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Grand Forks students win money to improve their community

Camden Larsen, 15, is a sophomore at Red River High School in Grand Forks. He was one of nine Main Street Grand Forks Challenge winners Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Emily Allen, Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
Student winners painted benches Wednesday afternoon in Town Square with Krista Nightingale from the Better Block nonprofit. Photo by Emily Allen/Grand Forks Herald. 2 / 4
Student winners also painted flower pots Wednesday afternoon in Town Square with Krista Nightingale from the Better Block nonprofit. Photo by Emily Allen/Grand Forks Herald 3 / 4
Main Street Grand Forks Challenge winners networked with local entrepreneurs Wednesday afternoon at the 701 coworking space downtown. Photo by Emily Allen/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

When Gov. Doug Burgum visited Grand Forks earlier this year, he had a question for local leaders and organizations. Instead of training students to pursue leadership opportunities out-of-state, why not ask what changes will make them stay?

Fast forward to Wednesday, when Executive Director Collin T. Hanson from Evolve Grand Forks, a nonprofit for entrepreneurship, announced nine winning proposals from Grand Forks students to enhance their community.

Three Grand Forks high schoolers and six UND students all won money and a six-month membership to the 701 Co-working Space downtown, as winners of the Main Street Grand Forks Challenge. Announced in April, the challenge asked students to "envision and implement the change they want to see in their community," according to its website. The project stems from the governor's larger Main Street Initiative, to improve cities and attract a younger, 21st century workforce.

Over the next six months, Hanson said winners will meet regularly as they carry out the projects they proposed, learning from each other's experiences.

High schoolers won a free year of housing and a $2,000 scholarship to UND, along with $3,000 they can use for their projects. UND students won $5,000 for projects.

After the governor's visit, Evolve Grand Ford came up with a concept in February and had 16 sponsors by March, Hanson said. After announcing the challenge in April, at least 40 students applied.

Camden Larsen, 15, was one of the winners from Red River High School. He proposed "Natural Connections," a project to connect residents with nature by installing QR codes along the Greenway, which will identify nearby trees, birds and other wildlife. Larsen's own interest in nature was sparked by what he has learned in Boy Scouts. "I just thought it would be a cool thing to bring to Grand Forks."

Another winner, Tyler Larson, 19, is the CEO and founder of the Penny House in Harvey, N.D., a nonprofit youth center for junior high and high school students. "Just to hang out," he said. "And be somewhere safe, not engage in risky behavior like underage drinking or smoking."

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

(701) 780-1102