Philly Artrepreneurs wins $5,000 from innovation contest

A new program, Philly Artrepreneurs, gives students a way to use their art skills to fund their favorite charity. The program won $5,000 at a seed money competition this week.

Philly CORE Leaders which funds innovative ideas for education in the city, hosted the annual event. The audience — made up of teachers, education leaders and community members — listened to entrepreneurs pitch ideas and then picked the winner out of five presenters.

Art teacher Jeff Kilpatrick created the winning idea. Fifth through eighth graders at Memphis Street Academy Charter School in the Port Richmond neighborhood, where Kilpatrick teaches, will pick a charity and then design products to sell online. The proceeds will support the charity, student scholarships and reinvestment into the program.

“I didn’t expect it,” Kilpatrick said of winning. “I felt we were the underdog. I’m amazed. I’m just real happy for the kids that we’re going to be able to do something really, really, really special for them.”

He says one student already wants to design T-shirts to help rescue big cats, and others plan to help the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center and the homeless nonprofit Project H.O.M.E.

Kilpatrick plans to use the award money to buy studio equipment and software that students wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

A judging panel, that included School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green, asked pointed questions of the presenters to help the audience decide. Ryan Stewart, executive director of the Philadelphia School District’s Office of School Improvement and Innovation, served as one of the judges.

“It’s actually really great to come to an event where you get to see this many people who are thinking so deeply about the kinds of issues, day to day, that are on the minds of so many of our educators,” he said.

The first-time judge was impressed with the applications.

“I think that they all made great presentations,” he said. “I was actually really excited to hear about the way it spanned the gamut of issues that we face from solving math equations to supporting our students with autism.”

The other finalists included: GAINS, a mobile app that provides personalized learning instruction for children with autism; JustMaybeCo., an education startup aimed at collaboration between schools and communities; ProfessorWord, a SAT/ACT prep website that curates local, relevant articles to learn SAT/ACT vocabulary; and SnapSolver, a mobile app that teaches students how to solve math and science equations by using a picture of the problem.

Audience member Dorothy Miller, who works for Merck, does not have a background in education.

“Obviously education is a really important issue,” she said. “I was really excited about seeing something exciting, fun and energized around Philly education.”

Jake Puzycki, a masters student at Lehigh University, attended because he applied but wasn’t selected as a finalist.

“It was great to see what people are looking for in applicants and how people present and lessons learned for myself as I move forward,” he said.

PhillyCORE has given more than $25,000 dollars to programs over the past four years.

The event sponsors were PECO, Philadelphia School Partnership and Oxford Mills.

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