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Saturday
Jul152017

"Sports Check It Out" - Cedar Riverside Youth Showcase Their Positive, Entrepreneurial Talents

Article by Claudia Kittock, Photos by Rick Kittock

I met Charly Tiempos, Hamsa Osman, and Sayed Adan by the playground in the middle of several of the high-rise apartment buildings in Cedar Riverside. As I approached the playground, the boys jumped up, extended a hand and introduced themselves. They are the innovators of an exciting program called "Sports Check It Out". They are students at the Cedar Riverside Community School, one of the original charter schools in Minnesota. The school opened its doors in the fall of 1993, making this the 24th year of continuous operation.

Coach Jennifer Wigchers Weber told me about these young entrepreneurs over coffee. While Coach Weber has introduced her students to many sports, these young men came to her with an idea. They wanted to start a sports ‘library’ with equipment for kids to play with after school. Jennifer told them to come back with a plan, and they did. The plan included a business model for running the system and obtaining sports equipment.

"Sports Check It Out" is a library system within the Cedar Riverside Community School for students to check out sports equipment, sports safety gear and quality winter clothing. They assign different levels, representing different sports equipment based on levels of responsibility. When a student wants to use the program, they start at the 100 level and can only check out equipment at the 100 level. After doing 5 ‘check outs’ and returning the equipment unhurt and on time, they will move to the 200 level, which continues with the same system until they are at the 300 level, which includes things like bicycles.

Not only was this system devised by the boys, it is run by the boys. On two different visits, we found the library to be alive with kids and equipment, everything from bubbles being checked out by a 6 year-old girl to blow bubbles with her friends in the courtyard, to a full set of equipment to play lacrosse and another set to play street hockey. All the children who came and went looked excited and were happy to answer each and every question I had. They clearly loved this system.

Last year, Coach Weber suggested that the boys enter the 2016 SAP Social Innovation Series (SAP). Starting in October of 2016, SAP teamed up with GENYOUth to present the 2016 SAP Social Innovation Series, powered by AdVenture Capital. The events were held across six different cities with over 300 student entrepreneurs from 69 different schools. Each event included design workshops and culminated in a Shark Tank-like “pitch tank” where students shared their ideas to promote school health and wellness with a panel of judges. At each event, 10 winning teams were awarded $1,000 each to implement their projects. Finalists from each city were then nominated for a national online voting contest with the winning project being decided by more than 8,000 voters.

Charly, Hamsa, and Sayed won the Grand Prize, and the title of Teen Innovator. They received an additional $50,000 in support, including $10,000 in additional grant support. The team met with leaders at SAP in Houston while enjoying a trip to Super Bowl LI!

What happens after you win the grand prize in a national event and are still in junior high? I asked each of the young men that, and they quickly and unanimously agreed, "Franchise our idea and write an app to streamline the system.” That is exactly what they are doing. The boys took a class in writing computer applications and are working on finishing that while talking to other communities. They want to spread the story of Sports Check It Out to other communities around the country.

These are incredible young men. Every time I talk with them I leave feeling uplifted and hopeful for the future! I explained that when I write my articles for Mill City Times, I always end with a section on how people can help. Here is the rather short list the boys gave me:

·  Someone with skill and knowledge about writing applications to help them finish the app they have begun to design.

·  Contacts both in the community and around the country. They want this idea to spread and they are ready to be the ambassadors.

·  Any and all questions about this program can be sent to Jennifer Wigchers Weber at j.weber.mn@gmail.com

Meeting these young men was an honor. Anything you can do to assist them makes all of us stronger, and we are stronger with Charly, Sayed, and Hamsa as our neighbors!

Claudia can be reached at claudia@millcitymedia.org

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