North Central News

Grant winners announced in Changemaker Challenge

Nov 22, 2017

Five North Central students were selected as winners at the College’s second annual Changemaker Challenge, a pitch competition for students with innovative ventures or projects that respond to social, economic, environmental or justice issues. Winners include Will Welch ’18 and Brandon Malone ’18 with SureGrow LLC, Autumn Pippenburg ’21 with Advice on the Daily, Lyndsay Hartman ’21 with Point to Point, and Valarie Owino ’18 with The Pad Project.

[Photo, from left, Lyndsay Hartman '21, Autumn Pippenburg '21, Valarie Owino '18, Brandon Malone '18 and Will Welch '18]

The winning students will receive a share of $13,000 in award money and mentoring from North Central faculty and staff to support and implement their ideas. Each student will develop a funding plan to determine the amount they will receive to start their venture.

“We wanted to create a challenge where students could actually complete a project with real social impact that they might not be able to do otherwise,” said Whitney Roberts '08/M '13, director of civic engagement and social innovation. “If there were barriers to money or guidance from faculty, we wanted to remove them.”

Fifty-two student-created projects were submitted. Eight were selected as finalists and presented before a panel of judges who chose the top four ventures.

Welch and Malone teamed up to create SureGrow LLC, a controlled environment agriculture system designed to counteract food deserts in nearby communities. Based in Aurora, Welch and Malone hope to use the efficiency of indoor gardening to help low-income families grow their own fresh produce.

Pippenburg created the idea for Advice on the Daily to support college students’ mental health. Using an online platform, students can connect with peer mentors anonymously for advice and support.

“Advice on the Daily is real, personable and private,” said Pippenburg. “It is designed for students and mentors to connect 24/7.” Pippenburg hopes to beta-test the service at North Central College.

Hartman developed Point to Point, a program to reduce the severity of injuries related to addictions. She plans to travel in local communities and offer educational materials and an overdose reversal drug proven to save lives and provided by Chicago-based recovery clinics. Hartman aims to change the way people view addiction.

“Based in Kane County, Point to Point will meet people where they are,” said Hartman, “both locally and within their addiction.”

Owino’s inspiration for The Pad Project came from the organization Too Little Children, whose program sews and distributes reusable feminine hygiene products in Kenya. High prices and a lack of access can cause women in need of these products to miss days of school and fall behind in classes. Owina plans to expand production of the reusable products to Naperville, and wants to increase their availability in Kenya and in disadvantaged communities locally.

The panel of judges included North Central College President Troy D. Hammond and Vice President for Student Affairs and Strategic Initiatives Kimberly Sluis; Kris Hartner, CEO of Naperville Running Company and a Trustee at North Central; and Justin Dillon, professional musician, social entrepreneur and author of “A Selfish Plan to Change the World.”

The Changemaker Challenge is organized by the Center for Social Impact, Students for Social Innovation, Student Affairs, and the Leadership, Ethics and Values program.

[Photo below, finalists pose with judges, faculty and staff]

By Mark Mullane ’17/M ’19