This article showcases the Spike pitches of 16 kid entrepreneurs who recently finished our inaugural Young Innovators Program. We partnered pro bono with #CAP, a college access program developed for the children of the New Jersey professional chapter of the famous African American Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Our seven-week program culminated with Pitch Night during which the students electrified the audience with their inspiring project ideas.
The Spike Lab and Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority teamed up to offer this seven-week series of workshops led by our expert entrepreneurship coaches. The primary goals of the program were to help the participating teenagers each identify and launch a high-impact project to stand out to top US colleges. Please see this companion article for more information about the program and our partnership.
The final week of our program featured a Pitch Night, where the students presented their diverse Spike ideas to an audience of proud parents, workshop facilitators and experienced entrepreneurs. Here is a video of all 16 student pitches.
As you see, many of the students drew inspiration from the challenges they faced at school, at home or in their local communities. The problems that #CAP students are attempting to solve problems are diverse. They range from personal experiences with racial microaggressions to the desire to expand equal opportunity access in sports.
Devin Wilkes, an 11th grader and young black journalist, was often selectively assigned stories that dealt with racism or other social justice issues. However, she wanted to write about other topics too. Now, she’s launching Sideline Zine, for which she won the “Best Spike” award. Sideline Zine is a publication for girls of color to write freely about arts, lifestyle and other topics without being pigeon-holed as an angry black victim.
On a similar note, Mackenzie Gorman grew tired of how her school’s curriculum focused only on slavery and civil rights when covering black history. She wants to expand grade school education to also teach moments of black excellence and triumph. While this goal is no small feat, Mackenzie wants to start small for her Spike, which was recognized with the award for “Most Ambitious.” So far, she has been working on inviting successful Black figures to give talks during classes at her school.
As a football player and ninth-grader at the private Pingry School, Mark Mason noticed that only a small percentage of high school student-athletes can afford collegiate-level sports training camps. Yet, these training programs significantly elevate an athlete’s performance and prepare them for the upcoming sports season. Mark wants to offer a financially accessible and sponsored training camp of his own to students who can’t afford one otherwise. He has been prototyping afterschool training programs with friends in order to improve his plan.
Like Devin, Mackenzie, and Mark, the majority of participants were high school students. However, there were several participants who were 8th graders. Regardless of age, the best Spike ideas came from the students who contributed the most effort and ingenuity, like the 8th grader, Nimah Lloyd, who won Best Pitch.
Nimah had moved to New Jersey in preschool and was feeling extremely confident while attending school one day. Nimah recounted, “I was rocking my nice outfit and picked-out afro until this white boy said, ‘Why is your hair like that? It’s not Wacky Hair Day.’” In response, she wanted to help black girls find their voice and a supportive community while navigating white spaces. Her solution is a podcast called “Speak Loudly and Proudly, Black Girl” where other middle schoolers can share their experiences.
What struck parents and other audience members was the confidence with which Nimah and her peers spoke, as well as how thoughtful these Spike projects were. Every student had grappled with the challenge of figuring out how to make their community better in a tangible way.
Congratulations to the #CAP students for completing this intensive program and good luck going forward!
If you are (or are the parent of) a high school student interested in launching your own Spike, talk to us to learn more about our 1:1 Spike Coaching Program. This fully personalized program guides students through every step of the way.
For programs or schools interested in our Young Innovators Program, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.