangibly provide contributions to New England high schools.
  2. Professional Development Day for Teachers at UNH: We envision the development and delivery of a professional development day for teachers and facilitators at UNH, supporting them with a “train the trainer” approach. This would be a CEU-granting training upon request, from which all educators can benefit.
  3. Web Resources: In these uncertain times, making our curriculum available online (via Canvas) ensures that all participants have uninterrupted access to program materials such as readings, recorded presentations, and activities. 

The Sustainability Institute has partnered with the UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Small Business Development Center (NH SBDC) to make this program even more robust and far-reaching than the piloted SVIC High School Track.

Each member of this partnership has unique skills and connections that will work to create a sustainability-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem that is of great benefit to students, teachers, and community members.

  • The Sustainability Institute brings diverse people and ideas together to make UNH a model sustainable learning community that reaches beyond campus to engage state, regional, national, and international partners to advance sustainable solutions
  • The NH SBDC offers programming and consulting for budding small businesses, and is a vital part of entrepreneurial development in the state.
  • UNH Cooperative Extension Community and Economic Development team is focused on connecting and supporting entrepreneurs, developing sustainable innovation spaces, creating communities that support entrepreneurs, and increasing entrepreneurship among individuals throughout New Hampshire. 

Contact Faina Bukher, Director of UNH's Changemaker Collaborative for more information and to take on the Challenge!