Five teams focused on serving children and youth recently won the 10th annual YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition (SEIC).
Hosted by the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis, in partnership with the YouthBridge Community Foundation, the competition also receives support from the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis and the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis.
This year, 10 finalists vied for funding awards totaling more than $100,000. The winning enterprises center on education and personal development.
The 2015 SEIC awards are:
- $30,000 YouthBridge Award to the MakerShare Initiative of The Disruption Department, a local organization that provides materials and spaces for students interested in science, technology, engineering, art or math fields to create and build things, geared to students in schools that lack such resources;
- $25,000 Lutheran Foundation Award to Virtual Child Care Business Center, which aims to change the business models of early child care and education programs to save time, share costs, and increase quality;
- $25,000 Daughters of Charity Foundation Award to Magnificent Potential, which creates unique, high-quality screen-printed T-shirts and provides employment and personal development to local high school students;
- $25,000 Skandalaris Award to Code Red Education, which teaches first- through 12th-grade students computer science and computer coding to prepare them for technology careers; and
- $5,000 student award to Teaching Engineering to St Louis Adolescents (TESLA), which empowers disadvantaged youth through dynamic after-school clubs to expose them to various STEM principles through hands-on engineering design challenges that foster creativity, innovation and critical thinking.
The competition is open to Washington University students as well as local social entrepreneurs, and several finalists included Washington University alumni.
Alum David Carroll founded Magnificent Potential through his role as chief program officer of Neighborhood Houses, a nonprofit serving the St. Louis community for over 100 years.
Nicholas Okafor, a junior in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, founded TESLA and his team includes several undergraduate classmates.
The YouthBridge SEIC was founded 10 years ago. Since its inception, it has awarded more than $1.2 million to over 40 winning social ventures. Many past participants in the competition attended the awards ceremony, and three past winners provided updates on their ventures as part of the program. All referred to the value of the funding as well as the connections made through the competition.
Michael Howard, YouthBridge Community Foundation CEO, opened the program, saying the 10-year partnership with Washington University has planted the seeds of the region’s developing ecosystem of social entrepreneurship. He added that the competition is a great example of community collaboration.
“Organizations are feeding hungry children, providing job training, battling sex trafficking, providing clean water, access to healthy food, and supporting education initiatives” thanks to the competition, Howard said. “All the teams, past and current, are doing and will do great things.”
“We are very grateful for the support that the YouthBridge Community Foundation has provided for the last 10 years,” said Emre Toker, managing director of the Skandalaris Center.
“Our students have the potential and the desire to address the world’s most pressing social problems,” Toker said. “Along with our colleagues at the Brown School and at The Mission Center L3C, we will continue to train the next group of social entrepreneurs on campus and in the community and look forward to the impact they will make.”