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Winners selected at United Way’s second-annual Upstream Pitch Party

February 14, 2017

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Student winners and panelists celebrate a night of social-innovation ideas at United Way of Northeast Florida’s second annual Upstream Pitch Party on Feb. 9 at the Jessie Ball duPont Center. From left to right: Julia Driscoll, Farouk Smith, Jake Gordon, Brianna Ballard, David Miller, Vaughn Sayers, Courtney Hogan, Dawn Lockhart, Tylynn Dagsaan, Noelle O’Connor, Michelle Braun and Rena Coughlin.

Three student teams each won $10,000 in grant money to jumpstart their ideas for social change at last Thursday’s second-annual Upstream Pitch Party. A collaborative effort between United Way of Northeast Florida and local colleges, Upstream is a social innovation challenge in which young adults were paired with established young-professional leaders.

During the past three months, coaches and teams worked together to develop ideas and devise strategies to solve community
problems related to health, education, financial stability and Downtown improvement.

The winning teams were, in alphabetical order:

  • Food Fighters by Courtney Hogan and Brianna Ballard: A food recovery program that fights to eliminate food waste on UNF’s campus
  • Gents for Jax by Vaughn Sayers and Farouk Smith: A mentoring program for young men in Jacksonville
  • Project Brush Up by Tylyn Dagsaan and Noelle O’Connor: A public art initiative that is a collaboration between local artists and middle-school students

Also, the People’s Choice winner, “Elevating Refugee Peers” by Julia Driscoll, was presented with an honorary prize basket. Voting was completed on site during the event using a text-to-vote platform. Driscoll’s project is a plan to help refugee students
assimilate more easily to Northeast Florida. Designed to address the root causes of long-term community problems that affect our
community “downstream,” Upstream connects business and nonprofit leaders with the innovators of the future.

“Northeast Florida is incredibly lucky to have such a passionate population of young people interested in helping our community,” said David Miller, United Way’s Upstream lead investor and Brightway Insurance chairman. “United Way’s Upstream initiative
gives these fresh, forward-thinkers the platform and partners needed to get their ideas off the ground and jumpstart long-term change right here in our community.”

Miller joined the following local leaders who evaluated the presentations and selected the winners:

  • Jake Gordon, Downtown Vision Inc., CEO
  • Rena Coughlin, Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, President
  • Kate Stewart, JAX Community of Entrepreneurs, Executive Director
  • Dawn Lockhart, City of Jacksonville, Director of Strategic Partnerships

“I am once again inspired by the students and their ideas,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. “A huge thanks to our Upstream investors, partners, our panel of judges and, of course, these incredible students. I can’t wait to see how their energy and innovative ideas make Northeast Florida stronger and help tackle our toughest challenges.”

For more information about Upstream, visit unitedwaynefl.org/upstream. If you would like to invest in Upstream, visit unitedwaynefl.org/upstream/investor.