A team of four New York City high school students won their local “Making the Business: Youth IT Challenge” and a chance to compete for $15,000 in prizes in the national competition this summer. Sponsored by Microsoft Inc. and the National Urban League, Youth IT Challenge is a 10-week program of workshops designed to increase awareness of technology among minority youth and provide them with usable skills in idea generation, written and verbal communication, analysis, budgeting and business plan development. Participants are grouped into teams, which compete with each other to come up with the best business idea. The program culminates with the presentation of the team’s ideas to a panel of judges and the choice of a winner.
The program also is intended to fill the IT work force pipeline with minorities. According to a 2004 study by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., everyday use of technology raises productivity by 40 percent, but businesses owned by minorities and women do not use it enough to achieve appreciable gains.
The winning New York team triumphed over four rival teams with the idea of creating a company, Creative Solutions Inc., that provides the most personal and interactive ways to shop, play and socialize on and offline. Members of the team are Cassius Flemming of Rice High School; Jose Gomez and Rosline Idoko of Murry Bergtraum High School; and Audrey Monday of Legacy H.S. for Integrated Studies. “I entered this competition because of the Microsoft name and reputation,” says Flemming. “Com-puters are something that have interested me my whole life. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to participate,” he says.
CSI will become a New York-based company specializing in shopping, video gaming, advertising and related services. It will create an “Actual You” Web site and an “Actual You” video game that will allow players to embark on missions, create outfits and purchase them on line. The team will challenge its counterparts from Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Paul, Minn., and Washington D.C., with the ultimate winner receiving the national prize during the NUL annual convention in Atlanta July 26-30. “Winning will mean endless opportunities in the world of business. Becoming a winner means you experience these opportunities firsthand,” says Rosline Idoko of CSI.
Now in its third year, Youth IT Challenge is open to minority high school students 14 to 18 years of age with minimum grade-point averages of 2.5. Entrants must submit a letter of recommendation and a 250-word essay describing what kind of business they would create if given the opportunity and what role technology would play in building it. This year, the final teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges consisting of Elinor Tatum, publisher and editor in chief of New York Amsterdam News; Darwin M. Davis, president and CEO of New York Urban League; Michael Robinson, area general manager of Microsoft; Noah Broadwater, vice president, information systems, of Sesame Workshop; and Brannen McDonald, sales manager of Spectrum Software.
The 2005 national prize was awarded to team Academic Par Excellence of St. Paul, Minn., for its idea of creating online tutorial programs designed to prepare high school students for the ACT and PSAT tests.
The competing teams presented their ideas during a gathering at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theatre in New York, with guest judges Camille Winbush of The Bernie Mac Show; Julian Phillips, Fox news anchor; and Keith Clinkscales, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Publishing. Each member of Academic Par Excellence received a Hewlett Packard laptop, printer and software that included Microsoft Office 2003, Digital Image Suite 10 and Plus! SuperPack for Windows XP; an optical mouse; and a U.S. Savings Bond.
By Inés Bebea