Announcing 2021 Acara Challenge Fellowship Awardees
The 2021 Acara Challenge ended with a virtual award ceremony that nearly 200 people were able to attend from around the world – including Brazil and Ghana. Though nobody thought we would still be hosting this event in a virtual format for a second year in a row, it was a lively evening with contagious excitement as students presented a wide range of changemaking projects.
Over the course of an hour, students, alumni, faculty, and community members heard pitches from student teams and voted on crowd favorites from a list of 14 finalists, six undergraduate teams and eight graduate teams. This year’s Crowd Favorite Prize winners were OUROGAMI for undergraduates and Doktah Telemedicine for graduates. Incidentally, these two teams also received a fellowship prize.
This year’s Fellowship prizes went to the following teams:
EcoCiclo, a graduate student startup in Brazil that produces biodegradable sanitary pads and employs women in vulnerable situations, received the gold award.
Two lucky teams received the silver award. Undergraduate team OUROGAMI is promoting a circular economy by upcycling popular plastics including PET. And Doktah Telemedicine is a graduate student collaboration focused on providing health care services through voice call and SMS in Ghana.
The bronze award was awarded to five teams in the competition – two graduate projects and three undergraduate. The undergraduate teams included HEAL ED, focused on decreasing alcohol consumption among Ugandan entrepreneurs through career development programming, and Open Spaces Healing Initiative who are creating urban green space and environmental justice in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. The final undergrad team is our first winners from the University of Minnesota Duluth campus: Students for Lake Superior Sustainable Farming are focused on food waste reduction, demonstration, composting education, and closing gaps within the food system at UMD.
Graduate student projects at this level included Co-Creating Through Design, a project focused on creating student-ready postsecondary institutions in order to increase the postsecondary outcomes of underserved learners through equity-centered design thinking and STEMtelling, a storytelling project focused on centering student interests and experiences in scientific exploration and innovation so they can see themselves as scientists.
Finally, we have an additional team receiving a Fellowship. Sense of Self is a project seeking to create a space that will transform the way people of color address chronic stress and systemic racism by providing radical restorative tools to help them thrive.
We celebrated the Acara Challenge and these incredible students working to create change in our society in the midst of some truly challenging times in Minnesota and across the world. Judges who hear the presentations of our finalists always say how challenging it is to decide who to award fellowships to, and this year was no different. We are so proud of all the students who competed and will continue to support their success.