“1,000 Ideas. 20 Finalists. 5 Winners.” That’s what the Launch Pad website declares on its homepage. The first-ever nationwide contest was created “to discover five inspiring people with ideas to improve their communities.” The winners, who were voted on by site visitors, each receive $5,000 to get their idea off the ground. One of those winners—Anthony Genia, a member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians—submitted an idea for a Native American Youth Economic Warrior Project that “will create a culturally-responsive, values-based entrepreneurship curriculum to orient preteen Native American youth to the American economic system and the world of business.” “Native Americans suffer the highest poverty rates in America. In order to turn that around, we need to reach young people with values-based training by the time they enter middle school,” said Genia, who is a senior program officer with the Northwest Area Foundation (NAF). “The Native culture embraces values of generosity and reciprocity, and that sometimes contradicts the concept of individual business achievement.” He plans to use his winnings to develop and test the training. He believes the project will instill entrepreneurial qualities. According to the press release, Genia’s idea got thousands of votes. “It is amazing the widespread support and interest for Native youth business training. I received e-mails of support from as far away as Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington,” Genia said in the press release. “The curriculum will have strong prospects for success because it will be developed by Native Americans for Native Americans and it will be built on proven teaching techniques that incorporate well-accepted cultural values,” he wrote in the How Winning Will Help section of the Launch Pad website. At NAF, Genia helps low income communities overcome poverty by coaching reservation, rural and urban Indian communities to develop and implement community economic development strategies.
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