N.C. A&T Students Finish Social Entrepreneurship Class with Award-Winning Ideas

By Jackie Torok / 04/21/2020 Academic Affairs

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (April 21, 2020) – Four undergraduates and a Ph.D. student representing North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University presented their bold and innovative ideas for bringing change to their communities during a virtual showcase.

The event marked the successful conclusion of an eight-week Inclusive Social Entrepreneurship Master Class offered by Echoing Green, in partnership with Fund II Foundation.

Theresa Davis, a University Honors Program student who is studying elementary education and business management, earned the top prize of $2,500 for her project, Dare2Teach, which corrects longstanding errors, omissions and misrepresentations in how African American history is taught in schools.

“Theresa, you are illustrating and underscoring the need to attack cultural hegemony as a dangerous tool to attack the power and beauty of black folks. Dr. (W.E.B.) DuBois, Dr. (Carter G.) Woodson, and so many others would be proud,” said Cheryl Dorsey, president and CEO of Echoing Green.

Abby Gayle, a computer science student, received the $1,500 second prize for her Cybheard project to use social media and collaborative peer sessions across county school districts to target cyberbullying and reduce the risk of student suicide.

Jahleesa Phelps, a University Honors Program student who is studying business entrepreneurship, formulated ArtistNU, which restores arts education to classrooms where it had been removed as a consequence of policies like the No Child Left Behind Act and Common Core Curriculum. She received the third-place prize of $500.

Spencer Heath, a journalism and communications student studying public relations, and Jahlani Odujole, an industrial and systems engineering graduate student, each garnered $250 honorable mention prizes for their projects. Heath’s KINGS organization would establish a networking fraternity for young African American men in high school, particularly those who do not pursue a college education, while Odujole’s Man of Action Inc. would offer a six-week enrichment program in partnership with three Triangle-area universities to help African American men complete their college education.

Phelps said she appreciated the chance to graduate from the class, receive such vital feedback and engage in the friendly competition.

Following the presentations, those who logged in to the showcase witnessed a Dorsey-led fireside chat with Alma Roberts, interim director of community health for Kaiser Permanente. Roberts encouraged the students to seek out networking opportunities to create the connections and build the relationships that will fuel their success.

“Be prepared, but be passionate,” Roberts said. “These are large, long structural problems we’re tackling.”

Piedmont Business Capital provided the students’ prize money. Its executive director, Wilson Lester, along with N.C. A&T graduates Robert China, senior vice president of Fortress Investment Group and an Echoing Green board member, and Rachel D. Latimore, Echoing Green portfolio manager, served as project judges.

“This was such an exciting and inspiring afternoon,” said Sharyanne McSwain, Echoing Green’s chief operating officer. “But we would expect nothing less from North Carolina A&T State University.”

Echoing Green, which has become the world’s largest seed-funder of social entrepreneurs over more than 30 years, developed its Solutionist Accelerator Program curriculum for historically black colleges and universities in collaboration with the Social Innovation and Change Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School. It aligns with a social entrepreneurship agenda that values diversity, equity and inclusion.

Fund II Foundation is involved in this effort as part of its mission to preserve the African American experience, safeguard human rights, provide music education, preserve the environment while promoting the benefits of the outdoors, and sustain critical American values such as entrepreneurship.




Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu