Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reflecting on Startup Corps graduation event for Science Leadership Academy participants

While there are many individuals and groups doing very meaningful work educating high school students in the Philadelphia area, few do it as effectively as Rich Sedmak and Christian Kunkel of Startup Corps.

For the second year in a row, Peirce had the honor of hosting a graduation ceremony on its campus for students from the Science Leadership Academy who had successfully completed the program for the year. Once again, it was a fantastic experience to participate in the event.

When I attended last year’s graduation event, I knew very little about Startup Corps and what to expect. What I discovered was a one-of-a-kind program that teaches life skills, business skills, and social responsibility to high school students by facilitating their creation of businesses. Not fictitious or simulated businesses, but real businesses that positively impact students’ communities. This year, as one of the speakers at the event, I told the following story of my prior year’s experience.

I had spent an afternoon listening to a half dozen outstanding presentations by Startup Corps students about businesses that ranged from making prom attendance more accessible and affordable to opening a recording studio for peaceful, socially responsible rap music. I was captivated.

That evening I recall getting to my car and phoning my wife, Debbie, to let her know I was leaving for home. She asked how I liked the event. The next thing I knew forty minutes had passed, and I was sitting in my driveway still talking about Startup Corps and the students.

Since that first introduction to the program, Peirce has taken a more active role with Startup Corps. While our Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) group continued to serve as mentors to the Startup Corps students as they did during the first year of our partnership, Peirce became a Founding Sponsor for the Science Leadership Academy group in the 2010-2011 academic year, providing financial and in-kind support.

In April, I had the chance to visit the group and learn more about the projects as the students prepared for their final presentations. Playing a larger part in the students’ successes made this year’s graduation even more moving. Once again, the presentations were phenomenal and the students demonstrated knowledge, maturity, and responsibility well beyond their years.

And the journey is not yet complete. All presenters will receive $200 from Startup Corps to continue their work next year. In addition, Startup Corps is hosting a citywide competition for all partner schools on May 25, in which four groups from Science Leadership Academy will compete for $5,000 in scholarship and prize money. Best of luck to 322x Productions and Creations, BloxApps, Enticing, and PhreshPhilly on your final presentations!

Like Peirce, Startup Corps is in the business of transforming lives and we’re very pleased to have the opportunity to join them in fulfilling their mission and in celebrating their students’ wonderful achievements. Congratulations graduates and best of luck in all your endeavors!

Read on below to learn more about the projects presented at this year’s graduation ceremony.
  1. Enticing: A fashion and clothing design company operated by Newon Dennis and Elona Myftaraj, who design unique clothes that reflect their artistic interests and feelings.
  2. WeLovePets: Trevor Hinton’s business assists families with their animal shelter pet searches by cataloging pets and their attributes and assessing pet/person compatibility to help match pets with families.
  3. Headjacks: A headphone repair company run by Basheer Lewis aims to provide an accelerated repair process, enhanced audio experience, and an affordable alternative to buying expensive replacement headphones.
  4. SLA Sticks: Tenzin Ngawang is designing stickers to help raise school spirit and awareness for important causes.
  5. BloxApps: A mobile software development company run by Blase Biello (BloxApps on Facebook, BloxApps on Twitter).
  6. Freedom Awakening: A youth outreach initiative centered on the Freedom Awakening Center (FAC) in South Philly run by Gisela Giolafina.
  7. New Wave: Renaissance comic books created by Ibrahim Ridley (New Wave on Facebook).
  8. 322x Productions and Creations: A music video production company run by Jason Davis that focuses on creative youth generating quality products at a reasonable cost (322x on Facebook, 322x on YouTube).
  9. PK Club: A club for kids and adults that allows parents to have a fun night out while simultaneously entertaining their children designed by Mike Sanders.
  10. PhreshPhilly: A community development initiative spearheaded by Anthony Torrance, Douglass Wallace, and Rashaun Williams that is trying to counter the perception that Philadelphia is an unattractive city by changing low-income and impoverished areas through higher education and volunteerism (PhreshPhilly on Facebook, PhreshPhilly on Twitter).