High school students in Juntos Program pitch entrepreneurial ideas for the community at NCSU

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- On Saturday at NC State, 65 high schoolers from eight counties and their families witnessed something unique: ABC's "Shark Tank" idea, repurposed to reward the business ideas of smart students.

They're participants in the summer academy of the Juntos Program, where Diana Urieta, the national program director, says the students have a challenge:

"What are the needs of the community, and how are they going to be the ones to address those needs? Think about what could they do, and create a business around the problem they say needs to be solved," said Urieta.

Local and regional business leaders told ABC11 they look forward to judging potential money making ideas.

"And to hear the passion, the passionate ideas from all the participants," said Sean Wilson of Fullsteam Brewery. "I'm excited to hear more!"

This year's ideas include providing healthy food options that promote cross cultural interaction, places for rural residents to socialize safely and much more.

The students impressed judge Eric Torres of Vida Dulce.

"I didn't expect this!" Torres exclaimed. "They're coming up with things that we need in the community. They're coming up with things that I could see, I could put my money into it!"

Thread Capital provided $2,500 as seed money to make the idea judges chose as most likely to succeed a reality.

"For us, it's really important for them to know they're not alone--that there's people in their community who support them, that there are options for them and they will, they will go to college one day," said Urieta.

It's happening as concerns mount about encounters with law enforcement that could lead to deportation for some immigrants, on the day before ICE rounds up some undocumented immigrants in the nation's big cities.

So one team's idea, an app that provides quick links to legal help, got the attention of the judges.

"Particularly relevant this weekend--for young people to hear from them, speaking about these things in an articulate way," said Michael Williams of the Black on Black Project. "They're literally thinking about these issues and how their families are affected. So for them to have the presence of mind to want to put a business around it, and to source it within their community...I think it's phenomenal."

Juntos' organizers say the program keeps students on track for success in school and life.
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