It was a rainy Monday night, just before the midterm elections that would double the African American representation in Dover and lead to historic wins for women across the country.
Before a rapt audience at the Harry’s Savoy Grill Ballroom in Wilmington, as part of the Great Dames’ Remarkable Youth Competition, ten high school girls pitched their projects with hope and courage.
In a country governed by federal officials that view immigrants as invaders, Daniela Rosiles Torres’ pitch was nothing short of an act of defiance: she spoke passionately about educational empowerment for undocumented teens.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” Torres said, referring to the inequity.
Valentina Maza, a young woman from Venezuela, talked about the challenges of being an ESL (English as a Second language) student as she pitched her project, Education and Immigration Advocates.
Jah’sima Cooper talked about the circumstances that led her family to be homeless for a period of time as she pitched Ikigai, “Your Reason to Keep Going,” a comfortable transitional home for people who have lost everything.
But when Dorcas Olantunji took the stage to pitch T^2, an “Uber for high school students,” there was little doubt that her pitch was onto something. Olantunji took the top prize, with Maza and Cooper as runners-up.
While there could only be one winner, the entire group electrified the gathering of “Dames” and male allies who came together, along with an energized Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long and six adult finalists of the Great Dames Remarkable Ideas Competition.
The teens were members of TeenSHARP and The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE!). Their projects reflected themselves, in defiance of a political climate that often demonizes them. Undocumented, homeless, and single mom weren’t dirty words – instead, they were the root of projects that were fueled by hope.
After the youth pitches, Hall-Long announced the big winner of the Remarkable Ideas Competition, which had its finalist presentations in October. Erica Marshall, president and founder of Defendant Data Solutions, promotes equity in the criminal justice system by providing defense attorneys with data showing sentences received by defendants nationwide for a similar crime and circumstance.
“In other words, Erica is leveling the playing field,” said Great Dames CEO Sharon Kelly Hake. “Imagine how impactful her work will be in the criminal justice system. We are privileged to support her cause.”
Marshall was awarded a $25,000 package that includes funding, business services, and mentoring.
The five runners up, who will all receive mentoring and full memberships to Great Dames, are Catherine Lindroth and Meghan Wallace, co-founders of Social Contract; Angelica Jackson, founder of Journey Beyond; Kimberly McGlonn, founder of Grant Blvd; Thianda Manzara, founder of Healthy Food for Healthy Kids; and Suzanne Jackson, founder of Foster the Arts.
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