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PSU-LV completes first virtual Teen Entrepreneur Challenge

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Penn State Lehigh Valley hosted its fifth annual Teen Entrepreneur Challenge (TEC) summer program, which is an initiative of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox. TEC ran from July 6 to 16, exposing 25 rising sophomore, junior and senior high school students to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship as well as important technology skills.

While traditionally a residential program, TEC went entirely virtual this year, using Zoom to deliver instruction, guest speakers, field trips and group breakout sessions. Faculty and business leaders provided teaching as part of the curriculum. This year’s program was sponsored once again by Bosch Rexroth and Victaulic. Lehigh Valley Health Network/The Pool Trust also joined in as sponsors this year and with them brought a new twist. This year’s cohort was tasked with identifying relevant public health concerns, developing and recording a public service announcement (PSA), and finally creating a business solution to address their selected public health concern. These PSAs, to be aired throughout the Lehigh Valley in the near future, addressed topics such as mental health awareness, increasing voting in youth, vaping, eating disorders, texting & driving, and addressing the reliance on fast food in low-income neighborhoods.

The virtual program was well-received by this year’s students, “I really enjoyed the program and meeting new people! This program helped me to learn more about myself and the real world”, said one student and another said, “What I liked the most about this Teen Entrepreneur Program was the opportunities that were given to learn more about businesses and how they function in the real world. I also enjoyed the speakers that came on and the different perspectives they gave. Putting together the PSA’s and pitches was also a great time!”

“69 percent of teens say they have a business idea but unfortunately most don’t know how or lack the confidence to get it off the ground. That’s opportunity missed – which is why I am so proud of the teen students here today who are acting on their dreams – not only participating in the camp, but competing in our Teen Entrepreneurial Challenge,” said Tina Q. Richardson, chancellor, Penn State Lehigh Valley at the pitch competition held July 17. “As a teen, it would have been easy to take the sleep-in approach to their summer days – especially during a pandemic, but these students are keeping their skills sharp.”

At the end of the challenge, an online pitch competition was held where teams presented their business solutions to a panel of judges. The winning team was Team Produce, which is a company the students created to bring healthy food options to low-income neighborhoods that rely on fast foods to feed their families. The second-place team created an app as a solution to increase mental health awareness among teens.

The winning team included: Melina Haynes, a rising junior at Notre Dame High School; Melody Herrera-Garcia, a rising junior at William Allen High School; Jocelyn Ibarra, a rising senior at Easton Area High School; and Sumukh Kumar, a rising senior at Caravel Academy.