The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE) announced six finalists for the PCSE Seed Grants on Monday March 8. Six projects were selected as finalists for the academic year: B4 ~ Bold, Brave, and Bald (Alexis Papavasiliou ’24 and Kara Hodge ’24), Hearth Creative Co. LLC (Nélida Zepeda ’23), Infinitely: Doing Good While We’re Here (Nimra Karamat ’23 and Ashley Cardenas ’23), Long Lane Summer Farming (Elam Grekin ’22 and Franny Lin ’21), Newark Water Association (Vincent Henrich ’24), Olive Branch Pictures Inc. (Kevin DeLoughry ’21, Andrew Hirsh ’20, Liam Trampota ’18, and non-Wesleyan students Karmel Salah, Khaled Abousheikh, Noa Bendahan, Adam Akbar, Abdul Rehman, Cella Siegelman, Joe Grundfast, Odellya Sohnis, Orian Shukrun).
The grant consists of a $5,000 award designed to finance student projects, enterprises, or innovative programs that create social impacts. In addition to funds, each winner will receive mentorship and training.
Every spring, students submit grant proposals to the PCSE detailing how they would use the money to further their social entrepreneurship ventures. At the beginning of the grant selection process, applicants submit an executive summary to a panel of judges, consisting of alumni, parents, students, and community partners, who offer feedback and narrow the applicant pool down to six finalists.
“This process epitomizes the Wesleyan mission of ‘boldness, rigor, and practical idealism,’” PCSE Director Makaela Kingsley wrote in an email to The Argus. “It calls on students to come up with bold ideas for tackling social or environmental problems with scalable (or replicable) and sustainable (lasting) solutions. It requires that students rigorously research the problem they seek to tackle and the existing solutions landscape, [and then] defend what makes their idea different or better. All of this is driven by idealism—applicants must demonstrate a deep commitment to the problem and to their idea.”
Each of the six projects will be evaluated on the extent to which they focus on a social issue and how efficiently they can grow their programs to operate independently. The finalists have all worked directly with Kingsley and a PCSE mentor who has previously gone through the grant process.
B4 ~ Bold, Brave, and Bald, created by Papavasiliou and Hodge, is an online Etsy store partnership with local artists whose proceeds will go to several organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and supporting cancer patients.
“Our project works to redefine the social impact tech companies have,” Papavasiliou and Hodge wrote in an email to The Argus. “Right now we are focusing on Etsy, its vendors, and the ways in which they can have a positive impact on society. We will start as an Etsy shop that partners with other artists and curates their works. Here, 50% of the profits will go to cancer related charities.”
Hearth Creative Co. LLC is a handmade jewelry provider which strives to provide consumers with environmentally friendly products. Created by Zepeda, Hearth Creative Co. LLC crafts jewelry with recycled metals, locally foraged materials, up-cycled beads, and other resources.
“The seed grant will allow Hearth Creative Co. to blossom into our second stage growth, for our brand and our community,” Zepeda wrote in an email to The Argus. “In the coming months, Hearth Creative Co. is partnering with native womxn jewelry artisans from my hometown in México who have been directly impacted by mining companies. This partnership will not only directly provide support to womxn refugees, but will also raise awareness of the serious impacts that extractive mining has on the feminine in both body and territory through our website’s online journal: S.P.E.A.K.”
Infinitely: Doing Good While We’re Here is an organization which seeks to combat the Fast Fashion Industry by selling sustainable clothing at affordable prices. Creators Karamat and Cardenas aim to launch their first collection of shirts and dresses this spring.
“Gen Z has come of age in a climate where so many humanitarian crises are happening,” Karamat said. “We were just talking about the Me Too movement, Black Lives Matter, [and] school shootings. All of these things that we’ve grown up with have really impacted us and I think they’ve all contributed to us wanting to take a stand and be part of the change that has to come because we really do believe we’re the last generation who has the power to take back our power and to take back our planet.”
Long Lane Summer Farming is looking for funding from the PCSE to help bolster their ongoing work of producing food for the University community and the surrounding Middletown area. Lin, Grekin, and other students working for the farm hope to strengthen their existing relationship with the wider Middletown community.
“I think what this grant does, that maybe we haven’t had always the people and the resources to focus on in the past—especially with coronavirus interrupting things—is building up our relationship with the community, which we’ve always tried to do to some extent,” Lin said. “But again, coronavirus has meant we aren’t allowed to have people on the farm who don’t go to Wesleyan, and we’re not allowed to sell at the farmer’s market anymore…. So part of that is reenergizing our programming in whatever way we can to make the farm once again a shared space for families and also finding new ways to reach the community with our produce.”
Newark Water Association was founded by Henrich, who detailed in his proposal how the money would allow his organization to distribute more lead-free water to members of the Newark, New Jersey community. Henrich began Newark Water Association in 2020 after learning more about the lack of safe drinking water for people in Newark, where he used to live.
“We’re saving lives one water bottle at a time,” Henrich said. “We’re very lucky being here at Wesleyan, but…I’ve realized this when I lived in Newark [moved] into West Orange, [that] not everybody is as lucky as us. The fact that we live in America and there’s still people who don’t have access to clean water is horrible. Water is a human right.”
Olive Branch Pictures Inc. is an organization dedicated to conflict mediation through the means of comics and animated movies. Overseen by a diverse production team and advisory board, Olive Branch Pictures strives to establish trust and confront violence, xenophobia, and propaganda while promoting empathy and respect. Hirsh believes that an Olive Branch Pictures graphic novel, “Shira and Amal,” embodies their mission.
“Our goal is to produce ‘Shira and Amal’ as a graphic novel and scale to a full-length epic, animated musical,” Hirsh wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our long-term vision is to establish a sustainable studio applying the methodology of ideologically balanced, representational storytelling to mitigate intractable social conflicts around the world.”
The finalists will pitch their projects over Zoom to a virtual audience on Friday, April 2 at noon. After each project is presented to the audience, the panel of judges will select grantees based on an agreed-upon list of criteria.
“This grant—and the work of the Patricelli Center overall—is not about startups and ventures,” Kingsley wrote. “It is about teaching problem-solving mindsets and skillsets, creative competence and confidence, and comfort with ambiguity. It is about preparing students to translate theory to practice, apply their academics to real work, and ultimately to create positive change. Creating a new nonprofit or for-profit venture is just one way to do that. We also support activists, community organizers, policy makers, artists, and all other change-making roles.”
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