Young Entrepreneurs from St. Elizabeth Present to NBA


New York (July 24, 2014) — The venerable law firm of Kaye Scholer L.L.P., located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, was recently the site of a social entrepreneurship challenge featuring underprivileged middle-school students from St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy hosted by the Middy Fund.

IMG_1156The students presented ideas for websites, apps and programs they had designed to eradicate problems they faced as students to 100 in the crowd, many of whom are leaders in finance, education and successful entrepreneurs.

The MiddyFund was founded by two recent very passionate NYU college grades, Nisha Parikh and Savera Weerasinghe, whose goal is to empower middle-schoolers to find innovative solutions, learn business skills and validate projects by sourcing funding with coaching from college mentors.

With unbounded excitement and enthusiasm, the five finalist teams competed with each other for the first place prize, which was the culmination of an intensive week of preparation. The summer challenge for the 10-13 year olds was to develop an application or website that can be collaboratively made with a marketing executive from the NBA to enhance all-around performance of middle-school students.

IMG_1070Eighth-grade student Samantha had the following to say: “The biggest lesson I learned was to never give up. Go out and show them what you’ve got! Show them your best! Most importantly, I learned that everyone can succeed.”

In four intensive days, students developed their own commercials, filmed them, created an extensive entrepreneurial solution for their problems using design thinking and pitched to a panel of professional judges in an Executive Board Room on Park Avenue.

Jenines, a seventh grader, summarized the longer term benefits for the students provided by the event: “MiddyFund can help me achieve my goal because they teach me how to present in front of people. When I become a fashion designer you have to present to sell the clothes that you made.”

The winning team was NBA Shape Up, developed by middle-school students Jonathan, John and Cesar. Their entrepreneurial solution is to develop a fitness application that integrates fun games, a calorie tracker and healthy recipes to help middle school students stay healthy and reduce obesity.

Damien Escobar, a two-time Emmy winning violinist who served as a judge, conveyed the feeling in the crowd: “It was wonderful and heartwarming to see the enthusiasm, creativity and maturity of the kids. It was also a great reminder of how many important things are going on beyond the narrow worlds we live in.”IMG_1129

The MiddyFund plans to continue to empower middle-school students to use design thinking and entrepreneurial skills to find innovative solutions to problems students face.

St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy, residing in Ozone Park since 1885, is a natural partner school as its mission is to empower self-reliant leaders. As for the young social entrepreneurs at the event, they will continue to be worked with and mentored by the volunteers provided by the Middy Fund for years to come.

“It’s great to work with the team from Middy Fund and develop a program that obviously engaged all the kids and added knowledge while having fun in a structured learning environment,” said Joseph Sawe, chairman of the board for St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy. “We look forward to partnering with them for many years.”

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