NMSU program for young entrepreneurs receives major grant from Daniels Fund

June 26, 2012 by Janet Perez, NMSU News Center

An innovative business competition developed at New Mexico State University for children is the recipient of a large grant from a prestigious foundation.

Innoventure, an annual contest that encourages students to use science, technology, engineering and math to solve business problems, has just received a $100,000 grant from the Daniels Fund. Innoventure is organized by NMSU’s economic development hub, the Arrowhead Center.

“We are thrilled to have received this very generous grant,” said Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business and vice president for economic development. “It speaks volumes about the value of Innoventure that an organization with a reputation as great as the Daniels Fund believes in this program enough to support us at that level.”

NMSU already has a strong connection to the Daniels Fund, with the College of Business being an active member of the Daniels Fund Ethics Consortium.

The Daniels Fund Grants Program supports nonprofit organizations in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, as well as programs that have a national impact. The grant, which will fund two years of Innoventure, was given through the Daniels Fund’s youth development program. In particular, the Daniels Fund looks to youth programs that promote academics, civics, financial education and career development.

“The Innoventure program helps ground youth in financial responsibility and entrepreneurship,” said Peter Droege, vice president of communications for the Daniels Fund. “We believe that this program will positively impact the lives of youth in New Mexico.”

Along with the annual competition, the Innoventure program also includes Camp Innoventure, a weeklong summer session where students entering sixth to eighth grade have the opportunity to learn how to start their own businesses. The money from the Daniels Fund will go primarily toward expanding the Innovation competition, said Marie Borchert, director of Innoventure at the Arrowhead Center. During the first year of the grant, Innoventure will recruit eight more teams from around the state, bringing the total number of teams at the finals to 48. During the second year of the grant the number of finalist teams is expected to grow to 56.

“We are going to be expanding our recruiting effort for teams this fall in order to increase participation locally, as well as around the state,” Borchert said. “The way we are doing that is through the program’s longevity. This will be our 10th year and many education programs don’t really last past three years. When a program does demonstrate its longevity, teachers will take notice.”

To accommodate the growing field of competitors, Innoventure will use the grant money to move the contest to a larger venue. As a result, the event will take place at the Las Cruces Convention Center next year.

Droege of the Daniels Fund added that the grant also would be used to support the development and implementation of a strategic plan to license the Innoventure program to schools and school districts in New Mexico.

Through licensing the program, Brochert said Innoventure competitions could be conducted in a single school or even a single classroom if the school cannot field a team for the statewide competition. Potentially expanding Innoventure to all corners of the state could have a profound effect on the entire economy.

“The impact on the community is that we will continue to work directly with students who will go on to be the future leaders of our state and even beyond the borders of our state,” Borchert said. “Students learn so much through this program. We see that students who come back year after year increase their understanding and skills, not just with writing and communications, but also by really thinking in new ways and developing new problem-solving skills and figuring out how to make life better.”

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