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ESTEAM Pitch Competition Ignites Entrepreneurial Mindsets in Appalachian Students
Posted on January 18, 2022 in Uncategorized

Last month, EntreEd and the Appalachian Regional Commission partnered to bring the ESTEAM Pitch Competition to middle- and high-school students across Appalachia. The pitch competition provided students the opportunity to ignite their entrepreneurial mindset and engage in meaningful entrepreneurship experiences within their local community. For some students this was their first experience with entrepreneurship education. Others expanded upon their previous entrepreneurial knowledge and improved upon pitches from the spring ESTEAM Pitch Contest Series.

65 teams of student businesses participated in Round One of the competition, which included digital submission of an elevator pitch. After internal review, a total of 14 teams moved on to compete in Round Two, completion of the ESTEAM Business Canvas and a live pitch held virtually via Zoom. The 14 teams of finalists represented Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Over $5,000 in cash prizes and classroom stipends were awarded to Appalachian students and educators.

During the live pitch, many innovative ideas from students were presented in the format of a five-minute pitch presentation followed by a three minute Q&A with esteemed judges from across the region. “I was blown away by the ideas and professionalism presented by these student entrepreneurs at this competition,” said competition judge, Nich Haber, Director of STEM & CTE at Certiport, a Pearson VUE company. “Entrepreneurship education encourages young people to identify problems in their community and solve them in ways that create sustainable jobs.'' Competition judge, Bill Woodrum, Coordinator of WV Entrepreneurship Network said, "I was really impressed with the business plans that were laid out by the students in the ESTEAM pitch. These were not far flung, fanciful ideas but solidly grounded business plans by young entrepreneurs. Even more impressive, some of them were already in business and earning money from their endeavors. Appalachia's future is bright with a young generation of entrepreneurs like the students we saw at the competition."

Emilee Metcalf of Clinton High School in Anderson County, TN took home first place with her custom clothing business, Patch Works.

Jonah Hardin, Trista Allison, Bria Haines, Elexus Graves, Trinity Mickens, Lyden Raxter, and Ciera Ward of Murphy High School in Cherokee County, North Carolina earned second place for their safe syringe alternative, Smart Syringe.

Madison Blankenship, Emelyn Bumgarner, Emma Miller, and Andre Billie of Smokey Mountain Elementary in Jackson County, North Carolina placed third for their innovative and protective phone case, Nine Lives Phone Case.

EntreEd recognizes the vital contribution educators made in supporting this effort. Educator mentors that were paired with each winning team also won classroom stipends to support the expansion of entrepreneurship efforts. Educator winners included: Christa Frost (Clinton High School, TN), Tonia Forrister (Murphy High School, NC), and Scott Miller (Smokey Mountain Elementary, NC). Tonia Forrister said, “As an educator, I strive to find ways to engage students in meaningful, purposeful lessons that will have a lasting impact and EntreEd's competition does just that. The students learned so much about entrepreneurship and what it truly takes to start and maintain a business. Not only did they gain knowledge of financing, marketing, production, etc, they used problem-solving skills and team collaboration. For me, what impressed me most about the competition and my team in particular, is the desire for our youth to truly make a difference in this world. Many of the proposed businesses were designed to improve peoples' quality of life, the communities they are growing up in, and tackle real world problems such as drug abuse. Too many times we focus on the negativity in the world but anyone who had the privilege to be a part of this competition and hear these students' pitches, would walk away hopeful that our future will be bright in their hands.”

EntreEd is grateful for everyone involved in the ESTEAM Pitch Contest Series that helped make it a success. Recordings of the live pitch events are available to watch on YouTube. Stay tuned to hear stories from student winners and educators on the EntreEd Talk Podcast. The ESTEAM Pitch Competition was created as an initiative of EntreEd’s Fostering Self ESTEAM in Appalachia’s Emerging Workforce project, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The project helps middle and high school programs in a seven-state region infuse Entrepreneurship into academic classrooms with a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) initiatives.To learn more about the project and the ESTEAM Pitch Competition, contact Amber Ravenscroft, ESTEAM Project Director, at aravenscroft@edvgroup.org.


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