HW Venture creates COVID-19 Challenge, awards social fellowship

In an attempt to find solutions to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, HW Venture introduced the COVID-19 Challenge on May 1. Venture outlined 10 specific issues facing the community that students could focus on, categorized into five groups: Social Isolation and Physical Distancing, Virtual Learning, Food, College and Sanitation. The challenge was organized and run by Kylie Azizzadeh ’21 and Chronicle staff writer Kate Burry ’22.

Students were asked to work in groups of three or four in order to tackle one specific topic. Throughout May, Venture offered a pitch workshop, along with brainstorming sessions led by math teacher Andrew Theiss and robotics coach Tripp Reed. At the end of the month, each group submitted a video pitch for their idea in hopes of receiving the Social Impact Fellowship. The fellowship includes financial support for the project and access to consult with Venture’s network of connections during the summer.

“We decided to pose this challenge because as a community, we’ve all faced unprecedented obstacles and frustrations in our daily lives [due]to the new circumstances brought by the coronavirus,” Azizzadeh said. “However, instead of complaining, we wanted to encourage our community to come together and tackle these problems to make change.”

Co-leader of Venture Jacky Zhang ’21 said that he loved how the challenge pushed students to take initiative and work to resolve real-world problems.

“The challenge was a great way to inspire and empower students to be problem-solvers and entrepreneurs, which is what Venture is here for,” Zhang said. “I personally think it’s an amazing way for students to just create and do something given the amount of free time we have compared to pre-quarantine, especially for middle school students.”

Azizzadeh and Burry, along with a panel of judges, including President Rick Commons, Head of Upper School Laura Ross and HW Venture advisor Rob Levin read through the proposals May 29 and decided to award the Social Impact Fellowship to two proposals: “Keep LA Open” and “Heythere!”. Keep LA Open, an online platform that will allow local LA businesses to transparently display their financial goals and allow them to directly connect with consumers, was proposed by Rustom Malhotra ’25 and Nilufer Mistry Sheasby ’25. Heythere!, a platform that will try to create a virtual representation of a school environment, was proposed by Olivia Baer ’21 and Natalie Phillips ’21.

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