NORTH CANTON — Yes. No. Nothing. I don’t know.
Teens can have a limited conversational palette when they don’t feel like talking, but students at Hoover High School have created conversation-starting cards that they said spur meaningful talks between parents and children.
The students, all seniors in Mike Grady’s business management class, call their creation Simple Starters and developed it through Junior Achievement, a program that fosters entrepreneurship.
Simple Starters Inc. CEO Nicholas Friedl said the team looked for a problem that needed a solution and settled on the topic of teen mental health after reading the results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of local youths in the wake of teen suicides.
The CDC surveyed more than 15,000 area students in seventh grade through 12th grade last year, and the stat that caught the eye of the Simple Starters crew was that almost 60 percent reported feeling lonely, Friedl said.
From their own experiences, team members said their peers tend to be introverted, always focused on their phones, their heads down as they walk the school hallways. So, they developed a pack of cards with questions designed to help teens have conversations with their parents and their friends.
“We as teens know what teens want to talk about,” Friedl said.
Simple Starters cards come in two flavors: “fun” and “sincere.” Each pack has 35 cards, and each card has questions designed to prompt a conversation.
“It requires thought,” Friedl said. “You can’t just sit there and say yes or no.”
The “fun” pack has questions such as, “Describe your dream vacation. Who are the five people you would bring?” and “If you could choose anywhere to live, where would it be and why?”
The “sincere” pack touches on deeper topics and is design to lay the groundwork for a child to talk to a parent when they have a serious problem, said Zach Gotter, chief financial officer of Simple Starters.
“Sincere” cards have questions such as, “What is something that you have fallen in love with? Will you be involved with this for the rest of your life?” and “How would others describe you as a person? How would you describe yourself?”
After brainstorming the questions, the students ran them past the school psychologist. They also tested the cards with fifth-graders at Greentown Intermediate School.
“I can take no credit for this,” teacher Mike Grady said. “They came to me with the idea and I said, ‘That’s pretty good. Let’s run with that.’ ”
Simple Starters cards went on the market in late November and are sold online at SimpleStartersJA.com and Amazon.com. You can also buy them at local businesses Lees Bees Boutique and Beyesly’s Restaurant. They cost $10 a pack, plus $4.99 for shipping if ordered online.
Standard Printing Co. in Canton donated the printing of the first 1,000 packs, and Simple Starters has sold a little more than half that inventory, said Alexandra Bercaw, head of human resources and public relations for Simple Starters.
The company is donating 40.5 cents of every dollar from its first 1,000 sales to charity. Those charities include developing a “link crew” at Perry High School to help rising freshmen acclimate to high school, and the Dymonte Thomas Community Foundation started by the Marlington High School grad who played safety for the Denver Broncos last season.
Simple Starters connected with Thomas through Grady, who used to teach at Marlington.
Later this year, Simple Starters and the two other Junior Achievement companies in Grady’s class will present their products at a local trade show and apply to enter the Junior Achievement national competition that a Hoover High School company won last year.