School project aims to help 500 lb student lose weight

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – In the era of ISTEP and core standards, combining education and innovation is no easy task.

But that didn’t stop local teacher Don Wettrick from creating an innovation class at Franklin Community High School, where the only goal is to find ways to help others.

“The biggest skill that I always want to impart on all of my students is I don’t care where you are, opportunities are everywhere,” Wettrick told 24-Hour News 8.

A social media “guru” of sorts, he has more than 14,000 Twitter followers, he’s one of the few people asked to try out Google glass, and last year, he created what’s called an “innovation class” based on the “Google model.”

“If you give somebody 20 percent of their time to work on something they’re passionate about, look what can they produce out of that. I remember thinking I could make a class out of that,” said Wettrick.

“It does not feel like school at all,” said student Grace Siebert.

Wettrick threw away the traditional syllabus and encouraged students, like Grace, to find their passions and come up with projects to impact the world.

“When you’re improving somebody else’s life, it just makes your life a lot better,” said Siebert.

“It’s a huge paradigm shift to say ‘work on something you’re passionate about,’ or ‘learn something,’” said Wettrick.

What they’re learning is how to work together and how to collaborate with outsiders to get their projects done. Because of his presence on social media, the innovation class has already been invited to Stanford to present, taken a tour of Google headquarters, worked with the Mayor of the city, and taken the first steps of what may be their most important project to date: exercising with, and supporting 500 pound freshman Eric Ekis.

“I’ve lost about 15 or 20 pounds since we started,” said Ekis.

Working with Eric includes walking and showing the 6 foot freshman, who lost his father a couple of years ago, that someone cares. It’s an idea that came from Wettrick, was passed on to seniors Kevin Stahl and Grace, and has now become a movement about moving.  Wettrick is documenting it through his blog.

“I wrote a blog about it and it went viral. It’s really inspiring because it’s going to be a campaign against obesity,” said Wettrick.

“They’re out to change lives, legitimately, and that’s something that gets me up in the morning and gets me excited.”

Tune in to 24-Hour News 8 at 11 p.m. Friday night for more on Eric’s journey over the past several months. and how this innovation class project is changing lives.

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