Memphis students pitch their startup ideas, our future

December 10, 2016 - Jalen Washington, 17, practices his presentation for ManUp!, a male mentorship program, before a "Pitch Night" event led by the organization Let's Innovate Through Education (LITE) at Memphis Bioworks Foundation. (Photo: Brandon Dill/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

December 10, 2016 - Jalen Washington, 17, practices his presentation for ManUp!, a male mentorship program, before a "Pitch Night" event led by the organization Let's Innovate Through Education (LITE) at Memphis Bioworks Foundation. (Photo: Brandon Dill/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

Memphis high school students turn their ideas into business startups in Let's Innovate Through Education program

Twenty-five high-minded students from low-income families and schools were given a series of challenges a few months ago.

Identify a problem. Come up with an idea to address the problem. Turn the idea into a business model.

Then launch a business or nonprofit organization that helps to solve the problem.

Each student got a laptop, weekly instruction from adult business mentors, $750 in startup funds, and about five months to get it done.

The process came to an end Friday evening when the students "pitched" their startups to dozens of family, friends, mentors and others at Memphis Bioworks,

That's when their challenge also became ours.

"Education requires empowering students to invest in their community so that we can make it the place they want it to be." said Hardy Farrow, a former high school teacher and founder of Let's Innovate Through Education (LITE), the nonprofit that runs the program.

"They know the problems. They have great ideas. They just need the exposure and the opportunity. We've got to do better."

Jalen Washington came up with ManUp! It's a nonprofit that connects fatherless teenage boys to black men who can teach them basic life skills.

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