On Sunday, December 4th student teams presented proposals to a panel of alumni and faculty as part of YEP (Young Entrepreneurship Program) at UWC-USA. The teams pitched their ideas to a panel of faculty and alumni – three alumni panelists judged the presentations remotely from Boston and another alumnus from San Francisco joined the others in Montezuma. YEP provides mentoring, funding, and support for students who propose actionable and innovative solutions to real-world problems. Six teams of students earned various awards by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the problem, proposing an effective solution, and establishing realistic execution strategies:
Auxilium – A multi-lingual, online platform to help immigrants integrate into their new communities more effectively
B.U.S. (Biodiesel Utilization System) – A strategy to use dining hall and locally-produced grease to fuel big school buses
College Points – An online platform that encourages large companies to fund college tuition with the aim of reducing college debt in the United States
100 Second Chances – A pilot program to reduce heroin usage in the Las Vegas, NM community
Home Sweet Home – A campaign to help raise funds, resources, and community engagement for the Samaritan House, as an initial step towards addressing homelessness in New Mexico
HAYA – An app to facilitate the distribution of local donations in our community
The B.U.S. team won a startup accelerator trip to San Francisco while the College Points team won a trip to Boston -- these teams will participate in custom-designed Project Week trips in March to further develop their projects and pitch their ideas to UWC-USA alumni and industry leaders. As the UWC-USA Aurora finalist, the Auxilium team will advance to compete with other finalists selected from other UWC campuses which will feature a $5000 award to help implement the winning project. In addition, the 100 Second Chances, Home Sweet Home, and HAYA teams each received funding to implement their projects locally. All award-winning teams will be mentored by faculty and alumni throughout the rest of the year to help them learn how to bring an idea from pitch to implementation. Di Ye, experiential learning consultant and YEP adviser, felt that the pitch event was an opportunity for students to practice and apply important skills to issues they feel passionate about: "Over the course of developing their pitch, the students learned that any big ideas must start small with a local focus. They learned how to research and identify a specific problem worth solving, how to build a team that works through unexpected obstacles, how to engage with local customers/users to design an effective solution and a sustainable operational model, and how to tell a captivating story about their initiative to gain support from the community."