Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) has announced the three young entrepreneurs who emerged as the top competitors at NFTE’s 16th annual National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, presented by Citi Foundation and Ernst & Young LLP (EY US).

Thirty-eight young entrepreneurs representing 32 businesses engaged in a virtual “pitch-off” on October 20 and 21, after prevailing in a series of local and regional pitch competitions held online last spring. Following quarterfinal and semifinal elimination rounds, three finalists had the opportunity to pitch their businesses to a panel of five VIP judges. Each was awarded $10,000 to help grow their businesses or further their educational goals. In addition, nine semifinalists received $300 awards, and an additional $300 in prizes were awarded to other competitors.

The three national champions are: 17-year-old Amylah Charles of Jurupa Valley, CA; 17-year-old Madelyn Jackson of Chicago, IL; and 16-year-old Carissa Lombardi of Warwick, RI.

Amylah Charles presented her business CurlyCrownz, a haircare brand focused on 100% natural products for natural hair. Madelyn Jackson presented P.A.C.A., a personalized autism communication app to help children and families. Carissa Lombardi pitched Legislation Navigation, an app to help voters understand the impacts of proposed legislation and help legislators analyze public sentiment.

“The young people who competed in this year’s National Challenge demonstrated impressive resiliency. Despite challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic, they stay focused on achieving their goals,” said Dr. J.D. LaRock, NFTE’s President and CEO. “I’m confident these young innovators will make their mark in the world, whether they continue growing their businesses, pursue post-secondary education, or join the workforce. Whatever path they choose, I know their entrepreneurial mindset will help them achieve great things.”

The judges for the final round of competition included Mary Blackford, Founder of Market 7 and a NFTE alumna; Pam Habner, CEO of U.S. Branded Cards and Lending for Citi; Sam Johnson, EY Americas Vice Chair – Accounts; Jonathan Kaufman, founder of J Kaufman Consulting / J Kaufman Coaching; and the rapper and singer/songwriter Saweetie, Founder of the Icy Baby Foundation.

“It’s critical that we support the next generation so that they can become the transformative leaders the world needs,” said Sam Johnson, EY Americas Vice Chair – Accounts. “EY proudly supports the work NFTE is doing to help students develop the critical thinking, creative mindset and resilience needed to succeed both in life and in business.”

“Investing in our next generation of entrepreneurs is mission critical,” said Citi judge Pam Habner. “Citi and the Citi Foundation are proud to continue our work with NFTE to inspire students to pursue their dreams and persevere on the path to doing so. Congratulations to all the talented young entrepreneurs who competed in this year’s National Challenge – we can’t wait to see what’s next for you!”

Photos, video clips, and detailed biographies are available on request for all the National Challenge competitors, along with information on the winning businesses.

About NFTE

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is a global nonprofit organization that provides high-quality entrepreneurship education to middle and high school students from under-resourced communities, as well as programs for college students and adults. NFTE reaches 45,000 students annually, with programs in 25 states across the U.S. and in 20 additional countries. We have educated more than a million students through in-school, out-of-school, college, and summer camp programs, offered in person and online. To learn more about how we are promoting inclusive capitalism and building the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs, visit

About Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit