Oct. 12, 2023
Culver Academies students recommended ways Culver Youth Club could better promote itself and could boost staff recruitment as part of the prestigious Impact Competition.
Eleven teams of students from two classes of Applications of Innovation taught by Ed Kelley, a master instructor at Culver’s The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur, offered suggestions to the Culver Youth Club, based at Culver Elementary School.
The club is a non-profit after-school program that seeks to inspire and enable children, and help with schoolwork while also offering unique opportunities, such as Cooking Club and Gardening Club.
The Impact Competition, founded by stock trader and philanthropist Lance Breitstein, seeks to empower students to address real-world social issues in their communities. The Impact Competition Foundation also works with universities such as Indiana University, the University of Maryland, Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins and other colleges.
“The mission of what we try to do at Impact Competition is to teach students that there are a lot of ways to give back and one of the most effective ways is through local, actionable change,” Breitstein said. “You can make a difference in your community.”
Breitstein said while the competition is usually held at colleges, he decided to offer it at Culver Academies after learning about The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur.
“For us to be a part of this competition as the only secondary school is amazing. We thank Lance for that opportunity,” said J.D. Uebler, director of the Rubin School.
Culver students had up t0 10 minutes to make their pitches and up to five minutes to answer questions from the judges. Their mission was to come up with ideas to market the CYC to the community, to increase recruitment of staff and to devise ways to collect data from students, parents and staff to help CYC make better programming and service decisions.
The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur committed $8,000 for students to budget in their proposals.
The New Possibilities team of Dionte Obertein ’24 and Roberto Ponce ’24 and the Little Leaders Prep team of Chloe Swank ’24 and Prajna Tammana ’26 were selected as winners.
The New Possibilities team was among several teams to endorse using QR codes, but impressed Breitstein with their use of a color CYC logo in the QR code.
“It’s such smart branding,” Breitstein said.
They suggested putting posters in restaurants and stores and service stations around town publicizing the CYC. They also proposed purchasing an ad in a local magazine and using key chains and magnets as marketing materials.
The Little Leaders Prep team recommended enhancing CYC’s annual report, which includes its achievements from the past year and goals for the next year, and distributing it to major donors and placing it in Culver businesses as a form of public relations. They also suggested using storytelling on CYC’s website to better promote what it does.
They proposed having an art contest among children at CYC and using that to enhance the look of CYC’s newsletter. They also recommended using members of Culver Academies’ Community Service Club to help with after-school staffing at CYC.
“That’s a very good idea because I do love when students come and interact with children at CYC,” said Brian Carver, executive director of CYC and assistant principal of Culver Elementary School.
They also proposed marketing CYC at Culver Elementary’s annual “Back-to-School Night.” Breitstein praised this idea.
“That’s probably the most specific targeted marketing that the organization could do versus any other event or method,” Breitstein said.
All the proposals offered by the 11 teams of students included using social media to accomplish their goals. Many of the teams proposed hiring a photographer to post photos of students having fun at CYC and to tell the unique stories as a way to appeal to prospective members. Some also suggested using videos. Several of the teams suggested marketing CYC at town events and the weekly farmers market.
Several of the teams also suggested using volunteer students from Culver Academies to work at CYC to help with their staffing. Enrichment Oasis said it surveyed Culver Academies students and found that 71 percent of students were willing to volunteer at CYC, with nearly 50 percent willing to volunteer up to two times a week.
Carver liked the pitch from the Leading the Way team of Angie De Otaduy '25 and Preston Jessen '25 for how they would assemble a sustainable marketing team that would manage the photography, website updates and volunteers.
Several teams suggested CYC add a donation button to their website.
Most of the teams also suggested surveying parents in person and by email on ways to improve the program. Some teams also suggested surveying students.
Several teams proposed using the money to update the CYC website. Several also suggested CYC use a computer program to help run their program more efficiently, including providing lesson planning and creating parent newsletters.
Carver said he was impressed by the ideas and the presentations.
“Your ideas are going to go a long way in helping us to grow and meeting our goal of serving the youth of the Culver community,” Carver said. “This has been a wonderful experience for me.”
Breitstein said he was impressed, especially in how students used emotions, storytelling and data in their presentations.
“What I see here at Culver is a caliber of presentation and creative ideas and solutions (that) are as good as I see anywhere,” Breitstein said. “You were all using data. You were all using first-person sources to figure out the real issues.”
Breitstein also noted that there was an upgrade from last year's competition that this year's teams provided more prototypes of websites, posters, standing banners and other implementation strategies.
Kelley commented that he kept asking students during feedback stages: "Who is going to implement your idea and how are you going to prove that you can deliver?"
Uebler said CYC would be pursuing many of the solutions offered by the students.
The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur is named in honor of a 1968 Culver graduate who has deep roots in the beverage industry as owner of The Republic of Tea since 1994 and as owner of Ron Rubin Winery in Sonoma County, California, since 2011. He endowed The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur at Culver in 2009.