St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy Students Take on NBA Entrepreneurial Challenge

The esteemed law firm of Kaye Scholer, LLP located in the heart of Midtown was recently the site of a social entrepreneurship challenge hosted by the Middy Fund, and featuring middle school students from St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy. The students presented ideas for websites, apps and programs which they had designed to eradicate problems they face in their lives.  Students delivered their presentations to an audience of 100; many of whom were leaders in finance, education and successful entrepreneurs.

“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,” said Samantha, an 8th Grade Student from St. Elizabeth CatholicAcademy.

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

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

In just four 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, 7th Grade student 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 I will have to present to sell the clothes that I make.”

The winning team—middle school students Jonathan, John, and Cesar—presented the concept NBA Shape Up. Their entrepreneurial solution was 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.

“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,” said Damien Escobar, a two time Emmy winning violinist who also served as a judge in the competition.

The Middy Fund 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 their mission is to empower self-reliant leaders.

“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. We look forward to partnering with them for many years” said Joseph Sawe, Chairman of the Board for St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy.  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.