From the Sheboygan Press.  Reporter Marina Affo

SHEBOYGAN JAKE’S CAFE – Chrissy McAtee wants to show Sheboygan the complex nature of drug addiction. The 17-year-old knows addiction can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life, but it doesn’t determine who that person is.

As someone with friends and family members who’ve dealt with addiction, McAtee aims to shine a light on the people who suffer from the disease.

McAtee is part of a group of four Sheboygan North High School students who have been selected as this year’s Innovator Fellows. Each fellow will spend the academic year working on a different project aimed at improving the city in an innovative way. On many afternoons, the group — McAtee along with Maddie Green, Kiana Yang and Chloe Bohn — can be found at Jake’s Cafe, the Sheboygan coworking space, where they each are planning projects meant to shine a light on local issues and better their community.

McAtee’s goal is to create an art installation that depicts what it’s like inside the minds and bodies of people who are suffering from addiction.Her project is still in its early stages and she hasn’t chosen a medium yet. She said her goal is to create an installation that tells people’s stories and that’s big enough for visitors to walk through. She wants to build it at one of the museums in Sheboygan.

McAtee, a senior this year, hopes that showing what addiction feels like will make people more sympathetic to a problem that is facing so many in the community. In 2016, there were 827 prescription opioid and heroin deaths in the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“It’s all about light, and figuring out how to remove the clouds that are covering your inner light,” she said. “The clouds are perceptions, or just anything that gets in the way of your happiness.”

Green said the idea came from her own love of happiness and her understanding that happiness often comes from within.

Her project goes beyond creating a mural. She will also research the impact that murals can have in communities.

Her project will incorporate a hashtag that visitors to the mural can use on social media platforms to expand the project’s reach. She then hopes to start a movement through art and happiness that grows beyond Sheboygan.

“I think happiness is just super contagious. You know, you see someone smile and you want to smile right back?” she said. “I personally think I’m a pretty happy person. I want everybody to feel that.”

Before she started the fellowship, Green planned to follow in her dad’s footsteps and become a medical doctor. The fellowship, however, has exposed her to other potential paths, she said.

Green, a junior, is the youngest of the fellows at 16. She grew up in Sheboygan and loves the city’s friendly people and cute businesses.

Kiana Yang loves bubble tea and food trucks. The 17-year-old also has a keen interest in business and a part-time job at an accounting firm.

When it came time to pitch a project she was passionate about, she decided she wanted to create an in-depth business plan for a bubble tea food truck. The truck will have a multitude of flavors including coconut and mango, two of Yang’s favorites.

A food truck connoisseur, Yang goes to food truck festivals throughout Sheboygan during the summer. She and her family also travel to Milwaukee and Chicago to get bubble tea, but she feels Sheboygan has a market for its own bubble tea food truck — and she wants to be the one to do it.

She also hopes to use the project to highlight the Asian culture that is present throughout the city. Yang is Hmong-American and believes a project like this will open people’s eyes to the rich beauty of Asian foods around Sheboygan.

Although she won’t actually open the truck by the end of the academic year, she hopes to come back after college and launch it in the future.

Chloe Bohn is shining a light on youth affected by domestic abuse

Chloe Bohn has seen the toll domestic abuse has on children, and she wants to make others aware of what these children go through.

A steady volunteer at Safe Harbor, a domestic abuse treatment center in Sheboygan, she works with not only the women who are victims of domestic violence, but also their children.

Through her project, she plans to show other kids and the greater Sheboygan community what these young victims have suffered.

Bohn wants to create both a video to share throughout the community and a website to help kids in distress. The website will have resources for children who need to talk to someone or find a safe place to go.

She’ll be interviewing kids from around the state to create her video. Bohn wants the children in the video, and those who may see it, to feel empowered and to show them that that they are not alone.

She said she will soon be graduating but hopes her website and video will live on as a resource for kids who are present during domestic abuse situations.

Although Bohn plans to leave Sheboygan for college in a year’s time, she hopes to someday settle back in town. She likes being near Lake Michigan, as well as the sense of community in Sheboygan.

A fellowship designed to help improve Sheboygan

The Innovator Fellowship started about four years ago when language arts and social studies teacher, Jay Johnson, and former Sheboygan North principal, Jason Bull teamed up with Tryg Jacobson of Jake’s Café.

Each student is mentored by Jacobson, a former marketing executive. He helps each fellow create marketing and business plans for their projects, and connects them with community members who can provide further support throughout the year.

Right now, the Innovator Fellowship is only offered to three or four students per year from Sheboygan North. Its organizers, however, have aims to expand to other schools.

“The Innovator Fellowship students have this wonderful, rare opportunity to come into Jake’s Café and to mix with (community members) and know that they can safely discuss what they might not feel so comfortable discussing in the school situation,” Jacobson said.

Sheboyganites helping Sheboyganites is the essence of the city and it’s what makes this so Sheboygan.