nei grants

Seniors at Universal Academy in Southwest Detroit have set out to help business owners in their neighborhood win $10k for their business idea. The students are in a course focused on giving students the skills needed to lead financially stable lives at home and in the workplace. As a final project, their teacher, Ms. Yassine, asked them to partner with a small business in their community that has dreams of expansion.

Students set out to interview the owners and pitch the NEIdeas $10,000 Challenge to them. Many of them had never heard of the challenge, but were immediately invested in working with the students to piece together an application. The seniors in turn acted as liaisons between the business and NEIdeas by using their writing skills to craft the applications with the owner by their side. Many of these owners had limited English abilities and were especially grateful to have these bright students as a resource.

For many students, they acknowledged it was humbling to help their longtime barber, grocer, or restaurant owner articulate their dreams on paper and be a part of improving their neighborhood. They also shared their learnings to the class – including the daily challenges of running a small business as they learned from their interviews.

As one student put it as he was turning in the assignment – “the NEIdeas assignment was less about my grade and more about helping the owner achieve their dreams. We hope they get the grant!”

To learn more about NEIdeas visit