UM-Flint to host Young Sharks entrepreneurial pitch competition, May 29

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Three kids in Young Sharks t shirts standing on stage. A young boy is speaking into a microphone and pointing to the crowd, while two young girls look on.
The Young Sharks/Junior Sharks pitch competition allows elementary and middle school students to share their entrepreneurial ideas, which are developed in tandem with an integrated classroom curriculum.

Close to 400 K-12 students in grades three through eight will share their entrepreneurial ideas and vie for real cash prizes during the University of Michigan-Flint's Young Sharks/Junior Sharks pitch competition. The event, now in its fourth year, will take place, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., May 29, at the university's Riverfront Conference Center.  

Students will have competed within their classrooms prior to the event, with each class winner advancing to the pitch competition. However, all students have the opportunity to display their ideas. The top three teams from both the Young Sharks (grades three to five) and Junior Sharks (grades six to eight) will receive crystal plaques and cash prizes.

The event's judges are Yasser Aboelkassem, UM-Flint assistant professor of engineering, Beverly Brown, Genesee County commissioner, and Vivian Williams, community engagement coordinator at 100K Ideas

Classes from Mason Elementary, Brendel Elementary, Myers Elementary, the Perry Innovation Center and Grand Blanc West Middle School will be participating.

The pitch competition is an annual culmination of groundbreaking efforts to incorporate entrepreneurship, economics and innovation into existing K-12 curricula. Participating teachers attend a professional development workshop facilitated by the curriculum co-authors and then work to lead students through every phase of the entrepreneurial process, from ideation to development to the pitch event. 

Melanie Brock is a fourth-grade teacher at the Perry Innovation Center. She has seen her students grow as a result of participating in the Young Sharks program.

"Young Sharks has empowered my students by fostering leadership skills, cultivating creativity, and encouraging them to take initiative. It has equipped them with essential soft skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving," Brock said. "Young Sharks has inspired my students to step out of their comfort zones, embrace challenges, and strive for excellence."

  • Two young girls on stage pitching their idea

The curriculum was developed by Terry Groves, former K-8 social studies curriculum chair at Grand Blanc Community Schools, along with Paula Nas, David Merot and Nic Custer from UM-Flint's Office of Economic Development. In addition to these team members, the entire OED team plans and hosts the annual pitch competition. 

Paula Nas

"We've created a full suite of lesson plans for teachers that are easy to use and implement," said Nas. "While aligning with the state of Michigan content standards, it covers everything from what it means to be an entrepreneur, how to innovate and work as a team, and fundamental concepts of revenues, costs and profit. In addition to economics, the curriculum also incorporates math, social studies and writing."

The competition is supported by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. 

More information about Young Sharks/Junior Sharks can be found on the program's webpage. Educators interested in participating in the program can contact Nas at [email protected].

Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.