Contributed by Laura Brogdon-Primavera, Manager of Programs and Operations at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and founder of the YEPex Youth Summit. Laura has been with UNCW since 2012 and has a passion for programs related to youth entrepreneurship, the creative economy, and applied learning.
There’s something very special about spending time and having conversations with kids and young people, even more now in these uncertain times. It’s a reminder that while they feel our energy and sense something is ‘off’, they are still able to show us how to be resilient, put things in perspective, and appreciate what we can do, rather than focus on what we can’t control.
Regional K-12 schools have been out since March 16, an entire month, and in that month, the CIE has seen 14 incredible business concepts from 9-12th graders from Onslow, Pender, and New Hanover counties. These student teams are competing in the Chancellor’s Fifth Annual High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. Ideas include concepts to improve litter detection, make medical industry improvements, offer customer service solutions, build security technologies, assist with athletic recruitment, and other interesting ideas.
We considered cancelling this year’s competition when the schools closed – but these students made our decision for us. They continued sending in their submissions. If they weren’t stopping – neither were we. These students were voluntarily, without class credit, taking advantage of the online competition to showcase their ideas to improve their lives and those around them.
Because of their commitment to ideas they believe in, and their willingness to take on new challenges in troubling times, the CIE is responding to this inspiring spirit of entrepreneurship by hosting the first ever VIRTUAL YEPex Youth Summit. Originally planned for May 1 in Kenan Auditorium with 300 8-12th grade students from across the region, we’re now hosting this event almost exactly as planned via a Zoom Webinar (minus the cookout on the lawn, of course).
Brandon Bigg B Hickman, local radio personality, program director at Cumulus Media and Wilmington native (a graduate of New Hanover High School) will serve as our emcee for the second year in a row. Brian Hamilton, successful entrepreneur and founder of the Hamilton Foundation, is the featured keynote speaker. Nicole Renee, Topsail High School graduate, incoming freshman at UNCW, and founder of Kickflip, a custom design company that believes fashion is sporting clothes that are uniquely ‘you’ that represent who you are and what you love, will present the youth entrepreneur keynote. The top six teams will compete in the final round of the Chancellor’s Competition and winners will be announced live at the event.
Registration is open for all 8-12th grade students here and will be streamed live on Facebook for parents, teachers, and everyone else who’s interested in joining in.
In times of uncertainty, we still have choices. We can stand frozen in fear from the unknown or we can lean on our entrepreneurial mindset and overcome challenges, improve our skills, and take action. This time, we choose to view this situation as an opportunity to reach more, learn more, and create more. Thank you to the young people who have inspired us to think and do in new ways.
The CIE is here to help entrepreneurs keep their ventures moving forward. Learn more at www.uncw.edu/cie.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie
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