Future Problem Solving team heads to state competition


Holy Trinity senior Stacey Torkelson is a member of the Future Problem Solvers team that has been selected to compete in the state competition. She also was named Stone Middle School’s Youth Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Carl Kotala

Stacey Torkelson wants to be a teacher one day.

So when the Holy Trinity student sat down with other members of the school’s Future Problem Solving (FPS) team last year to come up with a project, they had a number of different areas to choose from — environmental issues, civil issues or educational.

They decided to go with education. It was Torkelson, now a senior, who came up with the idea of creating a peer tutoring and mentoring program for seventh and eighth graders at Stone Middle School.

The aim was to help students set academic achievement goals and help them think beyond high school.

From March 31 to April 2, Holy Trinity’s FPS team made up of Torkelson, Olivia Pitten, Drew DeSalvo, Kathy Jara, Lucy Thomas, Hannah Lee, Sydney Sergis and Sarah Braddock will be in Orlando to compete in the state competition.

They will present their project, A Future Set in Stone, to a panel of judges in the Community Problem Solving division.

The students have been turning in materials since August, presenting their project proposal, presenting a plan of action and providing updates including any roadblocks they faced and how they overcame them.

At the state competition, there will be project boards — much like at a science fair — and the group of students will be interviewed.

When the tutoring and mentoring program first began last year, it was done in a classroom with just six Stone Middle School students. Now, they’ve overcome a roadblock by meeting in the cafeteria and the number of children they help now totals 45.

In order to meet the demand for tutors, Holy Trinity’s FPS team needed help. They enlisted classmates, who are getting community service credit, and now there are usually 17 to 18 tutors that head to Stone Middle School every Tuesday.

Working with the seventh and eighth graders has turned out to be an amazing experience, especially for Torkelson, who was selected Stone Middle School’s Youth Volunteer of the Year and was honored by Brevard County Public Schools at their ABC Awards (Applauding Brevard’s Champions).

“We went in expecting to see changes in grades, which we have — one kid came up from an F to a B, which is huge — but on the mentor side, the relationships have been crazy,” said Torkelson, now a senior. “I have one girl I’ve been working with one-on-one … I’ve worked with her for two years now as a tutor. As it’s coming to a close, it’s actually really sad.

“We have them fill out an end-of-the-year survey for the eighth graders about the program and what they got out of it. Three or four of them compared it to a second family. So it’s been really rewarding.”