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Phoenix, Mesa and Casa Grande students win grants at Youth Entrepreneurs national big idea competition

Wichita, Kan. – Chris Brown, a senior from Sun Valley High School in Mesa, was awarded $2,500; Ryan Sirk, a senior from Mission Heights Preparatory High School in Casa Grande, was awarded $2,000; and Alejandro Martinez, a senior from Glenview College Preparatory High School in Phoenix, was awarded $500 at the inaugural Youth Entrepreneurs Summit Big Idea National Competition on Thursday. All were named national champions. 

A national contest for high school entrepreneurs, the Big Idea competition represents the culmination of months of hard work by student participants to develop their boldest and most innovative business ideas. The Big Idea finals were a national stage for students to pitch their business proposals and put their entrepreneurial skills in action for a panel of expert judges. Youth Entrepreneurs is a year-long, high school elective program that instills the business skills, creative risk-taking and personal values necessary to succeed in today’s market — and in life.

Brown’s This is How We Juice It, Sirk’s Scrubber Glove and Martinez’s Visual Auditory Sensory-Aware Dorms were selected by the panel of experts for their ingenuity, thorough business strategy and level of value creation. Brown intends to secure financing to expand This is How We Juice It, his healthy lemonade business, and plans to attend college next year to earn a degree in business. He intends to leverage the grant to purchase a lemonade truck.

Sirk created Scrubber Glove, which incorporates a microfiber cloth, after experiencing cracked and dry hands during his job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Sirk will continue refining his prototypes and aims to expand production—and protect the hands of dishwashers—nationally thanks to the grant. 

Martinez created Visual Auditory Sensory-Aware Dorms after a conversation with his brother, who has Asperger Syndrome, when he realized there were limited options for people like his brother to live comfortably in college. Martinez’s dorms include features to reduce noise and improve air flow. Martinez plans to use his winnings to pursue post-secondary education and hopes to partner with small universities in Arizona to create better living environments for those with auditory or sensory issues as he begins to grow his business. 
“Our YE Summit student participants have been incredibly principled in the pursuit of their ideas,” said YE President Kylie Stupka, “Chris, Ryan and Alejandro’s enthusiasm about their ideas has left such a strong impact on their school, peers and community — encouraging others to follow their passions and become leaders.” 

Brown, Sirk and Martinez’s achievements were recognized Thursday at an awards luncheon, where all visiting YE competitors and YE Summit participants were addressed by Dr. Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, who spoke to the value of having an impact, a natural curiosity, a business purpose and growth experiences like the YE Summit. Over the course of this three-day Summit, 100 YE students from around the country heard from leading business and entrepreneurial figures, networked with YE peers and alumni, and participated in workshops to hone their business management skills.

Judges for the Big Idea competition included: Cameron Cushman, Director of Innovation Ecosystems at the University of North Texas Health Science Center; Tien Huynh, YE alumnus and founder of Huynh Investments; Yolanda Owens, Owner of Iwi Fresh Garden Day Spa; Cheryl Bicknell, Chief Strategy Officer and COO, Mariner Wealth Advisors; and Lee Benson, Founder/CEO, Execute to Win.

“The YE Summit is a great opportunity to gather our many regional chapters and celebrate how our students exemplify the YE principles of dedication and lifelong learning,” Stupka said. “I am constantly impressed with the original thinking and compassionate business ideas that our entrepreneurs produce.”  

Interviews, event video b-roll and images are available upon request.  

By cultivating students’ sense of personal responsibility and confidence in their capabilities, the Youth Entrepreneurs curriculum develops expertise essential to starting and running a business. Nationally, nearly 180 classes and 3,400 students participated in Youth Entrepreneurs during the 2017-18 school year. To date, the YE program has produced over 30,000 alumni across the U.S. Please visit the Youth Entrepreneurs website to learn more about the program and the local chapter in your area. 


About Youth Entrepreneurs 
Founded in 1991, Youth Entrepreneurs is a high school program that helps students in need discover fulfillment through the creation of their own business idea. The program provides students a hands-on learning experience inside and outside of the classroom, and teaches the skills necessary to start their own business, improves their marketability in the workforce, and encourages them to continue into higher education. Youth Entrepreneurs serves over 3,000 students annually, operates in nearly 180 classrooms and has over 30,000 alumni across the U.S. Youth Entrepreneurs is a public 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is funded by private donations. For more information, visit http://www.youthentrepreneurs.org.

About YE Summit 2018
YE Summit 2018 was YE’s inaugural annual conference for the top 100 YE high school students across the nation; competing for $20,000 to start their own business or launch the next step in their education. The Summit is made possible presenting sponsor Southwest Airlines and other generous donors.