Press Release, Center for Creative Solutions, Inc.:
Northwest Indiana students proved again, these words don’t exist: “it can’t be done” or “it’s too hard to do,” or “I’m afraid to fail.” Instead, their innovations inspired a crowd gathered at the A. K. Smith Career Center in Michigan City on Friday (April 12). The community breakfast kicked off the regional celebration of World Creativity and Innovation Week, sponsored by the Center for Creative Solutions.
“Our community was one of the first to recognize the week. When it started 15 years ago, about 40 communities in the world organized events,” noted Cynthia Hedge, CEO of the non-profit organization. Now, World Creativity & Innovation Week is celebrated April 15-21 in 140 countries. A few years ago, the United Nations designated April 21 as World Creativity & Innovation Day.
“Our goal is to encourage everyone to explore their own brand of creativity everyday. Northwest Indiana’s celebration is unique in several ways. It offers multiple events throughout the week and into April. Area libraries, businesses, schools, religious and other non-profit organizations, donors, government agencies, media, and private citizens have joined us in promoting creativity during the week. And, once again this year, the La Porte County Commissioners have designated April 15-21 as World Creativity and Innovation Week in the county,” Hedge said.
Featured speaker, Auzi Mahmood, reminded the audience that everyone is creative and the economic future belongs to creative people. Today’s top job skills include being innovative. Research shows innovative people are happier, healthier and more productive, according to the Purdue Northwest sociology/economic junior and intern for the Center for Creative Solutions and a native of Pakistan.

Keri Marrs Barrón and Dale Cooper, board members of the Center for Creative Solutions, presented the Tej Ram Gupta scholarships for extraordinary innovative work. The honors went to A. K. Smith Career Center students, Jeremiah Allen and Alayla Dunning of Michigan City High School and Connor June of Westville High School.

Each year, the scholarships for innovative students are funded by the B. R. Foundation, through the generosity of Dr. Rakish and Bina Gupta of Michigan City, in conjunction with the Center for Creative Solutions. The scholarships are named after Mrs. Gupta’s father, Tej Ram Gupta, a man dedicated to education.

In addition, Pat Lain and Anna Schapekahm, Board President and Valparaiso University intern, respectively, for the Center for Creative Solutions, presented Student Innovation Awards. These awards were funded through the Morgan Family Foundation. Recipients included:
• Collin Gallagher, Chesterton High School, who built a hydrogen generator.
• Isabel Barron, La Porte Middle School, whose artwork was displayed this year at the Indiana Statehouse.
• Kimberley Hoeckelberg, Shyann Smolen and Elise Seward, Porter County Career Center, who put together a school-based composting program.
• Charity Ibikunle, Munster High School, who designed a program, “Escape the Silence,” helping elementary and middle-school students to deal with everyday problems like bullying, self-image and more.
Lain also commended Michigan City’s Barker Middle School students for their STEM projects. Winning students included: Prentess Bell, Dayton Ostermeier, Bentley Mazurkiewicz, Alisha Benlis Green, Jack Soller, Alex Soviak, Brachelle Wright, Mariah Edwards, Evin Hodgson and David Morales. In their honor, a donation was given to teacher, Amy Hamann, on behalf of the Barker Middle School STEM program.
The final set of innovation awards went to To’ney Jones, Austin Morford and Alayla Dunning who participated in the A.K. Smith Career Center “Cupcake War Competition.” A monetary donation was made to Chef Angi Nipple on behalf of the culinary arts program.
Co-sponsors for Northwest Indiana’s World Creativity and Innovation Week were the Bethany Church Foundation of La Porte, WIMS Radio, the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest, and Lakeshore Public Radio’s Art on the Air broadcast.
Community organizations who sponsored or hosted an event included Sinai Temple, La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Michigan City Public Library, La Porte County Public Library and the A. K. Smith Career Center.
The Center’s next community-wide event is the Fall Innovation Forum, “Touring Creativity through Architecture.” Professor and architect, Matt Kubik, will lead the tour of noteworthy buildings in the Michigan City downtown area.

In addition, the Center sponsors a radio program, “Creativity Quarterly” on WIMS at 95.1 FM/AM 1420. Hear lively conversations with local and international creatives and discover more about your own brand of innovation.

For more information, go to the, send an email to or telephone 219-326-7259.

Student Innovation Award winners, Austin Morford and Alayla Dunning, of the A. K. Smith Career Center, with Pat Lain and Anna Schapekahm of the Center for Creative Solutions

Student Innovation Award winner, To’ney Jones, of the A. K. Smith Career Center, with Pat Lain and Anna Schapekahm of the Center for Creative Solutions

Auzi Mahmood, keynote speaker, Purdue Northwest junior and intern for the Center for Creative Solutions

La Porte County creatives, Leigh Morris and Don Babcock