BCC Receives $500,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s LauchPad program
Entrepreneurship is taking off at Bronx Community College. Through a $500,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s LauchPad program, BCC is creating a culture of entrepreneurship in every corner of the campus.
The Blackstone LaunchPad, a $40 million nationwide program, enables higher education institutions to deliver proven startup resources that enable students to build next-generation companies and careers. Students learn by doing, gaining knowledge and critical skills to help them succeed as entrepreneurs and contribute to the 21st-century economy.
LaunchPad events on campus have already proven both popular and positive. BCC students competed in an Ideas Competition that featured entrepreneurial initiatives related to social and climate impact, health, sciences, and consumer products, among others. BCC received an award for the largest number of participants in the Eastern zone.
In addition, BCC recently partnered with Queensborough Community College (QCC) in an Innovation Challenge held on March 29. The event featured 28 students from both schools who presented their entrepreneurial ideas in five-minute pitches. The ideas ranged from portable beds for the homeless and fresh food for babies to house cleaning services and a virtual health app. The students competed for intensive mentorships and $2,000 stipends.
BCC President Isekenegbe and QCC President Christine Mangino opened the competition. President Isekenegbe noted that, “This challenge is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial mindset that the Blackstone LaunchPad promotes. It’s not just about going to classes, but about thinking critically about ideas and exploring new ventures.”
To boost support for the program on campus, members of the BCC community and business leaders from throughout the Bronx have come together to form the Blackstone LaunchPad Stewardship Council. In addition to BCC staff and faculty members from diverse disciplines, the council includes BCC Foundation Board Members and representatives from companies including Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Business Outreach Center Network, Inc., The Knowledge House, Hearst Lab, Fitch Balance ERC, and McRobin Radio, among others. [The group will meet three times a year, but supporting and leveraging the grant will be an ongoing process.]
Dr. Eddy Bayardelle, BCC Vice President for External Relations, convened the Stewardship Council’s first meeting on March 24. The meeting was an opportunity to hear from Dayanna Torres, Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
Torres, a Bronx native who also served on Community Board 5 as a youth coordinator, said, “The LaunchPad network makes entrepreneurship accessible and relevant to college students. I am impressed with the work of BCC and welcome this opportunity to collaborate in reaching students of all walks of life as well as all interests and majors. We are very conscious of the fact that success in an entrepreneurship program is not about how many students launch their own companies, but the number of students who can access the program’s resources and use them to develop leadership skills.”
Dr. Bayardelle noted that, “Stewardship Council Members support the program by leveraging their skills and experiences. We need mentors, coaches, competition judges, and people who can connect us with internships and jobs. This is about our ability to connect the dots both on and off campus to provide a rich experience for our students.”
The Blackstone LaunchPad has inspired plans to infuse entrepreneurship into the BCC curriculum. These include developing an A.A.S. degree in Entrepreneurship in the Business and Information Systems Department, creating a micro-credential in Workforce Development in Continuing Education, implementing a work-study program for student interns to work with the BCC-Blackstone LaunchPad network, and creating internships and fellowships for students across the campus.
“The Blackstone Charitable Foundation grant encourages entrepreneurship across our campus,” added VP Bayardelle. “In addition to opening their own businesses, our students will develop a mindset and skills that they can use in diverse careers. They can create a start-up, nonprofit or NGO to solve a local or world problem. It is also about preparing them to be successful in a large company where ideas and innovations are rewarded.”