Student entrepreneur wins People’s Choice Award in area business contest

David Rockwell ’15 of Rockford, Illinois, won the People’s Choice Award and a $1,000 grant Friday, Nov. 7, in the Good Money Challenge, sponsored by Marquette University and the Brady Corp. in Milwaukee.

The Good Money Challenge is a funding competition for ideas that have a social or environmental impact. It recognizes innovative ideas and passionate people who can use money to make a difference by starting their business. From applications received from across the county, 11 finalists were selected to make a live pitch for their idea in front of a judging panel.

Rockwell’s idea is for “Rapping Up Conflict,” a nonprofit he wants to start in his hometown of Rockford. He plans to use hip-hop and spoken word poetry as the foundation to a conflict management program that gives young students an opportunity to process the social impacts of violence in their culture in an appropriate and familiar way.

He wrote the business plan for his Nonprofit Organization Management class at Ripon College last spring. “It was clear to me that he was very passionate and serious about his project, so I recommended that he submit it,” said Mary E. Avery, professor and director of the business management program and Center for Social Responsibility fellow at Ripon College.

“What makes his award especially impressive is the caliber of projects that were the competition. Competitive projects included a water filtration project that can provide safe water to 2,000 people in remote areas for $25,000; a composting project that already is diverting tons of waste from Milwaukee’s waste stream; and a solar-powered bicycle. Very few of the entrants were undergraduate students.”

Ripon College is one of a small number of undergraduate institutions with social entrepreneurship curriculum. Also offered is a minor in Socially Responsible Leadership with a Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation track.

“Winning this award gives me a tremendous amount of pride in the adversity I overcame with my departure from the streets and gang activity,” Rockwell says. “Financially, it provides me with the majority of my curriculum costs which is essential to launching my pilot program. At the end of the day, I’m one step closer to playing a part in decreasing youth victimization.”

David credits an article he read in Ripon College Assistant Professor Ann Pleiss Morris’ Trauma Studies course for playing a major role in his curriculum.

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