University of Alabama Honors Two Students, One Administrator With Sullivan Awards

Alexus Cumbie, Malik Rashaun Seals and Dr. Kathleen Cramer were recently honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, one of the highest awards offered by the University of Alabama. Cumbie and Seals are students, while Cramer is a faculty member.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recognizes excellence of character and service to humanity. At UA, it honors one man and one woman of the graduating class as well as one non-student who has been helpful to and associated with the university.

Related: This Sullivan Award winner beat breast cancer and helps others do the same

The trio received their awards at UA’s annual Premier Awards 2020 banquet and reception on Feb. 20. The ceremony also recognized recipients of the William P. and Estan J. Bloom Scholarship Award, the Judy Bonner Presidential Medallion Prize, the Morris Mayer Award, the John Fraser Ramsey Award and the Catherine Johnson Randall Award.

photo of Malik Seals, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama

Malik Seals

Meet the Winners of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award
Malik Rashaun Seals

When Malik Rashaun Seals’ mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2011, he was rocked to his core.

Everything about his life changed that day, and the Columbus, Miss., native found himself drawn to research and medicine. Now, as a biological sciences major on a pre-med track, he seeks to become equipped with the skills he needs to eradicate MS.

Seals has already presented at the largest North American conference for MS, Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, and has been published in the Journal of Neurology.

He will be attending graduate school with the intent to study microbiology and immunology in his pursuit to advance his scientific foundation for better understanding MS and neurodegenerative diseases.

Related: Rollins College remembers 2001 Sullivan Award Winner Mister Rogers

In his time at UA, Seals has served as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council; vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.; assistant team leader for the Center for Service and Leadership; and the University’s first Movember Student Ambassador, a role in which he raised awareness about men’s mental health, suicide prevention, prostate and testicular cancer. He also served on the SGA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion cabinet.

Seals said he tries to live with the constant awareness of the work that needs to done at UA and in the community.

His mother is Danyell Smith, and his father is Derrick Seals.

this is a photo of Alexus Cumbie, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama

Alexus Cumbie

Alexus Cumbie
Birmingham native Alexus M. Cumbie is an influencer.

In 2019, she was named one of Birmingham’s most promising natives to invest in by the Birmingham Times and honored as the Southeastern Region’s New Soror of the Year by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Additionally, she was named the recipient of the Greer Marechal Memorial Prize for her published healthcare research, “Why Negro Bodies Dodge a Southern Sun,” and was selected by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to serve as an intern on Capitol Hill for the second time as a legislative and press assistant with the office of Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

A political science and business management major, Cumbie is president of UA’s NAACP chapter; president of InterVarsity Christian Ministries; director of SGA’s Black Student Leadership Council; vice president of the Anderson Society; and a member of the honor societies Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, The Carl A. Elliott Society and Rho Lambda.

Related: Alice Lloyd College recognizes two outstanding servant leaders with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Cumbie is also a member of the 31st Order of XXXI, which recognizes the most influential women at the Capstone based on their distinguished character and significant contributions to the University, state and nation.

Outside of her leadership roles, Cumbie is a poet whose work has been published in the American Library of Poetry. She uses poetry as a tool to help increase literacy rates in the South through an organization she created called Literary Vibes.

Her parents are Cathleen and Kennard Cumbie.

Dr. Kathleen Cramer, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama

Dr. Kathleen Cramer

Dr. Kathleen Cramer
With more than 37 years of experience and three degrees from the Capstone, Dr. Kathleen Cramer is a loyal advocate of the student experience.

Though retired, Cramer served as senior associate vice president for Student Affairs and as director of student life for many years. She’s also served a two-year term as president of The University of Alabama Retirees Association, as project manager for the Tuscaloosa Sexual Assault Forensics Center, and as interim dean of students prior to her current role as interim vice president for Student Life.

Cramer has received several honors throughout her career, including being recognized as a Pillar of the Profession by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and being named one of the top 31 graduates from the 20th century at UA.

Related: Born to Heal: Bradley Firchow wins Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Oglethorpe University

Cramer was executive vice president of the Association of Fraternity Advisers and was named to UA’s Student Affairs Hall of Fame. She is an active community volunteer and the sustaining adviser to the Tuscaloosa Junior League.

She and her husband, Craig, have eight grandchildren.

This story was edited slightly from the original article appearing on the Auburn University website.


Scotland’s Parliament Makes Sanitary Products Free to All Women

Scotland’s Parliament has passed legislation that would make sanitary products free for anyone who needs them, marking what Upworthy describes as a “landmark event in the movement to make menstrual hygiene a basic human right.”

Labour Party lawmaker Monica Lennon proposed the Period Products Scotland Bill, which makes products such as tampons and sanitary pads free for all women and available in pharmacies, community centers and youth clubs.

The bill passed on Feb. 27 by a vote of 112-0 with one abstention. But according to the New York Times, obstacles still loom, particularly as lawmakers try to figure out how to cover the bill’s projected $31 million price tag.

In 2018, Scotland became the first country to provide free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities. It will now be the first country to offer the products for free to everyone.

a photo of a period tax protester at Ohio State University

An anti-period tax movement is underway in the U.S. too. Here, a student at Ohio State University took part in a protest against the tax on the inaugural National Period Day, October 19, 2019. Ohio has since repealed the tax.

Great Britain levies a 5 percent tax on tampons and can’t lift it due to European Union rules that designate them as “luxury products.” However, the EU has pledged to abolish all taxes on menstruation products by 2022, the New York Times says. Meanwhile, about 62 million pounds, or $80 million, collected in Britain’s period-tax revenue has been diverted to women’s charities for the past five years.

Still, nearly 10 percent of girls in Britain have been unable to afford menstruation products, and 19 percent have had to use substitutes like rags, newspapers and toilet paper because of the expense, according to a study on period poverty and stigma by Plan International UK, a charity supporting girls’ rights.

According to The West News, Lennon has long objected to classing tampons and similar products as luxury items. “They are indeed essential,” she said, “and no one in Scotland should have to go without period products.” She added that the bill is about “period dignity.”

The battle for “period dignity” continues to rage in the U.S., where 33 states charge a tax on sanitary products, according to Fortune. American women pay an estimated $150 million a year in period taxes. Not counting states that have no sales taxes at all, states that exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxes include Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Utah.

To call attention to the tampon tax in other American states and to overcome the stigma associated with menstruation, Harvard University changemaker and activist Nadya Okamoto co-founded a nonprofit called Period in 2014 – when she was just 16 – and launched National Period Day, observed on October 19, 2019, for the first time. Period is pushing bills to lift the period tax in every state that has one.

this photo shows Nadya Okamoto, an activist trying to repeal the period tax

Nadya Okamoto is the cofounder of the nonprofit Period, creator of National Period Day and a leader of the national movement to get rid of the period tax.

Davidson College Recognized for Deep Ties to Community and Commitment to Engagement

The Carnegie Foundation recently recognized Sullivan Foundation partner school Davidson College’s success in reaching off campus and into the community. The century-old foundation, devoted to erasing educational inequities, has awarded Davidson its Community Engagement Classification.

The organization highlighted how the college’s curriculum, community partnerships, and research and service opportunities engage faculty and students in a mutually beneficial relationship with the broader community, while giving students crucial experience and life skills. Students connect what they are doing in the classroom with real world problems, part of Davidson preparing them for lives of leadership and service.

Related: Davidson College alumnus runs nonprofit tech company that helps families apply for SNAP benefits

“Davidson is grateful for the opportunity to work with great community partners who are addressing urgent challenges our society faces,” said Davidson College President Carol Quillen. “Our students, faculty and staff are excited to build on these efforts and to honor this distinguished recognition from the Carnegie Foundation.”

Davidson is one of 119 U.S. colleges and universities to receive the Community Engagement Classification, which indicates institutional commitment to community engagement.

This important classification is awarded following a process of extensive self-study by each institution, which is then assessed by a national review committee led by the Swearer Center for Public Engagement at Brown University, the administrative and research home for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.

Davidson College president Carol Quillen joined students, faculty and staff at Lula Bell’s Resource Center for a National Volunteer Week service project. They prepared jars of detergent for local partner agencies.

“Community engagement is deeply ingrained in our culture at Davidson,” said Stacey Riemer, associate dean and director of civic engagement at Davidson. “Many people across campus and in our community contributed to the year-long evaluation that allowed us to reflect upon the ways that our curriculum, programs, practices, and resources support robust community partnerships.”

Related: A Davidson College student combines a passion for language and politics with action on behalf of refugees

Some examples of Davidson College’s reach and commitment include:

  • Each student must take one course that satisfies the Justice, Equality, and Community (JEC) requirement. These courses address the manifestations of justice and equality in various communities, locales, nations or regions.
  • The Center for Civic Engagement and Athletics have partnered on a new “Cats Care” initiative to build upon current engagement efforts and encourage more engagement among athletes.
  • In the 2018-19 academic year, faculty offered 27 community-based learning courses in partnership with community organizations.
  • Eighty Bonner Scholar students contributed a total of 22,400 hours of work with public and nonprofit organizations.

“These institutions are doing exceptional work to forward their public purpose in and through community engagement that enriches teaching and research while also benefiting the broader community,” said Mathew Johnson, executive director of the Swearer Center, which houses the Carnegie classification.

The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education for the past 14 years.

This story was edited from the original version appearing on the Davidson College website.

Sullivan Foundation Offers Unique Student Internship Opportunity for 2020 MO Summit

College students from all Sullivan Foundation partner schools are invited to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime internship opportunity or combined internship/course credit option for the MO Summit, a yearly industry-leading social enterprise and business leadership event taking place May 12-13 in Portland, Oregon.

Presented by Big Path Capital and Real Leaders magazine, the MO Summit convenes leaders who are scaling high-growth, positive-impact companies. Nearly 200 CEOs from the most successful social impact businesses in the U.S., Canada and several other countries will attend this informative, changemaking industry gathering. In addition, the first RealLeaders 100 (the top CEOs of social enterprises) will be recognized at the event.

Student interns will have the opportunity to meet, assist, network with and learn from top executives that are creating positive change through their businesses, innovating leadership, and building unique, socially impactful mission-driven companies. Student interns will be exposed to cutting-edge social enterprises and B corporations that are redefining archaic ways of thinking about ourselves, our employees, our companies, our industry, and the world.

this photo shows a panel discussion of social enterprise CEOs at the MO Summit

College students in the Sullivan network of colleges and universities will have the opportunity to meet, learn from and network with nearly 200 CEOs of top social enterprises at the MO Summit this May.

Keynote speakers for this year’s MO Summit include Gunnar Lovelace, CEO of Good Money; Matt Hayer, CEO of Vital Farms; and Melanie Dulbecco, CEO of Torani. Additionally, 15 CEOs, partners, founders and executives will speak at the event.

Only a limited number of MO Summit internships are available. Sullivan School students or faculty interested in learning more about the internships only should contact Melissa Scheiderer via email at

The combined internship/course credit option is offered through the University of Mississippi. However, students at Sullivan partner schools are responsible for checking with their own schools to make sure the credits will transfer. To learn more about this option, contact Dr. Jody Holland via email at


Jonathan Molai: “My Life Was Forever Changed” by Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreats

By Jonathan Molai

Sullivan alumnus Jonathan Molai, a May 2019 graduate of Campbell University, writes about his life-changing experiences with the Ignite Retreat, a twice-yearly event for college students with a passion for creating social change. The next Ignite Retreat takes place March 27-29, 2020, in Wake Forest, N.C. Deadline to register is Wednesday, March 11. Click here to learn more about the next Ignite Retreat and to sign up to attend.

The 2019 Spring Ignite Retreat was an entirely wholesome experience that caused me to deeply appreciate the fruits which can be cultivated if young people who genuinely care collectively focus on emotional intelligence and personal development. Taking place in an environment where social discourse could safely occur amidst strangers, the Ignite Retreat allowed for a unique type of transparency to manifest among the group, where vulnerabilities could be shed, and a purely personal focus on growth could emerge from every interaction.

It was evident that the facilitators functioned as a seamless team, even in moments that may have been completely improvised. The facilitators were exceptional in weaving the network of narratives and motifs, which served to enhance both the individual and group experience.

Meet the Ignite Retreat facilitators: Jarren Small of Reading With a Rapper teaches ELA skills through hip-hop lyrics

Furthermore, the engagement tools, cards, and teambuilding materials were highly effective for promoting discussion about ideas and topics that students cared about. The changemaking field guide proved to be useful in allowing me to document my experience in a way that preserved the original framework of the message and to remember the important points even after the retreat.

Jonathan Molai at the Sullivan Foundation's Ignite Retreat

Jonathan Molai (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

The exercises and techniques employed at the Ignite Retreat were very well thought out while fostering excitement and reflection simultaneously. Perhaps it was sheer awe at how such activities were successfully executed among such a large group, but it was clear to many who attended the retreat that these workshops and exercises served a purpose far greater than to stimulate the creative pathways of problem-solving and innovation. The Ignite Retreat demonstrated unapologetic and honest empowerment of the youth by unlocking the passions and curiosities of both extroverts and introverts alike. It was truly amazing to see how much each individual had grown by the end of the retreat, whether it was the satisfaction of having clear goals, the appreciation of collaborating with like-minded individuals, or the increased comfort with one’s own sense of self. These activities and interactions, balanced with time for reflection and recreation, brought both students and facilitators together in a way that felt like family.

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Reagan Pugh of Assemble builds connections through storytelling

Choosing My Own Path
It was crucial that I had the ability to choose my own path throughout my adventure in social entrepreneurship and the freedom to change my track to best reach my goals. The ability to engage autonomously in a learning experience and create what I wanted from it allowed me to appreciate the inherent freedoms and responsibilities that come with changemaking. In this way, there were several memorable concepts that resonated with me, especially the “Connection Before Content” exercise that occurred Saturday morning before the workshops began. This exercise, following the message on the importance of “being present,” allowed me to fully interact with someone I had never met in a way that yielded some of the most valuable personal feedback on first impressions and relationship building that I’ve ever received. It really helped set the tone for the workshops, as it left me and other students excited to follow our curiosity.

Jonathan Molai takes part in a Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat activity

Jonathan Molai became a Sullivan Foundation Student Ambassador after attending multiple Ignite Retreats and social entrepreneurship field trips. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

I personally chose to engage with the Project track and then switch to the Personal track later in the day. The Project track helped me clearly define and classify parameters of a social initiative I have been working with through the creation of a vision board that will serve to guide my team in addressing the project’s strengths and needs. The Personal track allowed me to embark on an immensely valuable part of my adventure at the Ignite Retreat via the Deep Listening exercise. I have always wanted to become a better listener, but I had constantly struggled in futility until I found this workshop at the Ignite Retreat. After the exercise in deep listening, my life was forever changed regarding the approaches I took towards allowing comfortable silences to function and manifest in my conversations. It not only allowed me to become a better listener but also showed me the unique perspectives I had previously missed out on by carving out and steering conversations with interjections. In effect, the exercise significantly helped me communicate with others so that they could be heard and feel more connected to what I had to say.

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Love Girls magazine founder Jasmine Babers shines spotlight on “everyday girls”

In its ability to develop both hard and soft skills pertaining to social entrepreneurship, the Ignite Retreat kindled my passion and curiosity for both the subjects at hand and myself even more than I had ever anticipated. I deeply appreciate the students, exercises, and facilitators of the 2019 Spring Ignite Retreat, as they laid the foundation and helped reconstruct the framework for lifelong personal growth in such a short period of time. Such an immensely valuable experience is rare, and I credit the Sullivan Foundation for their contribution to my most valuable possession: my manifestation.

Jonathan Molai received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Sullivan Foundation partner school Campbell University (CU) in May 2019. He attended multiple Ignite Retreats while attending CU and served as a Sullivan Ambassador. He plans to attend medical school and become an Osteopathic Primary Care Physician with the goal of effecting both individual and policy-level population change within the healthcare delivery systems of rural America.

Jonathan Molai and Michelle Vazquez at a Sullivan Ignite Retreat event

Jonathan Molai and fellow Ignite Retreat attendee Michelle Vazquez (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)


Carson-Newman University Students Win Statewide Award for Voter Registration Campaign

Students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Carson-Newman University won a statewide award following an “Eagle Vote Project” campaign that helped college students register to vote.

Tennessee’s Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Rep. Jeremy Faison last month presented students with a trophy in recognition of their winning efforts during the 2019 Tennessee College Voter Registration Competition in the category of private colleges and universities.

Related: Carson-Newman University honors two students with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Participating students told Hargett that the campaign fit well with Carson-Newman’s culture of helping and welcoming others. Thomas Fodor, a senior political science major from Talbott, said he enjoyed interacting with students and reassuring them that voter registration is an easy process.

Hargett encouraged the students to continue urging their peers to vote. “You carry much more weight with your sphere of influence than I do,” he said. “It’s up to you to try to get people in your sphere of influence to vote. When people participate, our society, as a whole, wins.”

Faison echoed that encouragement, noting that most voters are over the age of 55.

“We often hear people fighting for their rights. The right to vote is a right that you have to exercise,” Faison said. “Fight for what you believe in.”

The competition took place during September in honor of National Voter Registration Month. Every college and university in the state had the chance to compete by registering the most students to vote and to spread awareness of the campaign on social media using the hashtag #GoVoteTN, along with their school-specific hashtag. For Carson-Newman, the latter was #EagleVote.

Related: Carson-Newman University addresses food insecurity among college students

The Eagle Vote Project is an effort of Dr. Kara Stooksbury’s senior seminar class. In 2019, the Bonner Center and Student Government Association also participated. In addition to social media, students set up tables in the cafeteria and student activities center and placed QR codes linking to online voter registration around campus.

“I’m so proud that my students are being recognized for their contributions to civic engagement,” said Stooksbury, chair of the Department of History, Political Science and Sociology. “Voting is one of our most important rights as citizens, and too often college students are left out of the electoral process because they don’t register to vote.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Reagan Pugh Builds Connections Through Storytelling

As co-founder of Assemble, Reagan Pugh, a facilitator at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat, delivers workshops and keynote speeches on personal effectiveness and leadership development around the country. Prior to the launch of Assemble, Pugh was Chief Storyteller for the innovation consulting firm, Kalypso, and guided initiatives on storytelling, culture and leadership development at companies like Nike, Pepsico and Kimberly Clark. He has designed leadership courses for Texas State University, Trinity University and Angelo State University.

Pugh is making a return appearance as a facilitator for the next Ignite Retreat, which takes place March 27-29 in Wake Forest, N.C. The weekend-long changemaking event features workshops, speakers and activities for college students with a strong interest in creating positive social impact and solving problems through social entrepreneurship. The deadline to register for the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat is March 11. Click here to sign up or learn more about the Ignite Retreat.

a headshot of Ignite Retreat facilitator Reagan Pugh

Reagan Pugh

In his responses to our emailed questions, Pugh proved why he’s renowned as a master storyteller, communicator and motivator. So we decided to let him tell his story in his own words in the following Q&A: 

Q: Reagan, can you explain Assemble’s mission and how you accomplish it?

Reagan Pugh: Assemble designs workshops to help teams collaborate better together. This could look like strategy meetings, yearly reviews, weekend retreats or brainstorming sessions. We operate under the belief that the answers to an organization’s greatest challenges are locked inside their people. We help them work together differently so those answers can bubble to the surface.

Q: I know you’ve said in the past that more intensity isn’t necessarily what we need to accomplish our goals. We need more clarity. What do you mean by that?

Pugh: When facing challenges or working toward our goals, it’s easy to believe we’ll make the most progress by upping the intensity (working longer, working faster and adding more to our plate). The reality is, intensity is for amateurs. Clarity is what allows us to understand what matters most, take consequential actions, and make the meaningful contribution we were meant to make.

Related: Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Jarren Small teaches ELA skills through hip-hop

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put in long hours and give 100%. It means when we do our work, we don’t believe the outcome of our work will determine our worth or happiness.

When we default to intensity, it’s normally because we’re afraid of what happens when we slow down and listen to what we’re really meant to do. It’s countercultural to instead pursue clarity in order to move slowly and with intention, but those who do are more equipped to deliver a gift through their venture or idea.

In an age of endless choices, it’s fun to try and keep up, but it’s those who can put on the blinders and identify the most important things in front of them who actually ship things into the world without getting burned out.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your work as a storytelling consultant? And what kind of storytelling do you do?

Pugh: When an individual or organization asks for help telling their story, what we’re really talking about is understanding their audience. Every marketer these days will tell you about the importance of stories, but most completely miss the mark.

Simply having a story that you tell during a speech, a pitch or on your website doesn’t translate to more engagement or sales. The best leaders and organizations know stories aren’t about entertainment or even engagement—they are about connection. And in order for us to connect, we come back again to the necessity of clarity.

Whether I’m coaching someone on a keynote speech they are giving or guiding an organization on how to tell their story, we always go back to the same place: their desired audience. When we do the work of understanding the desires and fears of the people we wish to serve, we can then use stories as a powerful tool to catch their attention, assure them they’re not alone and invite them on a journey with us toward their desired future.

Related: Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Love Girls magazine founder Jasmine Babers shines a spotlight on “everyday girls”

Q: Why is storytelling so important in the nonprofit and/or entrepreneurial cultures today?

Pugh: Storytelling is about connection. Robert McKee has a good line about the power of story: “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

They are the currency of human contact. Stories are how we trade value and express needs. Stories are how we reveal what matters to us and what we want.

Consumers want to feel like organizations and brands are speaking directly to them. The entrepreneur who takes the time to deeply understand a specific audience and create stories for them will be able to build a venture that serves them and hopefully makes some cash.

photo of Reagan Pugh at the Three Circle Summit

Reagan Pugh, co-founder of Assemble, has guided initiatives on storytelling, culture and leadership development at companies like Nike, Pepsico and Kimberly Clark.

Q: So tell us about the role you’ll be playing in the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat?

Pugh: I’ll be leading the Problem Track series of workshops designed for those who know they want to build something but need a bit more clarity around the “what” behind their entrepreneurial pursuit.

The first session is “Unlocking Creativity,” where we’ll take a look at the problem students want to solve and help them ideate ways they might solve it. Could it be a hair salon or a drone business or a YouTube show? Who knows? Sometimes it’s hard to see things differently if you’ve been thinking about a problem the same way for a while. The “Unlocking Creativity” session will help students better articulate the problem they want to solve and generate innovative ideas on how they might solve it.

The second session is “Grow Your Team,” and it’s about enlisting people in your cause. The problem we want to solve will only turn into a viable venture if we create something others can say “yes” to. We’ll explore who is currently part of the students’ network, who should be, what roles they need to fill, and help them craft messaging to excite others about taking part in bringing their vision to life.

Q: In the end, what are you hoping our Ignite attendees will learn from you?

Pugh: They have what it takes to live a life of meaning and to make a valuable contribution to this world.

Learn more about Reagan Pugh and his work at

Survey: Women Lead Nearly Half of Germany’s Social Enterprises

Nearly half of Germany’s social social enterprises are women-led, according to a recent survey published by the Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland (SEND) and Otto von Guericke University.

The annual survey, called the German Social Entrepreneurship Monitor, found that 46.7% of the country’s social-impact businesses were founded by women, far outpacing women-led businesses in the mainstream sector. The survey polled 212 social enterprises in Germany, although the country is home to as many as 500,00, according to Pioneers Post. But SEND chair Markus Sauerhammer told the digital publication that the survey’s findings reflect his own experience in the field.

One example of a female-founded social enterprise in Germany: Original Unverpackt, which operates a supermarket dedicated to the zero-waste lifestyle, offering only organic, natural and sustainable products. Milena Glimbovski launched Original Unverpackt in 2012 with financing through a crowdfunding campaign. The company also publishes OU Magazine, which focuses on sustainable topics related to nutrition, lifestyle, society, the environment and reducing waste.

Original Unverpackt, founded by Milena Glimbovski in 2012, is a German supermarket that offers only organic, natural and sustainable products.

According to the survey, 84% of the entrepreneurs polled said their product or service is a first in the market. Additionally, 83.5% said achieving social impact is more important to them than making a profit, and 81.6% “reinvest their profits primarily for the purpose of their own organization instead of distributing the profits for private purposes,” SEND reports.

Ninety-four percent of the survey respondents said they take sustainability into account in their supply chains.

California Coffee Shops Test “Green” Cups as Solution to Single-Use Waste

A pilot program underway at cafes and coffee shops in California’s Bay Area aims to create green solutions to the problem of single-use fiber cups for national chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks, according to Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN).

The program was developed as part of the NextGen Cup Challenge, a global competition sponsored by NextGen Consortium, which is collaborating with leading brands, industry experts and innovators to “bring fully recoverable hot and cold fiber cup systems to a global scale.” Closed Loop Partners is the consortium’s managing partner, and corporate partners include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Yum Brands (the parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell), Wendy’s, Nestle and the World Wildlife Federation.

Related: The Plastic Bank turns plastic waste into currency for the poor

To kick off the pilot program, coffee shops in Palo Alto and San Francisco, Calif., began testing “smart” reusable cups in February. Participating shops include Coupa Café, Verve Coffee Roasters, Andytown Coffee Roasters, Ritual Coffee Roasters, Equator Coffees and La Boulangerie de San Francisco.

These “smart” cups are embedded with a tracking device. Customers can return the cups to the coffee shops or other drop-off locations, such as the City of Palo Alto. NextGen will then collect the cups, sanitize them and re-deploy them. Unlike some reusable cup programs, this one is different because customers don’t have to buy the cup or remember to carry it with them at all times, Bridget Croke, managing director at Closed Loop Partners, told NRN.

Starting in March, several cafés in Oakland—three Red Bay Coffee shops and Equator Coffees—will test fully recyclable and home-compostable single-use cups. Unlike standard to-go cups, this type of fiber cup won’t have polyethylene plastic liners. Instead, they use an aqueous-based coating to prevent leaks.

Related: Duke University student turns trash into stunning sustainable art

Additionally, Snow White Coffee in Oakland will test out a different coated paper cup that’s also recyclable and home-compostable.

The pilot programs are “battle-testing” the cups and gauging customer response, according to NRN. NextGen will also measure how each program fits into the circular economy and determine whether the solutions will be financially sustainable to allow for scaling up to the level required by major chains as well as independent restaurants.

McDonald’s and Starbucks have pledged a combined $15 million to the NextGen program.

“Finding a cup that can be scaled will require continued innovation, testing and honing of solutions,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer for McDonald’s North America, in the NRN story.

While many fiber cups are potentially recyclable, the vast majority end up in landfills, NextGen Consortium’s website points out. “There are two core issues with fiber cups: how they’re made and how the materials they’re made of are valued,” NextGen explains. “Most fiber cups have a plastic liner to prevent leaks. The fiber and plastic are recyclable once separated but limitations and inconsistencies in recycling infrastructure around the world mean that in most markets these materials aren’t easily recovered. And while recycled fiber and plastic are valuable, what’s currently recoverable from cups doesn’t sell for much, so there’s no strong incentive for recyclers to recover the materials.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Jarren Small Teaches ELA Skills Through Hip-Hop

From pioneers like Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash in the 1970s to 21st century superstars like Drake and Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop and rap are as much about storytelling and inventive use of language as they are about music. No one understands that better than Jarren Small, the driving force behind an innovative educational curriculum called Reading With a Rapper (RWAR) and the keynote speaker at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat.

The next Ignite Retreat takes place March 27-29 in Wake Forest, N.C. The weekend-long changemaking event features workshops, speakers and activities for college students with a strong interest in creating positive social impact and solving problems through social entrepreneurship. Click here to register or learn more about the Ignite Retreat.

Related: Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Reagan Pugh builds connections through storytelling

Using relatable, innovative tools and metrics, the eight-week RWAR program is an interactive learning experience that teaches English Language Arts (ELA) skills in a way that’s guaranteed to make today’s young people sit up and listen. RWAR helps students in grades 4-12 to hone their reading and writing skills through a series of activities and exercises built around rap songs with socially conscious lyrics, video content and technology. Students learn how to relate real-world concepts expressed in rap music to literature and writing.

Added bonus: The kids also get to meet and learn from up-and-coming hip-hop artists and even established hitmakers like Meek Mill.

photo of Jarren Small, founder of Reading With a Rapper

Jarren Small works closely with educators to tailor the Reading With a Rapper curriculum to fulfill TEKS standards set by the state of Texas.

The hip-hop movement evolved from humble beginnings at society’s margins, but today it’s one of the dominant musical styles—probably the most popular in the U.S. Because of its specialized artistry and social relevance, it can also be a teaching tool to help young people thrive at the secondary and collegiate level, Small believes.

“Hip-hop uses so many principles within the ELA space that it’s almost identical to properly expressing yourself creatively from your own perspective,” Small says. “The majority of the time, as consumers, we’re listening to audio books from authors when we listen to hip-hop projects. Writing an essay is no different.”

Small spearheaded Reading With a Rapper as an offshoot of a Houston nonprofit he co-founded with his friend, Douglas Johnson. Legends Do Live works with disadvantaged youth and communities, providing workshops, tutoring sessions and entertaining social experiences. Small left his own corporate job in 2018 to focus fulltime on Legends Do Live. It was a challenging period of his life, he says.

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“At that time, I started to go through my savings and ran my credit cards up and found myself at my lowest point going into the summer of being an entrepreneur,” he recalls. “I started working at a summer camp at my alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, where I would watch YouTube during my downtime.”

On YouTube, he came across an interview with Migos, a hip-hop group from Lawrenceville, Georgia, comprised of rappers who call themselves Takeoff, Offset and Quavo. “[The host] made them read a Dr. Seuss book in their rapping repertoire, and that’s where I had my light-bulb moment!” Small says. “I thought about how music can be such a positive tool to retain information, then started looking at how most artists use figurative language and tell unique stories all the time, similar to Dr. Seuss.”

“Finding a solution that could teach students how to read and write quicker and creating a better environment inside the classroom during school would be the ultimate win in my eyes,” he said.

Small and his Legends Do Live colleagues called that solution Reading With a Rapper. Noting that most rappers make creative use of metaphors, similes and personification in their songs, he realized he could employ music to teach these ELA concepts to young people.

this is a photo of a Reading With a Rapper class in action

Through eight-week programs and pop-ups, Reading With a Rapper uses rap lyrics to teach language and writing skills to school kids grades 4-12.

The RWAR program’s first week focuses on introducing the concept and working with teachers to identify ELA issues to be addressed. Small’s team then determines the kind of music and content that would best work for the class. The lessons focus on fulfilling the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for what students should know and be able to do.

Using noise-canceling headphones and Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets, students listen to relevant hip-hop music, watch videos and learn to dissect the content of the lyrics and to express their own thoughts creatively. RWAR also uses different types of lighting in the classroom to create the appropriate mood. The curriculum encourages classroom discussions on social justice, a central theme to many hip-hop artists’ work.

“We’ll talk about gun control, low self-esteem, certain things that kids are always dealing with but may not have a comfortable vehicle to talk about it,” Small has said in a Beyond Borders article on

At the end of the eight-week program, students compile and present an “album story”—their stories in essay form—in front of the class and are then surprised by a visit from the rapper whose lyrics they have been studying.

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“Creating a safe space [for students] to express themselves is super-important to us at our organization,” Small said. “With the recent violence that has happened in our school systems in America, bringing back an environment that welcomes the students and lets them express what’s going on outside of school in school is vital.”

The curriculum also introduces students to technology they might otherwise not have access to. “Students and their parents want [the youths] to be involved with STEM projects or coding, but if their reading is not at a place where it should be, that would be a pipe dream,” Small points out. “Music production or writing within the entertainment space are some of the many points we want to bring to the table as well.”

Small’s organization also produces RWAR Unplugged, a live, educational and interactive hip-hop concert for adults with corporate sponsors like Jack Daniel’s and Microsoft. “We believe we can influence and create a reinvented nostalgia of the past where artists’ words, feelings, emotions and comments can be heard in a welcoming and intimate setting, accompanied by the RWAR style that they may have heard of and will be sure to feed the soul of any intellectual music lover,” Small says. “Proceeds collected will allow us to provide our curriculum for underserved schools free of charge.”

this photo shows rapper Meek Mill at a Reading With a Rapper event

Hip-hop superstar Meek Mill appeared at a Reading With a Rapper event to talk about his organization, the REFORM Alliance.

RWAR has even held a series of celebrated pop-ups and events at middle and high schools in Houston. Each pop-up features a rapper and incorporates their music into the program. A pop-up in early 2019 featured popular hip-hop artist and social justice advocate Meek Mill, who talked about his organization, the REFORM Alliance, which focuses on reducing the number of people unjustly trapped in the criminal justice system.

Small isn’t a newcomer to the Ignite Retreat, a twice-yearly changemaking event aimed at college students from across the country. He has served as a workshop speaker at past retreats, even before he started running Legends Do Live fulltime. “Coming back to be the keynote speaker only shows how important these types of retreats are,” he said. “I’m a product of the Ignite Retreats, and I want to be able to show the students present that anything is possible when you take the right information in and put the work in.”

“I’m hoping the attendees will learn that thinking out of the box can really work once you surround yourself with the right group of people,” Small added. “Make your business or your purpose bigger than you. Improving people with your ideas or gifts are the true reason we have them.”