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Kayla Harris Wins Business Pitch Competition With Computer Game for Personal Finances

Few things in life are more important than keeping track of your finances—and few things are more boring to restless young minds. Kayla Harris, a sophomore at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University, has an idea for teaching personal finance skills through a computer game that will engage students’ creativity and imagination. Her idea and pitching skills won the grand prize of $300 in a business pitch competition at the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat in Asheville, N.C. last month.

Harris, a native of North Chesterfield, Virginia, majors in business management and double-minors in human resources management and economics at MBU. She said she sees a need to “reconstruct the way personal finance and economics are taught in middle school, high schools and colleges.”

Related: Elon University students learn how to “make a mark in the world” at Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat

“Many courses and classes that teach finances are very informative,” Harris says. “However, it’s a big challenge for students to remember what they’re learning because it’s not being applied to reality.” After all, most kids don’t have any money to manage yet. “As we mature, we face financial challenges that we don’t necessarily know how to solve due to the fact that that connection was never made in personal finance and economic classes,” Harris adds.

this photo shows an Ignite Retreat facilitator prepping students for a business pitch competition

Ignite Retreat facilitator Reagan Pugh walks students through the elements of a successful pitch.

To solve the problem, Harris plans to work with her high school’s STEM class to develop a prototype for a computer game “that allows students to play out these financial challenges in real-world situations and learn from it. Think something like ‘The Sims’ meets credit scores, taxes and budgeting.”

About a dozen student presenters participated in the business pitch competition, with the other Ignite Retreat student attendees casting votes to choose the winner. Students who judged the contest walked from booth to booth and listened to the pitches. “The goal was to encourage the presenters to go out of their way to recruit people to their project rather than expect everyone to passively listen to their short pitch,” said Ignite Retreat organizer Spud Marshall. “Part of the goal, in addition to pitching, is to get them to think about creative community building.”

Related: Sullivan Foundation offers study-abroad program in Scotland for Summer 2020

“We asked [the student judges] to prioritize projects that were going to make the best use of ‘prototype funds,’ meaning they could produce something tangible with just a few hundred dollars rather than requiring thousands,” Marshall added.

Winning the business pitch competition was just part of an important learning experience for Harris. “I absolutely loved the Ignite Retreat,” she said. “I came in very blind about what the event was about but was open-minded. Starting off, I knew there was an issue [with her business idea] that I wanted to fix, and I knew how I wanted to fix it but just didn’t know how to get started. The retreat definitely gave me the tools necessary to turn my thought into a reality. I was asked questions that I never thought to ask myself about my project. I was showed different angles on how to view the situation I wanted to solve and really was just welcomed and supported at a level I had never felt before.”

Above all, Harris says, she learned to “never give up” on a good idea. “There are thousands of people in the world who want to make an impact on the issue you want to change but feel like they don’t have the ability to. I’m so grateful that the Sullivan Foundation, through the Ignite Retreat, gave me the means necessary [to move forward with the project]. So, I have a lot of people counting on me and rooting for me.”

“My other takeaway,” she added, “was that change is going to be a challenge, but challenge is good. The retreat really helped me understand how to face these challenges and how to create the perfect team to overcome the challenges.”

Related: Selma Community Innovation Immersion Program gives students a chance to work with the poor in Selma, Alabama

Elon University Students Learn How to “Make a Mark in the World” at Ignite Retreat

By Chloe Kennedy

Four students from Sullivan Foundation partner school Elon University learned how to “make a mark in the world” using social entrepreneurship at the foundation’s Fall 2020 Ignite Retreat.

Christopher Raville, Imani Vincent, Mikayla Ford and Angy Aguilar took part in the twice-yearly event, held Oct. 18-20 in Asheville, N.C. They attended workshops, activities and events focused on changemaking, honing leadership skills and the principles of social enterprise. The retreat workshops were hands-on and experimental and allowed each participant time to work on a project of their choice, gain clarity on potential career paths and dig deeper into a set of problems, all while focusing on connecting skills and interests in a way to create positive community change.

Related: Sullivan Foundation offers Study Abroad opportunity in Scotland for Summer 2020

“An activity that particularly stood out to me was about empathic listening,” said Aguilar, a computer science and entrepreneurship double major. “Students formed groups, and one person in the group shared a problem in their life that they had. We were encouraged to ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions rather than ‘why’ questions to really understand the problem. I found this activity very valuable as most of the time we listen to respond rather than listen to understand and empathize.”

The Elon group was among more than 100 students and young professionals in attendance who are passionate about social entrepreneurship. “Students came from all over with different problems, passions and curiosities, with the goal to make a mark in the world,” said Ford, a communication design major.

“After this weekend I know I have a community of people who understand my motivation,” added Vincent, who majors in public health. “What amazed me about the Ignite Retreat was being able to be in a space with so many people with different perspectives who all want in some way to make social change.”

Related: Ole Miss changemaker Cecilia Trotter says “yes” to risks and new life experiences

Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Elena Kennedy, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, accompanied the students and met with faculty and staff from a variety of schools in the Sullivan Foundation network to learn best practices related to teaching social entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The Ignite Retreat provided a space for those of us who are deeply passionate about creating social change to interact and network with like-minded social entrepreneurs,” said Raville, a finance and entrepreneurship double major. “Workshopping my own initiative provided fresh insights on how to deliver an impactful prototype. Pitching my own initiative provided a space to practice delivering my message to a large, diverse group and left me with feedback as to how better communicate my vision.”

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

Ole Miss Changemaker Cecilia Trotter Says “Yes” to Risks and New Life Experiences

Risk-taking doesn’t come easily to most of us, but University of Mississippi student Cecilia Trotter believes we can’t live full, rich lives without braving the unknown now and then. Her recent experience with the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat, held Oct. 18-20 in Black Mountain, N.C., drove that lesson home for Trotter in a significant way.

“You never really know where life will take you, and this retreat helped me want to say yes to more things in my life and take more risks,” said Trotter, a senior majoring in Public Policy Leadership and minoring in business, journalism and entrepreneurship at Ole Miss, a Sullivan Foundation partner school. “Risks are big for me, too—sometimes I really like to play it safe.”

Related: College students can get hands-on experience with social innovation in Selma, Alabama

Trotter, who hails from Greenville, Miss., was voted Miss Ole Miss by her fellow students this year, so she knows a thing or two about putting herself out there. She designed her campaign platform, called Rebel Heart, “to empower students and create a culture of positivity” while promoting mental health and wellness. Among her many activities on campus, Trotter serves on the Associated Student Body Cabinet and is a past co-director of the ASB’s First Year Experience program. She has also been an Ole Miss orientation leader and a team leader for the Ole Miss Big Event, the largest community service project in the university’s history.

Trotter has attended two Ignite Retreats and traveled to Prague this past summer for a Sullivan-sponsored study-abroad program that focused on leadership and social entrepreneurship. She will also serve as a Sullivan intern at the foundation’s Summer 2020 program, Leading for Social Innovation: Study Abroad in Scotland, which takes place June 4-July 4 in Edinburgh.

The Scotland program, developed in partnership with Arcadia University, features two courses—Leadership by Design and Social Change in Action. The first course emphasizes the practice and tools of leadership, while the second one introduces students to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation, empowering them to develop their own capacities for solving social problems while learning effective communications and storytelling skills. Students will take part in field trips across Scotland, meeting with social entrepreneurs and helping develop new initiatives to strengthen their ventures.

Related: Sullivan Ambassador Lori Babb aims to use social entrepreneurship and bioethics to change the world

Trotter, who loves to travel, said she “thoroughly enjoyed” her study-abroad adventure in Prague. “I was really excited to travel there as I had never seen any part of Eastern Europe,” she recalled. “I found Prague to be a sweet, little hidden gem. It had its own sense of charm that I have never experienced anywhere else, and I just found myself wanting to explore more every day.”

this photo shows Cecilia Trotter at Ole Miss prior to the Study Abroad in Scotland program

Cecilia Trotter is the current Miss Ole Miss and an intern for the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland program.

“The history of the Czech Republic and the old architecture and buildings made it feel as if you were living in the midst of so many different periods of time while still living your own experience,” Trotter added. “It felt really surreal as I began to see and consider all the different perspectives of both my fellow travelers and the natives around the city.”

Always ready for another overseas adventure, Trotter looks forward to working with the Sullivan study-abroad cohort in Edinburgh next summer. “The great thing about the courses offered through the Sullivan Foundation is that any student can benefit from them,” she noted. “We will all be called or challenged at some point in our lives to be a leader and have opportunities to serve or stand up as a leader. That is why I think it is important to take the [study-abroad] leadership course—so you may have the opportunity to dive deeper into learning about yourself and how you may lead others.”

Related: Sullivan Field Trip students discover the power of creative placemaking to help communities spur economic growth

The Scotland program’s course in social entrepreneurship is also important, she said, “because it focuses on innovative thinking. I found, in my own experience, that the ability to think creatively and innovatively fits any interest. Whether a student is interested in politics, medicine, art, or engineering, this course allows them to take the things they are passionate about and form ideas on how to move their interest forward. I really enjoyed the entrepreneurship course [in Prague] as it has given me insight on how to create and dream in systems, and I already feel like I have a strong system in place. Some students are already really great at that, but being able to challenge yourself while also seeking [innovative ideas] through a new lens abroad is something I find invaluable to education.”

Trotter is still mulling over her career options, but she will most likely earn her law degree next. Over the long term, in true Sullivan changemaker fashion, she hopes to live a life of service to others. “I really do see myself starting in a career with a law degree,” she said, “but also working in projects that will focus more through an entrepreneurial lens that targets the well-being of others and the education of young people.”

Experienced changemakers at the Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat included (from left): Crystal Dreisbach of Don’t Waste Durham and GreenToGo; Alexis Taylor of 3 Day Startup; Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga Studio; Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET Education; and Abhinav Khanal of Bean Voyage.

In that regard, Trotter took some inspiration from facilitators and guest speakers at the Fall Ignite Retreat. Many of them are successful social entrepreneurs who use the principles of business to improve their communities. Crystal Dreisbach, for example, founded both a nonprofit, Don’t Waste Durham, and a social enterprise, GreenToGo, that focus on sustainability and reducing waste in Durham, N.C. Dreisbach related her changemaking experiences in an Ignite Retreat session attended by Trotter. “It was probably one of the best stories I have heard in my life,” Trotter said. “All of the women who spoke had the most amazing stories.”

Related: Crystal Dreisbach’s GreenToGo makes it easier for restaurants to kick the styrofoam habit

But Trotter was just as inspired by the student changemakers she encountered at the Sullivan event. “We have some really passionate, dedicated and extremely creative and intelligent young adults who, I believe, will do some really great things for our world in the future,” she said. “It is super-empowering to put all of these college students in one small place together for a weekend. People are exchanging ideas and working together to help one another, and it is so genuine … I think that students who are seeking to better themselves and make new and future connections would greatly enjoy this retreat. Even trying it won’t hurt or be a waste of time because I think you will leave with a piece of something that will better you.”

After all, trying is what changemaking is all about, as facilitators like Spud Marshall and Chad Littlefield made clear in their Ignite Retreat sessions. “Spud and Chad really have a way of making the risk seem like a small bump in the road,” Trotter said. “Quite honestly, it probably is, but when you are a young college student with no money and have a lot of ideas in your head with little direction, it seems huge. I think that my experience with the Sullivan Foundation has really helped me stop glorifying the risk and start glorifying the action of moving forward, knowing I could really, really fail in some aspect of life, big or small. I have also gotten to meet some really positive and intelligent people along the way whom I look up to. Sometimes, I feel like college students hear things like, ‘Do not join the real world—it’s a trap.’ But I’m excited to move forward, and meeting people through the Sullivan Foundation has solidified that for me.”

 

Meet the Ignite Retreat Coaches: Ajax Jackson Teaches Yoga as a Technology for Life Transformation

The internet abounds with apps and tools for yoga practitioners, but Ajax Jackson, owner of Magnolia Yoga Studio in New Orleans and a coach at the upcoming Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat, knows yoga itself is a technology—one that has been delivering results for more than 5,000 years.

Although viewed by most as a spiritual practice, yoga, Jackson says, is also “an ancient technology still relevant for our modern-day ills. It’s a technology focused on the mind and body. Think about it: Humans have been using tools for a long time. In fact, we have progressed so much because of tools. Yoga should be used and viewed in the same way. Life is considered a process, and yoga prepares us for this process called life.”

Related: Learn more about the Fall Ignite Retreat, Oct. 18-20, in Asheville, N.C.

Many in the medical field agree. “Along with offering direct health benefits, the various yoga tools—including the physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation—are part of a systematic technology for life transformation, a step-by-step method for changing bad habits,” notes Dr. Timothy McCall, a physician and the medical editor of Yoga Journal.

this photo captures both the spirit of New Orleans and Ajax Jackson's colorful personality

Ajax Jackson, owner of Magnolia Yoga Studio in New Orleans, said she will serve as a “living, breathing case-study coach” at the Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat.

Jackson founded New Orleans’ first black-owned yoga studio because she wanted to teach others to make this proven technology work for them. With a background in socio-cultural anthropology, education and the nonprofit sector, she said, “I have been in the business of understanding, educating and caring for people most of my adult life.”

She opened Magnolia Yoga after receiving her own “life tune-up” through yoga. “I decided to study the technology formally with a world-renowned yoga teacher, training to open a studio to make a living doing what I love while supporting people’s healing and development of self. With this plan, I knew I could help transform the world!”

Magnolia Yoga offers private instruction for individuals as well as group classes and corporate yoga for businesses looking to improve workplace morale, increase productivity and encourage teamwork. Offering classes seven days a week, the studio is only closed on Christmas Day, Jackson said.

Related: View a pictorial of the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat

“We have become a beacon of light for New Orleans residents, locals, natives, transplants and all of her international visitors,” Jackson said. “The city at large and our surrounding area have never seen a business like ours before, and because of that and the positive impact and influence of the work, we are considered a gem!”

this photo depicts the healing nature of one of Ajax Jackson's yoga classes

For individuals taking Ajax Jackson’s classes, yoga is both a spiritual practice and a technology that promotes healing and self-improvement.

For Jackson, every new challenge is an opportunity to learn and improve herself, and the upcoming Ignite Retreat will be no different. “Participating in the Ignite Retreat allows me to focus on several areas of my own education and professionalism that need development while I share and cultivate with others,” she said. “I want to serve and learn from our younger generations as well as teach them the value of self-care and radical self-development through yoga and meditation.”

Jackson said she will serve as “a living, breathing case-study coach” for students at the Ignite Retreat and share her own experiences as an entrepreneur with a strong focus on helping others. She will also lead a yoga class for interested participants.

“I think having coaches accessible in this format is brilliant and a great model for other organizations to consider using,” she said. “With hope and inspiration, I plan on weaving in themes and teachings that correlate with and complement the Ignite Retreat’s mission.”

The Fall Ignite Retreat will be held Oct. 18-20 in Asheville, N.C., and features workshops and seminars led by dynamic facilitators, speakers and social entrepreneurs from around the U.S. Click here for more information or to register to attend.

this photo demonstrates a yoga pose taught in Ajax Jackson's class

“We are in a hard-fought moment right now where much of our hard work on all fronts is paying off,” Jackson said. “I’m very proud of this moment because I just put my head down and worked for it. I just happened to look up and realized we actually made it out of the swamp!”

University Students Learn Social Entrepreneurship Skills at Sullivan Foundation’s Upcoming Ignite Retreat

Students from throughout the southeastern United States will meet in Asheville, N.C., October 18-20, to attend the Sullivan Foundation’s social entrepreneurship-focused Ignite Retreat.

Sullivan retreats are designed to immerse students in a series of targeted workshops that help them “ignite” ideas for making positive change in their communities or develop a social business enterprise or event that might solve or alleviate a problem.

this photo conveys the energy of the Ignite Retreat attendees

Ignite Retreat attendees learned how to build social enterprise businesses and made new connections and friends at the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat.

“The Sullivan Foundation recognizes students and community leaders who have led lives with integrity characterized by service above self and service to their communities. We’ve presented awards each year since 1890 to outstanding students primarily. And since 1934, we have provided scholarships to deserving students,” said Steve McDavid, the Foundation’s president. “In 2008, we added focused programming, including the Ignite events, to foster social enterprise activities.”

Related: View a photo gallery of the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat

Students interested in the Ignite Retreat may attend a series of workshops and activities and connect with many socially conscious, like-minded individuals from throughout the southeast and beyond. They may also choose from three educational programming tracks for the weekend based on whether they are just beginning their social entrepreneurial journey, have a set of social challenges they would like to learn how to address now, or have a specific social venture they would like to bring to life.

this photo depicts a self-empowered yoga instructor who will facilitate workshops at the Sullivan Foundation's Ignite Retreat

Ajax Jackson, founder of Magnolia Yoga in New Orleans, says that once you can get your body into an open and flexible, you can do the same with your mind.

Students can also pitch their projects to experienced social entrepreneurs, gain access to and get feedback from Sullivan Award alumni, and receive access to Sullivan scholarship funding.

Spud Marshall, founder of the co.space and innovation director at 3 Dots, will lead the Fall Ignite Retreat, along with Harrison Wood, program coordinator for the Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program. The event also will feature an impressive roster of dynamic, experienced facilitators, coaches, innovators and social entrepreneurs, including:

Holley Murchison, founder and CEO of Oratory Glory and founding partner of HOLI. Brands

Crystal Dreisbach, founder of GreenToGo and executive director of Don’t Waste Durham

Ajax Jackson, founder of Magnolia Yoga

Abhinav Khanal, co-founder of Bean Voyage

Reagan Pugh, founding partner of Assemble

Tessa Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Chad Littlefield, founder of WE!

Interested students may purchase tickets for the Ignite Retreat until October 2. General admission is $425. However, a select group of students from the 70-plus Sullivan Network Schools may be eligible to receive a sponsored ticket. Meals and housing are included with admission.

this photo shows that Crystal Dreisbach is a social innovator with a unique product

Crystal Dreisbach, founder of GreenToGo in Durham, North Carolina, is also leading a campaign to reduce single-use plastic in the city.

For further information go to www.sullivanfdn.org/events or call 662-236-6335. To register go to www.sullivanfdn.org/ignite/#tickets.  You may also e-mail questions regarding the events to admin@sullivanfdn.org.

Related: Ignite Retreat speaker leads charge to reduce plastic waste in Durham, N.C.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation was founded in 1934, but its roots date back 60 years earlier when U.S. President Grover Cleveland and a group of other influential persons created the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to honor those that inspire a life of integrity and service. Sullivan Awards have been presented to people whose lives of service have changed the world with little fanfare as well as those who have become household names – recipients include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, to name a few.

this photo shows the fun energy that Chad Littlefield brings to his Ignite Retreat presentations

Team-building expert Chad Littlefield of We! helps groups of people engage in conversations that matter. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

7 Things You Should Know About the Ignite Retreat

How does spending a weekend in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina learning about how to change the world sound? Oh, did we mention you’ll go home with a ton of new friends who have the same passions and interests as you? And that you’ll gain invaluable insights to help you make your dreams a reality?

If any of this sounds good to you, you should consider attending the upcoming Ignite Retreat, to be held April 5-7 in Raleigh, N.C. This three-day event focuses on sparking change and helping young people start on their changemaking journey. Registration deadline is March 20, so click here to sign up NOW!

Meanwhile, here are seven things you should know about the Ignite Retreat.

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Upcoming Sullivan Events

The Sullivan Foundation exists to support those who work to make their world a better place, and one of the best ways we do that is through our events. From our retreats to our field trips, Sullivan events are places of inspiration, information, and connection for changemakers. And this spring, we have a great lineup of events.

This March, we’ll be holding a field trip for budding changemakers in Chattanooga. In April, we’ll be hosting our spring Ignite Retreat and a Faculty Summit. Read on to learn more about our upcoming Sullivan events and how you can be a part of them.

The Ignite Retreat

The Ignite Retreat is an awesome weekend that happens twice a year in the mountains of North Carolina. Participants spend three days focusing on learning, networking, and igniting change in their worlds. The retreat happens in April and October and rotates between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.

You can choose from three tracks for the Ignite Retreat: the personal track, the problem track, and the project track. No matter where you are as a changemaker, you can find tools to help you take the next step. Our next retreat will take place April 5-7 in Raleigh, and registration is open through March 30.

The Chattanooga Field Trip

We also have an awesome opportunity coming up for those in the Tennessee area. In February, we will be taking a field trip to Chattanooga to talk with some local business owners. These leaders are working to tackle pressing social and environmental problems in creative entrepreneurial ways.

This year’s field trip in Chattanooga will feature ten social enterprises who are changing the face of their city. These include the Glass House Collective, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. You can register online through February 13.

The Faculty Summit

If you’re on the faculty side of college operations, don’t worry; the Sullivan Foundation has programming for you, too. This April, the same weekend as our Ignite Retreat, we will offer a chance for faculty to learn more about social entrepreneurship. You will deepen peer relationships and connections and gain a deeper understanding of social innovation and the entrepreneurship community.

During the Summit, you’ll gain fresh new tools that you can apply in your classroom and on your campus. We’ll also provide a forum for you to get actionable feedback and suggestions for you to put into practice back home. Registration is open online through March 20.

Sign Up for Upcoming Sullivan Events

We are very excited about the upcoming Sullivan events we’ll have this spring. We hope you and your campus will get involved. If you’d like more information about any of our events, visit our website!

Penn State Ignite Retreat

This year, the Sullivan Foundation held our first-ever college-sponsored Ignite Retreat. Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College partnered with us to host an Ignite Retreat this September on the Penn State campus. The event was free to all PSU students, and we had forty attend.

The weekend was an amazing time of connection, inspiration, and discussions about changemaking. Students formed amazing bonds, and the weekend kick-started a new wave of change in Pennsylvania. Read on to learn a little more about the Penn State Ignite Retreat.

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Ignite Retreat 2018

This weekend, ninety-four students and a couple of dozen faculty came together in Black Mountain, North Carolina for a weekend of inspiration, learning, and discussion about social change. We had six facilitators, three tracks for students to choose from, and about forty-eight hours dedicated to exploring how to save the world.

These numbers are a good way to get a handle on what happened this weekend, but they don’t begin to show how powerful the weekend was. The 2018 Ignite Retreat was an event to be remembered.

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From Student to Leader

Last fall, we talked with Diane Ford, who is the operations coordinator of Forward Cities and a former Ignite Retreat attendee. Forward Cities is a network of more than two dozen cities across the United States dedicated to advancing inclusive innovation and economic development in their communities.

This year, Diane will be serving as a facilitator at the Ignite Retreat, to be held April 5-7, 2019, in Raleigh, NC. She will join a group of other talented changemakers who lead the retreat and help college students figure out what they’re passionate about and how to take their dreams and turn them into plans and actions. We talked to Diane about her experience with the Ignite Retreat and how it has affected her work as a changemaker.

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