Service Entrepreneurship Competition inspires students to serve their communities

Service Entrepreneurship Competition inspires students to serve their communities

Maggie Judd (pictured with family, second from left) is the first winner of Presbyterian College’s Service Entrepreneurship Competition.

High school students from across the state of South Carolina responded to PC president Dr. Matt vandenBerg’s challenge to bring innovative solutions to address the root causes of societal problems. 

Last October, vandenBerg announced the launch of PC’s first-ever Service Entrepreneurship Competition. 

The premise for the competition was simple: South Carolina high school students could make a plan to solve a problem in their community. After applying to PC, they could submit their proposals detailing how they would bring about change. Students would receive scholarships based on the strength of their proposals and how well they fared in on-campus interviews. 

High school students are just the right demographic to bring about change, according to vandenBerg. 

“(High school students) are action-oriented individuals who want to address the root causes of societal problems like homelessness, poverty, and inequality rather than the symptoms of those challenges,” he said.

Forces for Positive Change 

Seventy-five South Carolina high school students submitted proposals to bring about change in their communities. The number of competitors made the competition the largest of its kind in the state and among the largest in the nation.

Many students wrote about the prevalence of mental illness among teenagers and how they would address it. Some detailed how they would serve underprivileged children in schools or homes. Still others sought to address the housing situations for the poverty-stricken in their communities. 

The Service Entrepreneurship Competition Review Committee reviewed the students’ submissions and invited 27 finalists to campus. A team of three judges interviewed each finalist. The judges included business leaders, philanthropists, impact investors, capacity-building organizations, and social entrepreneurs. 

“I was extremely impressed by the level of thought and creativity demonstrated by the participants in the competition,” said Brown Patterson, chairman of Laurens County (S.C.) Council. 

“As a judge and a local community leader, I was very pleased and encouraged by the possibilities of these young people to truly address social problems at their root causes and make our local communities better. Kudos to PC for embracing and expanding the reach of its historic motto through this program.” 

Innovative Solutions to Real-World Problems

Maggie Judd, from Lyman, S.C., was one of the finalists. Judd proposed to lend durable medical equipment (DME) to those who need it. Her mother’s rare Guillain-Barre syndrome diagnosis, which left her paralyzed and then hospitalized for four months, inspired her Service Entrepreneurship Competition submission.

“This service is something we discussed in my mother’s hospital room when we realized the gaping need in Greenville County,” Judd said.

When she later heard about PC’s first-ever Service Entrepreneurship Competition, Judd realized that the time had come to put her plan to help others into action. 

“I realized the difference I could make in not only my family’s life but many other Greenville County residents’ lives as well,” Judd said. “I also knew how large of an impact I could make on the future of medical loan closets in South Carolina.”

The Winning Proposal

Judd’s proposal stated the problem was caused by a lack of a medical loan closet in Greenville County. In her proposal, she offered a solution for solving the problem, a plan to scale her organization, and even a copy of the Certificate of Existence, signed by South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond, stating Judd’s intent to establish a nonprofit.

Judd articulated her proposal and shared her 16-page plan to bring real change to a team of three judges. The Service Entrepreneurship Competition Review Committee named Judd the winner of the competition this past spring. 

“The Presbyterian College motto, ‘While We Live, We Serve’ is familiar to me in that this is the way I was raised,” she said.

“I was taught to care for my neighbors and community. Any community outreach services involving my church family always focused on our local community first. An outreach project like a DME loan service is my chance to make a difference in my local community and help my neighbors.”  

Serving Communities Across the State

PC awarded Service Entrepreneurship Competition scholarships to six students in all.  

David Bouknight, from Columbia, S.C., was named the runner-up. 

Four honorable mentions who also received scholarships include: 

  • Lyric Brown, Florence, S.C.
  • Autumn Channer, Piedmont, S.C. 
  • Shelley Ricks, York, S.C.
  • Ava Swenson, Fort Mill, S.C.

Over the course of their four years at PC, students may receive up to $10,000 in coaching, mentoring, independent study support to further work on and improve their plans. They’ll also have the option to take a service entrepreneurship freshman year experience course this fall and be connected to their cohort of students who participated in the service entrepreneurship program through other types of engagement throughout the year.

PC will announce details about the second Service Entrepreneurship Competition this fall.