Three Winners Announced for First-Ever THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE: An Education Innovation Contest™

After 200-plus entries received throughout Nevada and multiple rounds of judging, $275,000 in total funding awarded to education innovators

LAS VEGAS (DECEMBER 19, 2022) – Organizers of a Nevada contest like never before, THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE: An Education Innovation Contest™, announced today that three winners have been selected.

The contest – centered on the simple question of “Who out there has an idea that can help take Nevada’s educational landscape to the next level?” – was spearheaded by Nevada-based nonprofits The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and The Engelstad Foundation.

“This was an incredible experiment, giving anyone and everyone an opportunity to step up to the plate to make things better,” said Kris Engelstad, trustee of the Engelstad Foundation. “And, indeed, so many Nevadans did just that. Our winners embarked on quite a journey to win and achieve funding. We can’t wait to see all they do to take their ideas – and education in our state – to new heights.”

“This is only the beginning of such a promising path for our winners,” added Julie Pippenger, Chief Operating Officer of The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. “We’ll certainly be cheering them on and will be here for them. But, in the meantime, it has been wonderful to see their ideas evolve and strengthen through this contest.”

 Winners of THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE include:

Ben Nguyen

Ben Nguyen, a teacher in the Clark County School District, who received $200,000 in funding for his “A Platform for the Future” concept. The concept includes building a platform for localized job shadowing, training, and mentorship to better guide and inspire Nevadans toward real and sustainable possibilities in their immediate communities. Within the first year of launch, Nguyen’s goal is to have at least 1,000 users and more than 10 partnering organizations regularly contributing to the platform. On his journey in participating in THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE, Nguyen says, “particularly as an educator, it is an enormous honor and opportunity to be recognized for this project. So much of what we do is geared toward strengthening young people and our community and this will help me do just that.”

Eleanor Cormier

Las Vegas-based retired teacher Eleanor Cormier and her Project 300 Early Learning Academy model, an online virtual tutoring program for kindergarteners in urban elementary schools of Clark County to strengthen their literacy skills utilizing common core state standards in English language arts. As a result of the contest, she received $50,000 toward her idea, which will help her serve 100 students by the end of 2023. Reflecting on the contest she says, “this will help bring the joy of reading and joy of literacy to so many children.”

Mindful Music Moments

Mindful Music Moments (MMM), driven in Nevada by Henderson resident Dorothy Blake. With $25,000 in funding from THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE, the program will be able to launch a pilot program in the state in 2023 and deepen conversations to expand its future scope. At its core, MMM is a combination of mindful, creative prompts and world-class music, providing students, teachers and administrators a daily moment for to ‘center and ground’ through music before learning begins. On the program’s expansion in Nevada, Stacy Sims, founder and director of MMM from The Well, says “we are a small and mighty team, and we are so eager to begin creating stronger partnerships in Nevada.”

THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE application period opened in January 2022 and ran through March, resulting in more than 200 completed applications. Judges throughout various phases of the contest included business leaders, philanthropists, stewards of education, sports figures, and musicians – all collectively active in enriching education through direct work with Nevada’s school systems in K-12 and higher education. Judges participating in the final round of judging included multi-platinum singer-songwriter Jewel, tennis legend Andre Agassi as well as television host and CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, Mike Rowe.