Two students and four nonprofits win innovation awards

Establishing a skateboard park for teens and providing meaningful jobs for marginalized women are among the ideas that won two students and four local nonprofit organizations a total of $125,000 at the second annual Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition (SEIC) Awards Ceremony May 3 in Simon Hall’s May Auditorium.

The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the YouthBridge Association partnered to create the SEIC, which was launched in September 2005. The partnership has hosted a series of workshops and networking events for participants and last year, announced its inaugural grants.

Leslie D. Michelson, founder, CEO, investor, adviser and director for a portfolio of entrepreneurial health care, technology and real estate companies, delivered the keynote address at this year’s awards ceremony.

The SEIC is designed to foster growth for social entrepreneurs who craft innovative processes, approaches and solutions to help resolve social issues. The winning nonprofit teams successfully proved that their ventures have social value and that their group has the ability to implement its plans. This year’s winning teams were selected from a field of 24 entrants who submitted their initial business proposals after attending a series of YouthBridge workshops that began in September. The YouthBridge Association is a 135-year-old organization with the mission to fund and support multiple innovative youth-focused social ventures.

During the past 10 months, the contestants participated in a series of open judging events and received feedback on their ideas.

This year’s winners are:

• The Bridge St. Louis received the $30,000 YouthBridge Award. The Bridge will use its award to establish a facility in St. Louis similar to one it operates in Joplin, Mo., which offers teens a skateboard park and concert venue. The group also provides computer labs, field trips and other fee-based services. The Bridge has operated in Joplin for the past six years.

• One World Neighborhood Café received the $30,000 Incarnate Word Foundation Award. One World enhances the lives of socially marginalized women and their families by creating meaningful jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits. One World also offers a variety of educational opportunities in the food-services industry to prepare women for success with future employers.

• The Miriam Center won the $30,000 Deaconess Foundation Award to fund an expansion of programs offered by The Miriam School. The center will address the difficulties families face finding quality, centrally located and coordinated therapies and services for children with learning disabilities. Using fee-based services, the center will offer diagnostics, therapies, tutoring, enrichment programs and educational consulting.

• The Nest received the $25,000 Skandalaris Award. The Nest helps women in developing countries create sustainable income for their families by providing micro-credit loans for the creation or maintenance of art-based businesses. To fund these loans, Nest has partnered with more than 45 designers from six countries to create an exclusive line of merchandise. The product line is sold to boutiques and is available through The Nest online marketplace.

Two students each received a $5,000 award:

• Joy Clarke supports MOAR for Life — South Grand Senior Ministry Social Venture founded by a member of the St. Louis community. MOAR for Life helps senior citizens safely live in their homes while leading physically and spiritually active lives. Clarke will receive a master of social work at the May 18 Commencement ceremonies.

• Felix Lloyd founded Cents City, an online virtual environment that develops young peoples’ skills in math, reading and other subjects while building their capacity to become financially savvy adults. Lloyd is a graduate student in English in Arts & Sciences.

The Deaconess Foundation and the Incarnate Word Foundation also sponsor the competition.