The XQ Super School bus kicked off its 2017 tour in Iowa, where extraordinary changemakers are thinking beyond the confines of typical school experiences.

In Cedar Rapids, students from Super School awardee Iowa BIG and the Iowa Youth Accelerator Program hosted Minnow Tank, the culminating pitch session for their 12-week accelerator program for 6th and 7th grade girls. Modeled after the popular television show “Shark Tank,” the program featured four teams of girls pitching their ideas and business plans to a panel of judges—local volunteers who were able to share small cash prizes, resources, and connections with the students as part of their "deals."

The impressive concepts ranged from a education mentorship program for students transitioning to middle school to a “Mini Med Camp” to expose young girls to medicine. All the ideas were thoughtfully designed by young people to engage young people and accelerate learning.

The Iowa Youth Accelerator Program was founded by two 16-year-old Iowa BIG students, Kenadee Dekko and Shelby Cook, who were also part of a startup accelerator at Iowa BIG. Inspired by the program, Dekko and Cook wanted to recreate the experience—but for middle school students. Their goal: Create more confidence in middle school girls to start businesses.

Iowa Youth Accelerator cultivates integral life skills like teamwork, creative thinking, business planning, and public speaking in its young participants. But Dekko and Cook are learning invaluable life lessons, too. By giving back to students through this special learning experience, these high school leaders are paying it forward and building community for generations to come.

Keep up with XQ: The Super School Project and see where the Super School Bus is heading next.