Millennials pitch plans to fix issues facing Colorado Springs

By: Caroline Laganas

July 7, 2017 Updated: July 10, 2017 at 9:28 am

These millennials aren’t looking for fame or fortune; they want to turn their ideas into action to benefit Colorado Springs.

Students and recent alumni from four local colleges and universities gathered Thursday to share ideas to resolve community issues such as hunger, homelessness and energy during the third annual Quad Innovation Partnership Demonstration Day.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity in this town,” said Jacob Eichengreen, executive director of Quad Innovation Partnership. “This is a way to build a world where students and recent alumni want to live in.”

The partnership was an initiative of Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy to foster innovation and career opportunities in the Pikes Peak region.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to equip students with what they need to turn ideas into action in Colorado Springs,” Eichengreen said. “Everything we do is focused on keeping students here.”

Twenty-seven students from the four institutions participated in the one-month program to brainstorm ideas and present viable proposals at the end of the course.

“We worked with community partner organizations and gave them the opportunity to pitch problems they’re facing,” Eichengreen said.

Students broke into six teams and worked together to give 5-minute presentations of their pitches in front of community members at the event, held at Colorado College’s Cornerstone Arts Center.

“We got free rein to how we wanted to attack that problem,” said Jessica Valvo, a UCCS senior. “It was completely up to us on how we formed our project.”

One team hoped to partner with local car dealerships to provide unused vehicles to those in need, while another suggested storytelling to highlight the lives of homeless people through minidocumentary videos.

“I think the biggest challenge was figuring out what the community needed and not turning it into an idea, but putting action and movement behind it,” said Megan Barrick, a senior at the Air Force Academy.

Groups who addressed food insecurity presented a wide range of proposals from a healthy food demonstration at a local church to building farms for community college students in need.

“I never saw myself as an entrepreneur,” said Katelyn Sethi, a junior at UCCS. “I realized to fix issues, we need innovation.”

Another team created a comic book series to increase children’s food literacy with the hope of promoting healthy eating habits within their families.

“We want to instill knowledge at a young age so kids can make better choices as they grow up,” said Cordelia Feess, a senior at PPCC.

As for the energy demand solution, a group redesigned a customer’s energy bill to make the information more digestible, and used scales for consumers to see their consumption in comparison to a previous month.

“The more we learned from people in the utility industry, the more we realized this was the best option,” said Georgia Bermingham, a recent graduate of CC.

While students sought information from local organizations dealing with these challenges, some stumbled upon something more – employment opportunities.

“This year we had someone land a job the first day of the program,” Eichengreen said. “Two more committed to jobs and two are going through the final round of the interview process.”

Students left the program not only with employment and professional skills, but a vision for the future.

“Just because the program is over doesn’t mean we don’t want to see our ideas come into fruition,” Valvo said. “We all want to see Colorado Springs be the best it can be.”