May 12, 2014

Four Culver Academies students from four countries have benefited from grants totaling $4,500 provided by Brian Barefoot N’59, president emeritus of Babson College, one of the nation’s leading management schools. But many more have benefited from the entrepreneurial efforts of this foursome.

The Brian Barefoot Social Entrepreneur Awards and the Brian Barefoot Grant were awarded May 6 in ceremonies in the Alumni Lounge. Barefoot was pleased to be seeing “a return on my investment,” but was more pleased that “many more are benefiting.”

There is an “awareness factor” of entrepreneurship today that has a broader definition

There is an “awareness factor” of entrepreneurship today that has a broader definition, Barefoot said. That “way of thinking – people, planet, and profits – evolved at Babson and has evolved at Culver.

“It’s not all about money,” he said. “It’s about how we treat people and the planet. (It takes) an entrepreneurial mindset to make the world a better place.”

Leadership Department instructor Nancy McKinnis thanked Barefoot for his support. Since 2011, Barefoot’s funding has helped improve water quality in Bangladesh, aided impoverished communities in Mexico, built a school in Guatemala, developed a liquid chocolate amaranth packet (which has received FDA approval), improved relations among schools and generations in the town of Culver, and has “inspired hundreds of Academies’ students to think beyond self and the status quo,” she said.

Specifically, The Brian M. Barefoot Social Entrepreneurship Grant supports students in the senior practicum at the beginning of project development. A faculty staff committee selects creative and visionary projects that show a clear pathway for direct action, demonstrated understanding of the issues, and potentially transformative outcome to a community.

This year, the $1,500 grant went to Yen-Yen Gao of Bloomington, Ind., to support her Hydroponics for Hunger project. Gao partnered with a community garden center in Bloomington to promote hydroponics while also educating the community on how hydroponics can change the face of sustainable agriculture. With the grant, Gao bought three types of hydroponics systems and created an exhibit to educate local gardeners. Produce from this model garden is being donated to a local food bank.

Gao plans to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she will concentrate in International Business and Entrepreneurship. This summer, she will be an intern at a USDA agency through the World Food Prize Wallace Carver Fellowship program.

Three students were recipients of a Brian M. Barefoot Social Entrepreneurship Award, which recognizes excellence in the senior practicum with respect to creativity, vision, and potential long term benefit to the advancement of a community.

First place of $1,500 award went to Kelsi Carr (Kitchener, Ontario) for her Special Needs Hockey Festival. Carr organized a four-team special needs hockey tournament that captured the hearts of Culver students and uplifted the confidence and spirit of special needs players. She organized an event that had all the trappings of a festival with T-shirts, medals, and a dance. Carr will be playing Division I lacrosse next year at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

Michelle Ucha (Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico) received $1,000 for her Pay It Forward project. Ucha mobilized resources to deliver food, clothing, and toys to support a small impoverished community in a remote mountainous area of Toluca, Mexico. She designed activities for the community to reflect on the power of kind deeds. Next year, Ucha will study business and management at Ibero Americana in Mexico.

$500 for third was awarded to Nick Zalduendo for his Running with the Dogs Project. Last summer in his hometown of Peoria, Ill., Zalduendo created, organized and implemented a 5K Run/3K Walk that raised more than $10,000 for Paws Giving Independence, an organization that trains service dogs. He enlisted sponsors, educated the community, and attracted 150 participants. Plans are already underway for a second event this summer. He will attend Southern Methodist University next year.

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