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      7th graders tackle Petoskey Pit

      First impressions can sometimes be lasting ones. So what is the impression that visitors get when they roll into Petoskey and the first thing they see is a city-block sized deep hole, wrapped by chain link fence? That was the question and one of the motivating factors for some Northern Michigan teachers when they made an unusual assignment to their classes.

      Lisa Leavy and Robin Ingalls are teachers at Petoskey Middle School. The 7th graders in their class can't remember a time that their hometown didn't have the "pit", after all, it's been there for more than half of their lives. The "pit" or the "hole" is the void left in their downtown when the development plans to build a hotel and shops failed, but not before a deep foundation had been dug.

      Ask the students, and they will tell you, the scar left when the funds dried up and the company left town is deep. Cecilia Murray says "it's bad, it??s really ugly, it??s not good for our community." Fellow student Wayra Hernandez worries that for those first time visitors to Petoskey, what greets them as the enter downtown is overwhelming. She says "all you see is that, and I really don't like that hole right there."

      It's a big hole in their hometown that in their memories has always been there, but in their eyes is simply not acceptable. But rather than just complaining, students channeled their energy into actually making a change. Their classroom assignment handed down by Mrs. Leavy and Mrs. Ingalls was to come up with a plan to redevelop the Petoskey Pit.

      Leavy explains "we set some pretty strict requirements. We asked them to come up with a commercial, a sketch, and a business name and logo." Then students started their marketing research by hitting the pavement to find out what everyone in town would like to see happen at the "hole". Finn Hopkins was one of the students who grabbed his camera and asked residents and business owners what they envisioned. He says "it was really interesting to hear what everyone had to say, because there was quite a lot."

      They took that feedback, added their own creativity, and created a sales pitch complete with models which showcased why their proposal was the one that should fill the void. All of their projects had their own unique flair and approach to the redevelopment plans. Cecilia Murray's group??s plan included a roller rink, a Panera restaurant, and a theater. Others had shops, a planetarium, rock walls, and activities that the students believe would appeal to a wide range of people. Finn Hopkins described his vision as "like a college quad. It will be very open, but at the same time it will have a lot of small businesses that people can spend their money and shop and enjoy." Students considered needs far beyond those of most 13 year olds; items like parking and seasonal fluctuations of populations, in creating their projects. Once completed all of the students, dressed in their most professional attire, had to present their ideas to local business leaders and the Chamber of Commerce. Some of the presentations included a video portion that the students shot and edited themselves, to watch one click here. Now the students are hoping to take their presentations to the City Council in hopes of inspiring someone to do something about the "pit".

      They are young minds, but with big ideas. The way these students see it, the adults haven't fixed the problem yet, so why shouldn't they get a shot at it? Hopkins admits "I mean we will need some adults help, because we can't do it by ourselves, but I hope that our videos and all of the groups, encourage the adults to take action on it." Hernandez says "it was just wonderful experience to finally get my thoughts out there, and for everyone to hear what I think should be done with it."

      So what would you like to see fill the void that is the Petoskey "pit"? Let us know by leaving a comment below.