COM alum helping create apps for nonprofits

Wonder which plants survive blistering Gulf Coast heat? An app could help with that.
 
Local Leaves is an app that Grace Schwarz, College of the Mainland dual credit alum, and others in the Bonner Leaders Program at the University of Houston are helping develop for a group of 11 nonprofits. Partners include the Cockrell Butterfly Center, Mercer Gardening Center, Houston Audubon, Garden Club of Houston, Katy Prairie Conservancy, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Forest Service, Urban Harvest, Native Plant Society, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Houston Chronicle.
 
The app would facilitate individuals’ search for native plants matching specific criteria such as the color of flowers or whether it needs sun or shade.
 
“It allows people who know nothing about plants to search for plants,” explained Schwarz. “It’s to try and get people to plant native (plants).”
 
Planting native plants is not only helpful to the Texas ecosystem but helps ensure new plants flourish in the Gulf Coast climate.
 
As graphic design, computer science and other honors students work on the app,
Schwarz’s role is “communicating with partners, thinking about the bigger idea of what the app should do.”

The app is being designed for use by many nonprofits.
 
The project is one of many that Schwarz has delved into with the Bonner Leaders Program, open to honors students who apply.
 
Bonner Leaders Program students also helped create an app for Houston Farmers Markets, partnering with the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the Houston sustainable farming organization Urban Harvest.
 
“The idea was to provide an app that allowed users to search for a market or vendor, and (it) allowed vendors to upload what they were selling each week,” said Schwarz. “It also provided food safety tips for preparing fresh produce and meats.”
  
Excelling in both volunteer projects and academically with a 3.6 GPA, Schwarz feels her experience as a COM dual credit student helped launch her to success.
 
“I think professor (Dalel) Serda’s (English) class greatly prepared me – the constant reading, time management and (revising) drafts,” said Schwarz. “If I hadn’t taken that, I probably would have drowned in The Human Situation, a (UH) English class required of everybody. She taught me to let go of an idea that wasn’t as good.”
 
As a junior and senior at Clear Falls High School, Schwarz enrolled in two classes each semester, graduating with 24 credit hours.
 
“That will help me graduate early and cut costs,” said Schwarz. “It really does help set the pace of the classes, time management and being responsible for your actions.”
 
A biotechnology major, Schwarz anticipates upcoming projects with the Bonner Leaders Program this fall, such as a Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day to recruit students to volunteer.
 
 “(The program) has been so much more than I ever expected,” said Schwarz. “I would never have connected with the students and the community outside the university if I were not in the program.”

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