If your business idea won a $1 million investment, how would you use it to support communities of color throughout Rhode Island? That’s exactly what Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship students Daisha Jackson and Ziondre Ogiba of the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence (MET), Rhode Island, set out to discover in entrepreneurship class. Both students are among five finalists in the Papitto Opportunity Connection’s Transform Rhode Island Scholarship competition. The winning “big idea” will be announced at an evening celebration of the finalists on May 26.

The Transform RI Scholarship seeks to help Rhode Island high school students of color overcome financial obstacles to higher education. A competitive edge that Jackson (11th grade) and Ogiba (12th grade) may have is the skillset they acquired through NFTE programming designed to activate the entrepreneurial mindset in middle and high school youth from under-resourced communities.

“Every great business starts with an idea,” said Jodie Woodruff, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the MET. “The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE) curriculum teaches the foundational skills for young people to develop and achieve their dreams. It is my joy and pleasure to support each student and encourage them to create change within their communities.”

Jackson’s idea is designed to inspire communities of color to speak out about mental health, which she said can be taboo in the African American community. Growing up as an African-Dominican American in Providence, Jackson remembers battling anxiety and stress. When COVID-19 hit, the 16-year-old began practicing yoga to prioritize her health and wellness. After two years of perfecting tree and downward dog poses, Jackson knew she wanted to bring yoga, meditation, and wellness practices to everyone. That’s when she launched her business, Yoga for All. Her business encourages a holistic approach to health through yoga, meditation, and wellness. Jackson already has a prototype of her yoga mat that has a QR code burned into it—allowing people of all ages to connect to guided meditation practices, nutritional recipes, and more. Yoga for All ties the world of technology and meditation together—helping people take a holistic approach to improving their lifestyle.

Jackson isn’t the only student in Providence looking to support her community. Ziondre Ogiba, who is 17 years old and African American, wants to launch a business that combines athletics and academics to combat learning loss. Ogiba had a tough time with school himself. Fortunately, he had a reliable mentor to help him focus on academics. Outside of the classroom, Ogiba ran track and field—sprinting 400 meters in 48.9 seconds—on par with national standards. He graduates this spring and plans to attend Rhode Island College where he will continue to run and use the NFTE skillset of initiative, flexibility, creativity, opportunity recognition, future orientation, problem solving, and critical thinking.

While each finalist will take home at least a $2,500 scholarship, the first-place winner will receive $25,000 in addition to the $1 million investment in their business. The top three winners’ scholarships of $25,000, $15,000, or $10,000 can be used for tuition, housing, health care or related costs. The other scholarship finalists are Jalisa Ramos, also of the MET; Isabelle Mitchell of Wheeler School; and Mariam Kaba of Woonsocket High School.

For more information about the Transform Rhode Island Scholarship, visit pocfoundation.com/transformri.

MAY 26 UPDATE: Daisha Jackson awarded with a $15,000 scholarship and Ziondre Ogiba receives a $2,500 scholarship. Read full story here.

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 50,000+ students annually in 25 states across the U.S. and offers programs in 18 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 nfte.com.

Media Contacts

Denise Berkhalter, APR
NFTE National Communications Director
(212) 232-3333

Joanne Lessner/Lambert
(212) 222-7436

[email protected]