The Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at New York University, together with the citizen sector organization Youth Venture (YV), has awarded the grand prize in the second annual NYU Reynolds/YV “Be A Changemaker” competition to a team of undergraduate students. The trio of students devised a plan to reduce homelessness and poverty among teenage mothers and their children in New York City.

The winning team, composed of two NYU students and one LaGuardia Community College student, developed a plan to open a supportive housing program for teenage mothers and their families in Elmhurst, Queens, “Baby’s First Home.” Within this haven, up to five young mothers and their families will be provided with a secure and welcoming place to stay, supportive services and other assistance to help them achieve their educational and vocational goals.

The plan calls for raising community awareness about teen pregnancy and motherhood, as well as a student-run resource referral program to enable teen mothers all over the city to locate services, said Jessica Mason, 19, one of the NYU students who developed the award-winning plan. The other team members are Amanda Raposo, 19, who attends NYU, and Fiorella Alania, 22, of LaGuardia Community College.

“The YV/NYU Reynolds `Be A Changemaker’ challenge has in very short order become a fundamental part of the fabric of NYU’s Undergraduate community,” said Gabriel Brodbar, director of NYU Reynolds, which is operated by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Office of the Provost. “The sophistication of the ventures has grown exponentially. It has been wonderful to see the degree to which NYU’s young people are embracing this opportunity and pursuing their vision of change.”

The team was selected for the grand prize by a distinguished panel of social entrepreneurs, educators, business and technology leaders. The winning team was among 22 teams reviewed by the judges. All the teams were recipients of seed money after having submitted Action Plans and presented their concepts before first-round panels composed of New York community leaders from the business and social sectors.

The winning team receives a total $10,000 grant for its shelter project. The team will also be provided with special training and consulting opportunities, in addition to the $1,000 initial grant they already received from Youth Venture as seed funding.

“We are excited to launch this competition for a second year and congratulate the founders of ‘Baby’s First Home’ for their important initiative,” said Gretchen Zucker, executive director of Youth Venture. “NYU is deepening its commitment as a leader, weaving social entrepreneurship and youth leadership in the very fabric of the university, and we are delighted to continue this important collaboration.”

At first, the three team members were concerned about the impact of homelessness, not only the lives of young women and their children, but also on the City of New York as a whole. They learned nearly half of homeless families are headed by women who gave birth in their teens. The team also learned teen mothers are likely to be homeless more often and for longer periods of time than families headed by those who were older when they became parents.

The grand prize recipients will also receive special consulting opportunities with experienced entrepreneurs through the New Venture Program at the Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Stern Incubator Entrepreneurial Boot Camp. In addition to receiving coaching from David S. Rose (called the “Father of angel investing in New York” by Crain’s) and Thirty Fish president Michael Margolis, the YV team has automatically been named as a semifinalist for the 2009 Stern Social Track Business Plan Competition, which provides a grand prize of $100,000.

Also, the NYU Reynolds Program has arranged a private lunch with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.

The Grand Prize judges included Liz DeSario, manager of operations, Citywide Initiatives, Teach for America; Dr. Cassia Freedland, director of the Wagner Center for Leadership and Service, Wagner College; Anand Mehta, business analyst, McKinsey and Company, New York; Zach Michaelson, coordinator, Amnesty International Manhattan Chapter, and Courtney Tuchman, manager of internal and culture communications, Google.

The NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship is designed to support and train the next generation of change makers who will implement sustainable and scalable solutions to society’s most intractable problems. Reflecting the notion that social entrepreneurship is a meta-profession that draws on the skills and methodologies from a wide variety of disciplines, this cross-university initiative encompasses all 14 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools at NYU. At the core of the program are highly competitive Undergraduate Scholarships and Graduate Fellowships. The program also brings significant social entrepreneurial resources and opportunities to the greater NYU community as a whole. The Reynolds Program is run by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, and the NYU Office of the Provost. For more information, visit

Youth Venture® leads an international community of young people who are powerful now, changemakers now. Youth Venture inspires and invests in teams of young people to create and launch their own sustainable, community-benefiting Ventures. Youth Venture then connects them into a global movement of young changemakers who are together redefining the youth years as a time of leadership and positive social change. This is the foundation of an Everyone a Changemaker™ world - the key factor for success in every part of society. Youth Venture currently operates in 14 countries and online at

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