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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

Knight Cities Challenge offers way to tighten the scope of QEP projects

The Visionary Student Panels held as a part of Mercer’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) were a way of showcasing student ideas for improving the local and global community.

Ending Tuesday, Oct. 27, another platform is offering a similar opportunity to Mercer students and community members alike.

[sidebar title="Visionary Panel Winners" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]

Competitive Category

  • Macon World Citizens — Emily Bless, Alayna Williams, & Briana Green

  • Collect to Connect: Community Asset Analysis in the Bloomfield Neighborhood of Macon, Georgia — Aaron Scherf & Austin Harrison

  • Democratic Engagement: A Blueprint to Engage Students in Our Democracy — Joey Wozniak

Standout Panelist from the Showcase Category

Energy Efficiency — Demi-Shay Watchorn

The Knight Cities Challenge is an open invitation for anyone to bring forward their ideas about how to make cities better. Like the QEP Visionary Panels, winners receive funding to implement their plans. Knight Challenge winners are funded through the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“We’re looking for the people with those good ideas that we might not otherwise hear from,” said Carol Coletta, vice president for community and national initiatives at the Knight Foundation.

The projects presented in the Visionary Panels Tuesday, Oct. 13 and Wednesday, Oct. 14 covered a wide variety of topics like environmental sustainability, the role of social media in combating bias and what it takes to disrupt poverty cycles.

The questions don’t just apply to the area immediately surrounding Mercer, and some students worked to connect ideas in their proposals to potential global uses.

The Knight Foundation’s scope, on the other hand, is narrowed. The organization wants ideas that help one or more of the 26 Knight Communities across the United States.

Macon, Georgia just happens to be one of those communities.

Two ideas to benefit Macon won in last year’s challenge. College Hill Alliance won $75,000 for their “Operation Export Macon” idea, where a traveling showcase highlights the city’s culture and offerings, according to the Knight Foundation’s website.

Geoffrey Boyd was awarded $124,300 for his “Macon Civic Spaces” campaign. His goal is to create an umbrella organization “to bring together individual park volunteer groups to create a network of advocates interested in improving and maintaining local parks,” according to the Knight Foundation’s website.

These two Knight Cities Challenge winners succeeded because they had an idea for how to turn Macon into a more vibrant community. And, more importantly, they stepped out and applied last October.

If you are interested in applying for the Knight Cities Challenge, check out their website at For those students who would like to know more about the Quality Enhancement Plan and their visionary panels, check out



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