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United Way announces Upstream finalists

November 9, 2016

United Way of Northeast Florida is excited to announce the top finalists for the 2016-2017 Upstream competition. Upstream is a social innovation challenge for college students that provides seed grant funding of up to $10,000 for groundbreaking-ideas. After presenting their ideas on the main stage at the Innovation Connection Conference during Jacksonville Innovation Week, ten finalists were announced by David Miller, CEO and founder of Brightway Insurance.

What may have started as a dream for these young innovators is now that much closer to becoming a reality. Listed below are our lucky contenders representing four categories of ideas:


Vaughn Sayers, Farouk Smith and coach Nelson Green

Nelson Green, Vaughn Sayers and Farouk SmithVaughn, Farouk and Nelson intend to create the Gents for Jax professional development program for young men in Jacksonville. This program will provide the tools needed to teach young men to critique mainstream media, which can negatively influence a teen’s self-image and vision for their future.



Julia Driscoll and coach Adam Cunningham

Julia Driscoll and Adam CunninghamJulia and Adam’s goal is to create an after-school program for refugee students at Englewood High School. As a result, education majors from the University of North Florida will have the opportunity to further develop their teaching skills.




Rose-Laine Mobley (Not pictured: coach SuDelta Henson)

Rose-laine MobleyRose-Laine aims to create a musically enriched early learning reading program for pre-K and kindergarten children with their parents. The primary focus will be on nonverbal students with autism.




Not pictured: Shomari Gloster and coach Darryl Willis

Shomari plans to create a competitive step program for young males. Shomari hopes that this will create a greater sense of community throughout Jacksonville.


Courtney Hogan and Michael LombardoCourtney Hogan and coach Michael Lombardo (Not pictured: teammate Brianna Ballard)

Courtney, Brianna, and Michael aim to recover and redistribute leftover food from UNF campus store and restaurants to create well-balanced meals for community organizations such as food pantries and homeless shelters.


Financial Stability

Susan Khalili and coach Tom Caron

Tom Caron and Susan KhaliliSusana and Tom plan to establish a financial program at Sandalwood High School to teach students how to become financially stable, develop savings and assets and basic money management skills.




Downtown Improvement

Eunique Jackson and coach Gary Brose

EEunique Jackson and Gary Broseunique and Gary intend to create a seaplane air taxi business and school that operates along the St. John’s River.  The aim of this business would be to showcase Jacksonville with docks located near popular downtown destinations as well as, Jacksonville University.




Austen Dole and coach Laura Crosby

Austen DoleAusten and Laura plan to promote bicycling to Jacksonville Jaguars football games by providing a bicycle valet at games and tailgates specifically for cyclists, and potentially providing bicycle rentals.




Coach Allishia Bauman (Not pictured: teammates Noelle O’Connor and Tylyn Dagsaan)

Allishia BaumanTylyn, Noelle and Allishia aim to give each high school in Jacksonville an opportunity to create artwork that will be displayed downtown. The goal would be to increase community involvement and generate an incentive to visit downtown.




Max Burns, Michelle Nurris, Tre Gregory, and coach Philip Axelrod (Not pictured: teammate Adrian Santos)

Philip Axelrod, Adrian Santos, Max Burns, Michelle Nurris, and Tre GregoryMax, Michelle, Tre, Adrian and Philip plan to create an initiative called Help4Jax to assist community members in their job search endeavors, financial literacy, and volunteer opportunities.

[divider] With such a broad range of ideas, the judges will surely have their work cut out for them. Stay tuned to find out who makes the top four and who will have the chance to implement their idea to build a better Northeast Florida. Visit unitedwaynefl.org/upstream to learn more about United Way’s social innovation initiative.