Guest Writer: Kinzie Farmer

Kinzie at the podium at the conclusion of SuccessS.H.E.

Kinzie Farmer is a senior in high school and will graduate in the spring of 2015.  She looks forward studying International Business at Santa Clara University or Notre Dame.  Kinzie has spoken at a handful of conferences and is involved in her school through band and Business Professionals of America.  She hopes to share what she learned throughout the past year with other students so they fulfill their dreams.  Kinzie loves to spend time with her family and friends and travel all over the world.

A School Students Love

As a senior in high school, I have spent more than my fair share of time in a seat watching the clock.  I entered my thirteenth year of school this August, and for the first time since I can remember, I was so excited.  I no longer had to sit in a seat alongside of thirty other kids and learn what I “had” to.  I didn’t have to watch that clock for forty-two minutes, or cram for a test and stay up super late.  I didn’t have to be herded through the hallways in five minutes and make it to the next class on time.

This year, I was able to go back to the school that I love.   It’s a school without classrooms, with only four teachers, no tests and my favorite, no class periods.  Here at Iowa BIG, we learn the same material as other students, just in a way that’s best for us.


Kinzie speaking at 1 Million Cups.

I was one of less than twenty students at Iowa BIG last year, and now I am one of sixty.  I had the privilege of completing a project last year that challenged me as a student more than I could imagine and as a person even more.  I worked with my teacher and headmaster, Shawn Cornally, to create SuccessS.H.E. to inspire young women to overcome the personal boundaries they have imposed on themselves.  Through that project and through the school, I created a network in Cedar Rapids that helped me achieve what I never thought was possible.

At Iowa BIG, we have meetings once a week to connect with our groups and decide what we need to do to make progress, they assess our learning similar to a test or quiz.  The rest of the week, we work on our projects, have meetings in the community, work with our groups, do “customer discovery”, or go on tours in the community.  Last year and this year, I have learned how to communicate with adults that I will eventually work with, schedule meetings, deliver a speech (with an ask) to further my project, advocate for myself, manage my time, and work harder than I ever thought possible.  The freedom that Iowa BIG has built in is a key component of learning how to grow up and manage your time without someone telling you what to do.  It has been the greatest learning experience for me.

When this year is over, I will be really sad to graduate and leave BIG, but right now, I am working to leave an impression on the community and students to come.  One of my three projects is to “Make BIG Bigger”, or expand the BIG model so other students can enjoy school as much as I do.  My team is exploring what it would take to make another Iowa BIG and doing marketing for the school.  This project is so exciting to me because I can share what has made my high school experience with more students.

So Iowa BIG might not be for everyone, I understand that, but it definitely was for me.  I hope students find the thing that makes them love school, because I sure have and I’m so lucky.  I can’t wait to share that with others.

This Week at BIG


Customer discovery at NewBo Market. It is challenging to speak with people you’ve never met!

As school settles into a routine, we get many questions about the work of BIG students. What have our students been engaging in these last few weeks?

Right now we have thirty-two active projects, with community partners like the City of Cedar Rapids, EcoLips, Linn County Conservation, and Cedar Rapids Schools. Our students work in teams on projects like Making BIG Bigger and evaluating the Cedar River to control urban runoff. Others have been learning math and physics through their work with aquaponics. Others still are meeting with community members to investigate activities for teenagers and the revival of the Ellis Ice Rink.


Students and staff work as a team to challenge each other and create new solutions.

All of this investigation and learning is threaded with support from teaching staff for writing business emails, cold calling to set up appointments, and the best methods for locating quality research, in addition to instruction in a wide range of content areas. Team meetings are scheduled throughout the day, some beginning at 7:30 am and others at 4 pm. Our days at BIG continue to be challenging, innovative, and anything but routine!

Read Me!

Welcome to your first day of non-compulsory attendance!

You should be schedule your meetings with your groups. This process will not be super smooth; that’s ok.

ALSO! When you schedule a meeting, you must let know, so that we can put the meeting on our master calendar!

Iowa Lt. Governor Visits BIG


IMG_0349Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds spent some time visiting with BIG students and staff this summer. This is the second time she has been in Cedar Rapids to be a part of the work of BIG. The first time was last spring for student Kinzie Farmer’s project, SuccessSHE!

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BIG Ribbon Cutting!

We are so proud to announce a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Cedar Rapids Community School District and the College Community School District!

Each district will be providing 1.5 FTE and support funding to continue the Iowa BIG vision; a school owned by no one serving families in eastern Iowa who are looking for a project-based and community-focused high school experience.

Comments from the presidents of Kirkwood and COE college about the Iowa BIG model.