The Albert Wilson Foundation (AWF) – founded by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson, who grew up through the foster care system, to enrich the lives and change the destinies of children in foster care – coordinated for 17 teens from the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County to visit Lake Nona’s leAD Sports & Health Tech Accelerator on June 17. The tour was offered to teens who elected to participate in AWF’s Shark Tank-like contest during Life Skills & Leadership Day on May 22. When contest winners were announced, participating teens were surprised with an invitation for all participants to tour and experience leAD Lake Nona and other local businesses as well as getting a VIP experience to an upcoming Miami Dolphins game during the 2021 season.
The trip offered teens a great opportunity to have their voices heard and learn about entrepreneurship, business development, get feedback, and gain experience. The visit included a tour of the leAD Sports & Health Tech Accelerator facility, one-on-one Q&As with founders at leAD including Phlex, Agerate and NESTRE Performance, youth Shark Tank entrepreneurship pitches, and tours of a handful of Lake Nona businesses.
Teens also participated in a virtual fireside chat with Horst Bente, co-founder of leAD and grandson of Adi Dassler, founder of Adidas. The chat was a unique experience for teens to hear about a company that had a modest beginning and grew to become an iconic brand. Throughout their visit, youth were transported via Beep and given a tour of the company as well as a tour of WHIT House and GuideWell Innovation Center. The Beep, WHIT House and GuideWell tours opened the teens’ eyes to the future of technology and innovation. Beep and WHIT House in particular demonstrated cutting-edge ideas and applied technology to real life. The day ended at Drive Shack, where the teens participated in friendly games and competition before heading back to St. Lucie County.
“It was an honor to interact with these bright and inspiring minds,” Bente stated after the fireside chat. “Their curiosity and enthusiasm reminded me of the same passion I saw my grandfather put to work every day. I hope our story did fuel their belief in themselves that they have the power to achieve their dreams and wish them all the best for their future!”
Originally, the idea for an entrepreneurship contest came about in conversations between co-founder and executive director of AWF Jamaal May and Lake Nona resident and founder/CEO of NESTRE Dr. Tommy Shavers. May and Shavers were discussing ways they might collaborate to bring more resources to youth and teens regarding mental health and wellness. During that conversation, the two discussed entrepreneurship, innovation and how exposure leads to expansion.
Dr. Shavers, an inaugural member of the cohort program, has been pushing for greater diversity initiatives and striving to create pathways for more minority founders. May and Shavers decided to partner together to provide access to resources and business skills for a Shark Tank-like contest for the teens. This contest would provide them with the experience and skills needed to create a new business or community initiative and allow the teens to present their ideas in a formal presentation during Life Skills & Leadership Day. The intention was to give teens a platform for their ideas and voices.
In preparation for AWF’s Shark Tank-like entrepreneurship contest, youth participants collaborated with leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners to gain experience in startup spaces. This collaboration reiterated AWF’s dedication to supporting youth from underserved communities and fostering youth by providing the mentorship and resources needed to compete and succeed. Various founders from Lake Nona to Berlin collaborated with the teens to provide them the tools and expertise needed to execute their ideas.
Ideas presented included everything from an eco-friendly, solar-powered water park to a two-in-one glue stick, a community hub for teens and adults, and a current business operated by one of the teens for a sneaker design company.
“We had an outstanding experience spending time with the young, incredible minds from the Boys & Girls Clubs and Albert Wilson Foundation. Our goal was for the group to have memorable learnings in the areas of Leadership, Innovation, Vision and Entrepreneurship. Our Lake Nona partners for the event were incredible and helped us provide a quality experience for a tremendous group of young people. We look forward to hearing about the great things this group will create in the near future,” stated Dr. Shavers.
While this was the inaugural year of AWF’s Life Skills & Leadership Day, the event will take place again next year. The hope is that more teens choose to participate in the contest and are given the opportunity to tour and experience leAD Lake Nona. As the program continues to evolve and develop, AWF hopes to build on relationships with local businesses in the Lake Nona area and include new businesses in supporting teens in the coming years. The biggest takeaway from this tour was the access to people and information.
Lake Nona residents can stay up to date on upcoming events and ways to participate in AWF’s programming and future opportunities for collaboration by following Albert Wilson Foundation’s social media pages @albertwilsonfoundation on Instagram and Facebook.
Photos Courtesy of Tyrell Wallace & Albert Wilson Foundation