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Initiative to empower black male teachers returns to Propeller’s ‘PitchNOLA’ stage to win

Written by  Propeller
PitchNOLA: Community Solutions took place in front of a packed house in Tulane’s Freeman Auditorium on January 28, 2015. Co-hosted by Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation and Tulane University’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and A.B. Freeman School of Business and sponsored by the Lang Family Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the competition highlighted the power of community members to launch viable, entrepreneurial solutions to the challenges they face in their backyard.
 
The night kicked off with a keynote address from Matt Flannery and Jean Claude Rodríguez-Ferrera Massons, who shared the story of their journey founding Kiva and Puddle, helping a combined three million users connect through online lending.
For the main event, 10 semi-finalists and one guest social entrepreneur took the stage to pitch their ideas to take on pressing, local issues in workforce development, children and families, social justice, and the environment.
 
Winners took home a total of $10,640 in cash prizes, generously provided by the Lang Family Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and audience donations.
 
First place winner Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T) took home $5,000 for their initiative to close the achievement gap for at-risk students by inspiring and incentivizing men of color to choose education as a career, starting in New Orleans. BE2T returned to the stage after pitching last year in November of 2013. Co-founder Larry Irvin said winning this year’s competition was “coming full circle.”
 
BE2T will use the prize money to fund stipends for two of the fifteen local college sophomores who will join the launch of the full program as fellows in Fall 2015. “For BE2T, this means we’ve hit another milestone,” said co-founder Kristyna Jones. They will continue fundraising at their February 27 event “To ED, with Love” at Propeller.
 
The second place prize of $3,000 went to unCommon Construction (uCC), a nonprofit that builds houses with high school apprentices and uses the profits to provide them with expanded college and career opportunities. In the next year, uCC will acquire real estate and complete the construction of one house and one apprenticeship cycle with a diverse cohort of 10 - 12 apprentices from five New Orleans schools.
 
UCC’s tight presentation and compelling mission to address low college enrollment and high unemployment with construction and character-skills training earned them the audience favorite award of $640. The award was funded entirely by audience donations and determined by a live, text-in vote.
 
Third prize of $2,000 went to Gator & Crane, a company that will “close the loop” of our food system and incentivize healthy, sustainable living by exchanging food waste for nutritious groceries at a brick and mortar location in Downtown.
 
Said veteran PitchNOLA judge Leslie Jacobs, “The talent tonight was impressive. I’ve judged this event since it’s started, and these entrepreneurs had the best pitches I’ve seen, across the board.”
 
 “I was humbled by the passion of New Orleans entrepreneurs to change New Orleans, by how passionate they are about this place,” remarked judge and keynote speaker Matt Flannery.
 
Last modified on Friday, 17 July 2015
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