Winners Announced for THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE: An Education Innovation Contest™ 2023

After nearly 100 entries received throughout Nevada and multiple rounds of judging, $500,000 in total funding awarded to education innovators

LAS VEGAS (DECEMBER 13, 2023) – Organizers of a Nevada contest like no other, THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE: An Education Innovation Contest™, announced today that three winners have been selected.

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

“This marked year two of an incredible experiment, giving anyone and everyone an opportunity to step up to improve education in our state,” said Kris Engelstad, trustee of the Engelstad Foundation. “Our winners embarked on quite a journey to win and ultimately achieve the funding they did.”

“It’s been incredible to watch our winners grow through this process and we can’t wait to see their ideas flourish that much more,” added Julie Pippenger, Chief Operating Officer of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. “This certainly isn’t the end of our road together either, as we’ll be cheering them on and providing support where possible.”

Winners of THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE include:

  • Shardae Chenoweth and Dr. Biante’ Gainous, Las Vegas educators, received $200,000 to grow their Financially Lit platform. Financially Lit is an experiential learning opportunity for students to exist within a microeconomy where scholar dollars are the currency. Financially Lit will be packaged into 4 distinct S.T.R.E.E.T. resources. S.T.R.E.E.T. is an acronym for Student Teacher Resource & Economic Empowerment Tool, spanning learning opportunities on financial literacy to project-based curriculum designed to challenge students into thinking critically about their passions and how to monetize them.
  • Rhea Watson, known as the “Scholarship Doctor” with Las Vegas-based Scholarship Solutions, received $150,000 in funding for her “A Scholarship A Day” app. The app will give students of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and economic statuses access to college and scholarship information and opportunities. The app will also allow students to search for and view scholarship opportunities in real time and provide students with daily reminders of scholarship due dates, college information as well as tips and tools related to skills like essay writing.
  • Natalie Adame, a Las Vegas native and Nursing student at Gonzaga University, Robele Abdi, a Marketing student at UNLV and Nefeli Georgilas, a Computer Science student at UNLV, received $150,000 for their SchoolM8 Educational Management Webapp. SchoolM8 will be designed to help students streamline their educational journey in one centralized website, eliminating the need to use multiple sites. Each semester, students will be able to add their classes and coursework to a calendar, along with their teachers’ contact information, syllabi, and required textbooks. Furthermore, students will also be able to take notes and study in one location. SchoolM8 aims to prevent material and time confusion, ultimately helping students stay organized and focused on their educational journey.

Winners of the 2022 contest included Ben Nguyen, a teacher in the Clark County School District; Las Vegas-based retired teacher Eleanor Cormier; and Henderson resident Dorothy Blake.

THE BIG IDEA CHALLENGE application period opened in April 2023 and ran through June, resulting in nearly 100 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.

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