By Marissa Duffield
The Tom Tom Festival’s Youth Summit is an event for young innovators to share their stories with their fellow students and other future innovators.This festival highlights the ideas and creativity of young people through student-led panels and the business pitch competition. As is tradition, Governor Terry McAuliffe made an appearance to speak to students directly.
“Students know when they are getting a good education and when they [aren’t], and research backs that up,” said Zak Malamed, who moderated a panel on the education system and student involvement.
In order to inspire students that want to be entrepreneurs and promote small businesses, the Youth Summit featured keynote speakers. The keynote speakers varied a good bit, but they were all innovators who used their businesses to better the Charlottesville community in some way.
The first keynote speaker was the co-founder of a social media app called Totem that connects Charlottesville locals with one another. He made the point that a social media startup was not something he felt qualified to pursue, but that he felt passionate enough about it to continue his development of the app despite a lack of training. Another speaker had a complete business called The Mind and Body Project that focuses on different ways of bringing mindfulness to people in Charlottesville.
One of the main events of the Youth Summit was the student pitch competition. The pitch competition gives students a chance to share their ideas with students and professionals. There were three prizes for the first, second, and third place winners. The first place winners won a grant for their idea, as did the second place winners, while the third place winner won a mentorship. Every participant did receive a small grant for their businesses and ideas. Natalie Steinberg of Monticello High School won third place for her idea, Boutique Network.
The festival had two panels, both about taking control of your education. The first panel consisted of two college students and directors of Student Voice and a high school student from Western Albemarle. The panels were lead by Zak Malamed, the CEO of Student Voice and a college senior. The panel focused on how they took control of their education and how Student Voice is helping students take control of their education by working to give them more influence in what happens in their schools. The keynote panel had multiple entrepreneurs from varying backgrounds covering a range of topics, such as their ways of taking control of their high school careers, how they ended up in the entrepreneurial field, and advice they would give to young entrepreneurs.
My time at the Tom Tom Youth Summit was spent enriching my knowledge of innovation. The keynote speakers were engaging, informative and made what they talked about relevant to high school students. I got to spend time talking with like minded peers with whom I wouldn’t normally interact. The TomTom Youth Summit was an invaluable experience, I feel inspired to create and my confidence has been boosted from having heard of people who once started exactly where I am.