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UNF students win funding for social change at inaugural Upstream Pitch Party

February 5, 2016

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Student winners and panelists celebrate a night of social-innovation ideas at United Way of Northeast Florida’s inaugural Upstream Pitch Party on Feb. 4 at the Jessie Ball duPont Center. From left to right: Rena Coughlin, Audrey Moran, Katherine Sanchez, Katie Kilpatrick, Jessica Stephens, Dayna Cohen, David Miller, Courtney Lynch, Carlton Robinson, The Honorable Linda McCallum and Russ Thomas.

Embedded Within, developed by UNF junior, Courtney Lynch, and Mindful Friends, presented by UNF seniors, Jessica Stephens and Dayna Cohen, shared the first place finish in United Way of Northeast Florida’s inaugural Upstream competition. The top winners received $5,000 grants to implement their projects.

Katherine Sanchez and Katie Kilpatrick placed second with their project, Spreading Hope, Openness, Understanding and Truth (SHOUT). Sanchez and Kilpatrick were awarded $2,500 to implement SHOUT, a proposal to increase awareness about mental illness. Focusing on strengthening the transition from high school to post-secondary education for students from Title 1 high schools, Embedded Within also won the Viewer’s Choice Award.

“Embedded Within encourages students to use self-efficacy for academic success, and introduces the students to college culture early in their high school career,” said Lynch. “A crucial part is to have college mentors who help tutor the students in their school work and who also provide words of experience that inspire and challenge the students to strive to be their best.”

Mindful Friends is a program designed to educate sixth grade students in order to end the stigma of mental illness as it “helps others through open minds.”

A collaborative effort between United Way and the University of North Florida, Upstream is a social innovation challenge in which UNF student teams were paired with coaches from United Way’s Stein Fellowship. During the past three months, coaches and student teams worked together to develop ideas and devise strategies to solve community problems related to health, education and financial stability.

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.

“I am inspired by the Upstream participants’ passion and enthusiasm to make our community a better place,” said United Way’s Upstream Lead Investor and Brightway Insurance Chairman David Miller.  “They are the types of individuals who possess the same dedication, diligence and creative thinking as my top recruits, and I look forward to continuing to engage with similar out-of-the-box thinkers next year.”

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

  • Russ Thomas, Availity, CEO
  • Audrey Moran, Baptist Health, senior vice president for Social Responsibility and Community Advocacy
  • Rena Coughlin, The Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, president
  • Carlton Robinson, JAX Chamber, senior director of Entrepreneurial Growth Division
  • The Honorable Linda McCallum, Fourth Circuit Court Judge

“United Way sincerely appreciates the generous investors, dedicated community leaders, innovative students and collaborative partners who made it possible to complete Upstream’s pilot year,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida.  “Through Upstream, we are developing our future leaders – the people who are creating groundbreaking pathways to success in the key areas of education, income, and health.”

We would especially like to thank our generous Upstream investors:

  • Brightway Insurance (lead investor)
  • Baptist Health
  • Drummond
  • Susan Reece
  • Ulrich Research Services
  • Wells Fargo

For more information about Upstream, please visit www.unitedwaynefl.org/upstream.