Patricelli Center Awards Funding to Three New Student Ventures

Mike MavredakisMay 15, 20247min
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Three impactful student organizations—the Mudanza Dance Project, Pyari, and Nailepu Foundation—each received $6,000 New Venture Awards from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship on April 22. 

“The 2024 Patricelli Center New Venture Awards were the most competitive in the Center’s 13-year history,” said Ahmed Badr, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “We’re proud to have provided funding for all the applicants, for a total of $44,000. For the first time, all applicants received [at least] a $1,000 grant towards their ventures.” 

Diana Kimojino ’26 founded the Nailepu Foundation with one goal in mind—to elevate the women and girls in her home community of Maasai, Kenya, a patriarchal society, by improving their access to education and job training. 

“I founded this nonprofit to alleviate many of the issues I dealt with growing up while pursuing my education,” Kimojino said. “Women are treated as second-class citizens back home, and I hope to empower the many girls in my community to feel comfortable and dignified in their push for education and independence.” 

Nailepu’s long-term goal is to increase the percentage of women pursuing secondary and higher education in Maasai while simultaneously improving their financial independence.  

Pyari is a menstrual health brand created by Priyanshu Pokhrel ’26 and Nikita Paudel aimed at empowering people who menstruate in Syangja, Nepal. Around 80 percent of menstruators aged 10 to 24 in Nepal use a cloth to address their periods, which can sometimes lead to bacterial vaginosis or urinary tract infections, according to Pokhrel. Pyari hopes to address this problem through its offerings. 

“My company, Pyari, envisions a world where menstruation is destigmatized, menstrual hygiene products are accessible and eco-friendly, and comprehensive menstrual education is readily available,” Pokhrel said. 

The company offers menstrual education kits, reusable cloth pads, and plans to host skill development workshops for individuals in Syangja to learn how to stitch their own reusable pads. The kits will include a do-it-yourself reusable pad making kit, a storybook about menstruation, anatomical booklet, and activity cards, among other items. 

“Access to menstrual hygiene products and education is a fundamental human right,” Pokhrel said. “By ensuring equitable access, we promote health and well-being for all individuals, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status.” 

The Mudanza Dance Project, run by Rebeca Trivino ’24, will host weekly after-school dance workshops for youth in Vickery Meadows, which is a community with a significant number of immigrants and refugees in Dallas, Texas. This is a community with a wealth of diverse cultures and languages, but with few resources for the arts as all the dance studios in the city are located in affluent neighborhoods to the north, Trevino said. She aims to address this gap and offer young residents a platform to tell stories and build community, she said in her application. 

“I discovered how movement can become a form of speech and a medium for sensing, understanding, and communicating ideas between individuals without a common language,” Trevino said in the application. 

Each month the program will cycle through dance styles, like Merengue, Samba, and Salsa, throughout the expanse of Afro-Caribbean dance. 

Three other organizations, including The Wings of Change Fellowship, also received $3,000 awards for being finalists. Founded by Lois Amponsah ’27, The Wings of Change Entrepreneurships Fellowship is an organization that helps equip Ghanaian youth with practical skills, mentorship, and entrepreneurial opportunities to combat unemployment. medX Insight – created by Adil Mohammed ’27 –  helps clinicians with paperwork so they have more time to dedicate to patient care. Zarasoa, founded by Thibeaux Hirsh ’25, is focused on the production and sale of rainwater harvesting jars made in Madagascar, that help to improve the access and quality of safe drinking water in the area. 

After the New Venture Award showcase, all finalists participated in a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship-funded trip to Boston, where they met with social entrepreneurs at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art.  

Students can learn more and apply to the New Venture Awards on the Patricelli Center site.