Minnesota high school girls create app for teens facing challenges

A small town school in southern Minnesota is using technology to solve some big time problems facing many teens. Their smart phone app helps students reach out for help if they're overwhelmed with the challenges of life like anxiety and bullying. 

This idea recently won a statewide competition. Now these Cleveland High School students are taking on other innovators from across the country who are trying to make a difference. 

“We all know each other and care about each other,” Hannah Zimprich said.

A group of girls in Kelly McMillen's high school business class won the Verizon innovative app challenge, a statewide competition requiring students to solve real world problems -- “They had their disagreements but I didn't have anything to do with it, they fixed it all themselves,” McMillen said.

This K-12 school received $5,000 and the girls got brand new tablets. But for 16-year-old Olivia Kester, trying to help others who’ve been bullied or struggled with personal hurting was much more important.

“I've just been called ugly, and probably names that I shouldn't say,” Kester said. “That's kinda what the app is for, to just go to a friend if you don't have one.”

It’s also what inspired the idea -- “I think this is more of a real world problem that many people have gone through and will probably go through,” Kaleigh Mccabe said.

After trial and error, they came up with the name PAC (Precise Advice Counselors). PAC is an app meant to communicate with people who are struggling with multiple types of problems in hopes of having a positive impact on their lives.

“There’s no judging with someone you don't know on an app. You don't have to be afraid if they're going to tell someone since we're from a small school,” Hannah Zimprich said.

Part of the project required them to develop a short video demonstrating how it works, even without any producing or acting experience. 

As the Minnesota representatives, they're now facing off against teams from every other state for the privilege of working with tech experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and $15,000 in cash to make this small town idea into a big time reality.

This team is currently placed 9th in the national voting process which ends at the end of the month.  If you want to support them, click HERE.