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Global Entrepreneurship Week Features Dinners With Purpose: Student Stories of Purpose

Apex Friendship High School Student Presenters Jessica Hong and Nicole Van Liew

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is held annually each November, during which over 170 countries host events and competitions that celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. On November 14th, the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation unit at the NC State Institute for Nonprofits hosted its bi-annual Dinners With Purpose. In accordance with this year’s GEW theme, “Inclusion and Youth,” the event featured stories of purpose by aspiring young social entrepreneurs from Apex Friendship High School and NC State University.

Jessica Hong, Nicole Van Liew, Zachary Abramczyck, and Drew Williams are current students in the Applied Synergies program at Apex Friendship High School. Co-founded and run by business educator Dan Jackson, the program is a partnership between the high school and NC State that prepares young people for college, careers and citizenship. After a brief introduction by Mr. Jackson, their teacher and master of ceremonies for the evening, Ms. Hong and Ms. Van Liew kicked off the evening’s presentations. Dubbed “the dynamic duo,” by Jackson, the two young women shared stories about how their career aspirations changed dramatically when introduced to entrepreneurial concepts in his class. “We are more than cubicles, and GPAs, and standardized tests scores,” said Ms. Van Liew. “We have the power to inflict change, the opportunity to revolutionize our tomorrow, so why not take it?” The two also spoke about their journey to become members of the Youth Entrepreneurship Education team, an organization that seeks to teach high school students about social entrepreneurship, and both have career plans to work with social enterprises.

Mr. Abramczyck, and Mr. Williams shared their passion to solve the environmental crisis of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. Their innovative idea – generate funds and awareness about single use plastics by creating and selling upcycled hammocks. Says Mr. Abramczyck about “Coastra Hammocks,” their exciting venture in partnership with Raleigh startup Oceanworks, “We believe that soon a company will be valued equally as much for the good it does in the world as the profit it brings in. We are committed to providing the most authentic consumer experience, one in which the customer can enjoy a useful, quality product while having the peace of mind that their purchase made a difference in the world and will positively impact the planet.”

NC State junior, Gracie Hornsby, a civil engineering major and environmental science minor, talked about her passion for providing clean water access to remote places in the world. She shared her summer experience in an isolated village in Cameroon where she designed and helped build clean water systems from stagnant pools and streams that serve as primary drinking sources. Addressing the high school students in the audience, Gracie advised them to do the following: “Say ‘yes’ to all opportunities to grow and learn.” As she closed, she encouraged the entire audience to not be afraid to step out of their comfort zones, and to lead with love.

The final speaker of the night was Rejaul Hasan, PhD candidate in the College of Textiles. After feeling unfulfilled with his career in the textiles industry, Hasan experienced a pivotal moment in Bangladesh that spurred a passion for fighting slave labor conditions in apparel factories. His call to action is, when purchasing articles of clothing, consumers should insist upon knowing the supply chain from which they are sourced and join the fight against horrific labor practices in many parts of the world.

Dan Jackson closed the event by encouraging the audience to keep pushing to pursue their goals.   

It was impossible not to be moved by the passion of the young voices. Guests described the program as “very informative and inspiring,” “very uplifting,” and “impactful” with “great presentations and presenters.” There is no question that the students’ stories left an enduring impact.