Social Entrepreneurs Focused on Education Land $100K in United Way’s OneUp the Pitch
By: Nicholas Sakelaris, Dallas Innovates
Surrounded by first-generation college graduates that went through the ScholarShot program, Dan Hooper impressed the judges to take home the $75,000 Social Innovator of the Year award at OneUp the Pitch Thursday night.
ScholarShot pairs at-risk students with academic managers who act as degree planners, personal counselors, and advocates to give them the support they may not be getting at home. The program will be adding two more academic managers with the prize money.
“The students are all just awesome. These are all first-generation college graduates,” said Hooper, the executive director of ScholarShot. “[The funding] doubles our capacity to 200 kids so we’ll have 100 more kids on the stage next year. Every major metropolitan city should have this program, but they don’t.”
SOCIAL EVENT DRAWS 1,000 TO BOMB FACTORY
The second annual United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ OneUp the Pitch competition drew 1,000 people to The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum Thursday. The Shark Tank-style event featured five judges who listened to pitches from five fellows in the United Way’s GroundFloor accelerator program for early-stage social ventures.
The judges were: Amber Venz Box, president and co-founder of rewardStyle; David Brown, retired Dallas police chief; Jack Furst, founder and CEO of Oak Stream Investors; Ken Hersh, president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center; and Todd Wagner, founder and CEO of Charity Network and CEO of 2929 Entertainment.
In his pitch, Hooper said 9 out of 10 at-risk students dropout of college because the system doesn’t properly prepare them for the transition.
“There’s a very costly blindspot in our education system,” Hooper said. “They’re thrown off a cliff we call college and end up with debt, funds they can’t repay and their grants are frozen. We’ve blocked them from their potential.”
ScholarShot holds students accountable to make sure they graduate from college.
“ScholarShot is the capstone, the final yard to help them exit poverty and reach their potential,” Hooper said.
EDUCATION OPENS DOORS SNAGS AUDIENCE VOTE
Another social entrepreneur, Education Opens Doors, took home $25,000 for winning the live audience vote, based on the crowd weigh in on their mobile devices. The audience gave Education Opens Doors 30 percent of the vote.
Jayda Batchelder, an eighth-grade science teacher, started Education Opens Doors to help middle and high school students get better college and career guidance. She was inspired by one of her students who wanted to be a scientist and had a “million questions” for her about his education. Now, that student is attending the University of Texas at Austin, the first in his family to do so.
“There’s one counselor for every 449 students and they get about 38 minutes of college guidance,” Batchelder said. “Imagine being a first generation college student. That’s too little information and it’s coming too late.”
Education Opens Doors sells curriculum that teachers can use in their classroom to help students build a roadmap for their career. The $25,000 prize will help digitize the content so it can be used in more schools, Batchelder said.
“We’re getting more demand from schools than we can meet,” she said. “They shift their mindset, they see the potential, and they see the outcomes. It’s the millions of students we haven’t met that inspire us to scale.”
KLEINERTS FUNDING ONEUP AWARDS THROUGH 2020
The OneUp the Pitch competition started last year to help social innovators showcase the positive things they are doing and to compete for prize money. The program was so successful that it garnered the attention of Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, who funded the $100,000 award this year and have committed to funding it for 2019 and 2020.
Also competing were CEO (Center for Employment Opportunities), which helps individuals transition back to the workforce after serving time in jail, First3Years, which seeks to revolutionize the foster care system for babies and toddlers, and Youth with Faces, which helps children in the juvenile justice system get their life back on track.
OneUp the Pitch also provided an update on last year’s winner, Akola, a nonprofit jewelry company that hires women who live in poverty in Dallas and around the world.
“We’re giving more women across the globe an opportunity to work at a living wage,” said founder and CEO Brittany Underwood in a video at the event.