Megan Beck, 17, of Overland Park, Kan., a senior at Blue Valley West High School, started a party-planning company and used the profits to purchase fluorescent-light shades in classrooms for autistic students. While volunteering in a special-education classroom, Megan learned that the brightness of its fluorescent lights distracted autistic children, but that there was no money for shades. After brainstorming with her mother, Megan decided to raise funds for the shades by going into the business of providing entertainment at children's birthday parties, Girl Scout meetings and team parties.
To market her new "Girly Girl" company, Megan produced and distributed flyers, spoke at a Girl Scout service unit meeting, and communicated with local teachers. With a loan from her parents, she purchased supplies, then recruited 15 volunteers from area high schools and planned party activities that included games, songs, crafts, dance, and beauty treatments. Megan ended up hosting 16 parties attended by 185 young girls, earning more than $1,000. That was enough to buy 48 shades for nine autistic classrooms in her school district. "By providing these shades, the learning environment of autistic children was greatly improved," said Megan. "I also educated hundreds of adults and young people in my community about the needs of children with autism."