Twelve high school students from as far away as Romania and Honduras took part in the Life Changing Summer program this year, supported by Entrepreneurship at Cornell and run by Life Changing Labs.
“I have always wanted to start a nonprofit, but I never had the resources and never knew how,” said Aarushi Singh, a high school junior from Cleveland, Ohio, who heard about the camp from her sister, a computer science major at Cornell. “Now I feel like I could really create something that could benefit so many people.”
Singh’s idea, a platform called Success in Schools, won the top prize of $300 during final presentations July 27. The platform would give teachers an easier and more efficient way to visually see students’ academic progress, notice areas of weakness and address concerns before students fall too far behind.
The three-week program for high school students was the brainchild of Peter Cortle ’11 and Michael Raspuzzi ’16 and started in 2015. Students live in campus residence halls and take part in classes on the basics of entrepreneurship, computer science and design. They also conduct research and experiment as they develop their ideas into products, helped by students, faculty and alumni mentors. And they take part in workshops on varied topics, including 3D printing and resume creation.
“This year, from day one, the students were asking for more assignments, saying ‘Can we stay later than 2 p.m.?’” Cortle said as he complimented the cohort on their hard work and perseverance.
“We’ve been doing these business competitions at Cornell for 20 some years on campus, and you guys are right up there with the juniors and seniors who present,” John Alexander ’74, MBA ’76, one of the judges for Friday’s presentations, told students as they announced the winner.
Parents Elisa Miller-Out and Leon Miller-Out of Ithaca, whose ninth-grade daughter, Louisa, took part in camp, said Louisa spent most evenings working on her project at home.
“Louisa is very entrepreneurial, and we also encouraged her to do this because we’re both entrepreneurs ourselves,” said Elisa Miller-Out, a tech entrepreneur and investor. “It was fun to have her come home and tell us about her day because she was doing things that are related to what we’re doing during our day.”
Louisa’s idea, Puppr, is a website that connects dog owners to people who want to spend time playing with dogs but don’t currently own one.
“I’m a dog owner and dog lover who wishes that everyone could enjoy the benefits of having a dog in their life,” she said during her presentation, which included a nod to her muse and mascot, Philip, a Labrador-beagle-pointer mix.
Shawn Kuriakose, from Congers, New York, showed judges his portable charger, which features interchangeable magnetic heads that allow the owner to charge all of their devices from one charger. Kuriakose not only worked on a business plan for the idea but also created a prototype using 3D printers in Upson Hall, with help from Cornell student Jean Davila ’20, one of the mentors.
Ana Baide, a high school senior who came to the program from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, created a website called Edu+, which offers online high school classes, SAT prep courses and other resources to students in countries like her own where a high school education is expensive.
“In my own family, we have struggled,” she said. “My brother had to have two gap years to finish high school.” Baide wants to launch her website in Central American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“I’ve met so many amazing people who are willing to help me,” Baide said of her experience at camp. “I think that’s part of American culture, where people are so nice and always giving of their knowledge.”
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.