Presenters at Ignite Staunton, some of them Mary Baldwin students, must pack their big ideas in small packages. They are ready to unfold innovative plans to make the community better, but they have to complete their presentations in five minutes in front of an energetic crowd. Ticking off their time are 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

Part open-mike night, part forum for change, Ignite Staunton is a collaborative event in which the audience can give feedback to speakers and vote for the night’s People’s Choice Award. Three Mary Baldwin students presented at the October event and at least two more will present this month.

Aisha Ford at Ignite Staunton

Tegan Sorensen ’13 and Jessica Hartzog ’12 described an idea to create a greenhouse on campus which would provide the dining hall with fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Aisha Ford ’13 (pictured at right with Michael Reeps, fellow presenter) talked about giving voice to the hungry in the Shenandoah Valley through creative anonymity projects similar to PostSecret or the Paper Plate Project. Ford’s presentation was awarded second place at the last Ignite session.

Mary Baldwin will give three $500 grants to the best student-led community project ideas to help transform them into reality. The prize money is part of a $5,000 grant that the college received from the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, with the goal of increasing social entrepreneurship and showing how students can be assets to the larger community.

Other concepts presented at Ignite Staunton have included creating an outdoor space for the performing arts downtown and a belly dancing program for teens to help increase their self-esteem. Reeps is the designer of Staunton Fresh, a website which connects local farmers and producers with purchasers of local foods.

Ignite first took place in Seattle in 2006 and has since spread across the world to more than 100 cities and communities. Ignite Staunton is Virginia’s first Ignite event, and has taken place on the third Thursdays of September, October, and November at the Darjeeling CafĂ© on Beverley Street. The event begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. and the presentations begin around 7 p.m.

Students interested in presenting their community-centered project at Ignite Staunton on November 17 should contact Robyn Stegman for application information. The deadline for signing up is November 11.