ANN ARBOR, Mich. – "Be the person you needed when you were younger," is a quote attributed to many different sources across the internet -- a group of high school students in Ann Arbor are doing just that and helping their community through an innovative nonprofit.
Created by students, taught by students, led by students
Inno Education runs a two-week program for middle school students, promoting and supporting their intellectual interests through a variety of interdisciplinary courses designed to evoke cooperation and compassion.
"I think what sets Inno apart is the counselors," said one former camper. "They know how to relate to you in a way that adults can't."
Based out of Concordia University's Krieger Hall on Geddes Road, Inno Education is a nonprofit created, developed and run by high school students.
It was initially started as a tutoring group by Kevin Tan when he was a sophomore in high school. He's currently at Stanford University after graduating high school in 2018.
"He had this idea to band together a few high school students that were friends and were passionate about helping kids get better at school," said Inno CEO Elizabeth Li.
Li said the group wanted to expand its reach and decided to become an educational summer camp. The group received help from Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor to take the steps to become a nonprofit, but it wasn't easy.
"Under Michigan Corporation law, you need to have a board of directors of at least three, of which half must be adults," said Inno CFO Jayson Song. "The other half can be 16 and 17-year-olds. As a high school organization, it's difficult because not many of us are adults."
To get around this, Song said the group found two adults who were supportive of the group to come on as board members. As Inno grew, the board of directors took on more students, ultimately becoming comprised entirely of students.
"We have a chance to share subjects that kids don't get the chance to learn. I think that's really special," said Inno CMO Chichi Ruwende. "Inno represents a community of people who love learning."
Inno offers a unique variety of classes and activities. For 2019, Inno offered -- among others -- creative writing, art through the ages, saving the planet in 10 days, mission to Mars and much more.
"In terms of our actual name, it's short for innovation," Li said. "That's our whole idea: being innovative with how we can make learning fun and make learning exciting for middle school students."
For more information on Inno Education, visit the official website here.
Click here to donate. Funds are put toward camp resources and improving the educational opportunities of youth in the community in orphanages, foster homes and struggling school districts. None of the funds raised are used as income for Inno volunteers.
To register a student for Inno, click here.
Registration to become a counselor for the 2020 Inno Summer Institute has opened. Students who want to volunteer can apply here.