More than a dozen out of 50 teams from regional high schools advanced to the final round in the eighth annual Glockner Dare to Dream Pitch Competition on March 2 at the Shawnee State University Kricker Innovation Hub.
Teams from Russel, Minford, Portsmouth, Green and Tri-State STEM+M were among 13 entrants that competed for $36,000 in prizes this year. The winning team, Locked and Loaded Game Birds from Russell High School, won $6,450 for their pitch of all-inclusive, family friendly hunting experiences.
"These students put so much time and effort into this, particularly this year with the challenges of virtual learning,” said Melissa Wilburn, business and marketing teacher at the Russell Area Technology Center. “This is a wonderful way to make a difference in students’ lives and help them ‘put feet with their faith’ and take action. This is the best thing my students do, and I look forward to working with Dare to Dream for many years to come.”
The TechGROWTH Ohio-sponsored competition encourages high school students in the tri-state area to pitch new enterprise ideas, with cash awards for the best pitches. The event teaches high schoolers to collaborate over an innovative idea and present persuasively before an audience and judges. Job-seeking and college-bound students can use this experience for their applications. The program also shows students that they have opportunities in their hometowns, said competition co-founder Mike Thompson, executive-in-residence at TechGROWTH Ohio.
“This competition is an excellent model for an entirely community-supported avenue for young adults on the cusp of entering the workforce or higher education to tackle real-world social issues and innovate their way toward successful resolution,” said Faith Knutsen, co-founder of the program and director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.
Among this year’s prizes were the ongoing William Beale Award for innovation in carbon-footprint reduction. The award provides $1,000 to contestants with the most compelling ideas for making the world more livable for future generations. The annual award honors Knutsen’s father, William Beale, a former Ohio University mechanical engineering professor who invented the free-piston Stirling engine and founded Sunpower, Inc.
New this year was the Glazer Award, provided by the estate of the late John Glazer, founding director of TechGROWTH Ohio and subsequently the Voinovich School’s Senior Executive in Residence for Strategic Development.
“Both men were deeply admiring of the strength and resilience of regional rural youth,” Knutsen said. “They were themselves raised in less-privileged backgrounds and achieved professional and personal success. I would only hope that the Dare to Dream competitors, as indicated by the title, dare to expand their horizons and to dream of solutions for our local and global future.”
Along with TechGROWTH Ohio, this year’s program was sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Glockner Automotive, Steve Moore, Kentucky Farmer’s Bank, William Burke and OSCO Industries, John Stewart, Tom Wolf and McDonald’s, SFR Restaurant Group, Shawnee State University, Lawrence Economic Development Council and Dr. Bill Dingus, Triple J’s Restaurant Group, MPH Hotels and Kindred Communications.
The Voinovich School is a key player in a region-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages, supports, engages, professionally coaches, and provides access to funding for entrepreneurs of all ages and stages, from high-schoolers to mission-driven entrepreneurs in the for-profit and non-profit sectors to high-tech startups.
“There is no wrong door for budding entrepreneurs of any age,” said Knutsen, encouraging any entrepreneur to explore the many avenues for assistance available in the region, including the Voinovich School.
“The platform that you generously support creates a pipeline,” Ben Eng, executive director of the iCenter and an associate professor at Marshall University, told the sponsors. “A pipeline of what Appalachia needs most – innovators and entrepreneurs – who will better the way we live our lives. A pipeline to universities like Marshall, Shawnee and Ohio University to help continue to build on the momentum and the work started with this competition. And a pipeline to a better future for us all.”