COLUMBUS—Meandering through the halls, 18-year-old Payton McCarthy heads to class at Westerville Central High School. 

  • A high school senior caught the attention of the Westerville Education Department after submitting an idea for a grant slated for teachers to win
  • The idea won her $2,200 in grant money
  • The idea sparked the development of the Student Education Foundation

Like any other student, she takes a seat and gets to work.

On this day, she's working her way through math problems—but, in chemistry class.

After all, it's end of the year, exams are winding down and this chemistry class is, well, now study hall. 

She hasn't checked out of her senior year yet, but she's got a lot on her mind—something that no other student in the district has done—fully implementing a Stop The Bleed program at her school.

Stop The Bleed campaigns train bystanders in an emergency before professional help arrives​ when someone is bleeding out. 

"In lockdown situations, emergency personnel can’t get in. And the number one cause of death of trauma patients is bleeding out, " said McCarthy.

McCarthy says the Parkland school shooting in Florida, protests that followed, and a tourniquet training inspired her. 

"I realized that this skill would be very helpful if we brought it back for school emergencies," she said.

Reaching out to Ohio Health, she got free training for teachers and some in the community.

But she needed more tourniquets—small bands to stop bleeding— if there was ever an emergency, which would go in the school's survival mode "Go Buckets."

For McCarthy, getting her idea implemented was just a dream, but she got enough courage to pitch the idea to her principal.

Not stopping there, the high school senior took a leap of faith and applied for a grant from the Westerville Education Foundation that was slated for teachers to win. 

“I found the grant application online and I was like, I’m gonna do this. So, I filled out everything that a teacher would fill out and I submitted it,” said McCarthy.

To her surprise, they awarded her $2,200 for her idea.

“I cried in my car for like an hour like...for 10 minutes. I was so excited…over the moon,” said McCarthy.

Executive Director of the foundation, Colleen Moidu says, McCarthy bold move opened the board's eyes.

"It made us realize that these students are capable and have ideas for how they want to change their school and community,” said Moidu, Student Education Foundation administrator. “They just need to be given the platform and the resources. "

And that's when they decided to start the Student Education Foundation— made up of students from all three Westerville high schools. 

"We created the Student Education Foundation to allow students not only to apply for grant funding for their ideas, but it’s students making the decisions on what grants to fund, " said Moidu.

Now just three months in, the student-led foundation receives innovative ideas, secures grant money, and funds student projects. 

"We plan to host a think tank in October where we’re gonna gather together any student that has an idea for improving their classroom learning experience or community. And we’re going to meet together with district personnel and community leaders. We’re gonna help refine those ideas, " said Moidu.

And then students will be paired mentors who have won grants before, giving them a chance to see their ideas become a reality. 

In the meantime, McCarthy continues work on her idea of getting tourniquets not just in her school, but every school in the district. 

But now she has extra help from Ohio Health.

"They’ve agreed to supply an $18,000 grant to us to purchase a tourniquet for every classroom in the Westerville district and then elementary schools will get the pediatric tourniquets," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says she never imagined that her idea would go this far, but she's excited because this does more than help students in the classroom.

"If you see a car crash or you cut yourself at home, this skill can be utilized anywhere you go if you’re ready for it."

Amazed by the support she's received, McCarthy is ready to pay it forward. 

Now that the student education foundation is moving forward, they have put their focus on environmental issues and mental health.

They're implementing a mental health program called “Our Spaces,” which is being piloted at Westerville Central High School.

It gives students at high schools designated spaces to go to when undergoing mental health challenges.

In the meantime, students say they expect to award their first round of grants early next year.