BUILDFest honorees Walter Prince, Jeff Fagnan, Hemant Taneja, and BUILD Boston’s Regional Executive Director Ayele Shakur.
BUILD Greater Boston honored Walter Prince, Founding Partner of Prince Lobel Tye, LLP, at its fifth annual gala, BUILDFest, at the Westin Copley on November 12. Jeff Fagnan and Hemant Taneja, co-founders of TUGG were also honored. Senator Edward Markey was the Honorary Event Chair at the event, which drew more than 500 guests and raised more than $500,000 for the organization.
“We are deeply honored to have Walter Prince at BUILDFest this year. He is a model of the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that our students embrace through our school-based programs,” said Ayele Shakur, Executive Director of BUILD Greater Boston. “We are equally pleased to have Jeff Fagnan and Hemant Taneja of TUGG. They show how it is not just possible, but sustainable, to provide support to organizations engaged in social good and innovation.”
Prince was honored with the BUILDer Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The award annually recognizes someone who has made significant achievements as an entrepreneur while overcoming adversity or doing social good. Because of this amazing award, you will see many successful entrepreneurs in daily posts on success working to further inspire aspiring entrepreneurs by spreading the word of their great work. Prince founded Prince Lobel Tye, LLP after practicing as a public defender and federal prosecutor and regularly speaks with young people about not being afraid to take risks and pursue their passions as they go on to college and eventually build their careers. Under his leadership, Prince Lobel Tye, LLP supports under-served members of the Greater Boston community with philanthropic contributions, and partners at the firm are actively involved in a wide range of arts, education, and community programs.
Jeff Fagnan and Hemant Taneja, co- founders of TUGG (Technology Underwriting Greater Good), received the BUILD Friend of the Year Award, which is presented annually to those who have demonstrated a deep level of personal commitment to BUILD Greater Boston through volunteer service and support. TUGG, a community engagement non-profit that connects New England’s tech entrepreneurs with social enterprises serving local under-resourced youth, has supported BUILD since 2008 with technical assistance and advice and contributions totaling more than $150,000.
A highlight of BUILDFest was the Student Business Expo where nearly 100 BUILD students showcased 22 student-run businesses and sold their products or demonstrated prototypes. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase products from the student entrepreneurs. The expo is run entirely by students, who acted as emcees and speakers throughout the dinner program. Proceeds supported BUILD Greater Boston’s mission to make college accessible to youth in selected Boston Public Schools where the graduation rates are sometimes below 50 percent.
At the event, Shakur recapped the past year’s highlights for BUILD Boston, which included: celebrating its first class of graduating seniors; opening two business incubators in partner schools; being featured on Chronicle; and having Education Secretary Arne Duncan visit a BUILD classroom. She also said that BUILD will be launching a growth campaign in 2016, to grow from serving 250 students in 5 partner schools to serving 1,000 students in 10 partner schools by the year 2020. BUILD’s growth plans are so the organization can have a measurable impact on Boston’s high school graduation rate, Shakur said.
“In BUILD, we help young people start businesses,” said Shakur. “But our program is about so much more than that. Our program is about inspiring and motivating young people to take their lives to greater heights. Imagine what it does for a 14 or 15 year-old to stand in front of you and say, â€˜I am the CEO of a company that I created.'”
Shakur then introduced 19 year-old Sarah Quinones-Meyers, who, during her four years at BUILD, was the CEO of Picture This, a student business that made and sold pillowcases with images on them. She graduated from the Community Academy of Science and Health in Dorchester last spring.
“Before I was introduced to BUILD,” Quinones-Meyers said, “I was a slacker student who didn’t really care much about my education.”
Today, she is a freshman studying biochemistry at Suffolk University, and is the first ever recipient of the Suffolk-BUILD Youth Entrepreneurship Scholarship.
The student keynote speaker for the event was Milton Harris, whose moving speech had the audience alternately laughing and weeping. Harris, CEO of Gaming Generations and a senior at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, described how his childhood in Roxbury was impacted by violence, crime, homelessness and bullying. He then gave credit to the BUILD staff and mentors for giving him self-confidence and enabling him to use his passion for drawing and video games to launch his own business, which makes custom “skins” for cell phones and video game consoles. He said his junior year was transformative for him.
“In 11th grade, I became more invested in my grades,” Harris said. “I also got to appear on Chronicle. Then BUILD opened up a business incubator at my school-the first of its kind in the city. The Mayor and the Superintendent came to BUILD for the ribbon cutting and I was the keynote speaker,” Harris said. He concluded his speech by thanking his “Nana,” who raised him, and he broke down in tears, as did many in the audience.
Nadege Fortune, a senior at Another Course to College in Brighton, introduced Walter Prince. She described how a recent BUILD field trip to the Prince Lobel Tye law firm inspired her to strive to work for herself one day. “I realize I have to work to overcome any bad influences around me,” said, Fortune, who lives in Dorchester.
Prince graciously accepted his award and described his recent visit to a BUILD classroom at Burke High.
“The Burke is located in the neighborhood I grew up in,” Prince said. “On my way to the school, I drove through my old neighborhood. I saw the apartment building I grew up in. I also saw that things really hadn’t changed,” said Prince. “So, I wanted to communicate one simple message: Your ZIP Code does not determine your destiny. And I am proof of that.”
“To the BUILD students I simply want to say,” concluded Prince, “that tonight I am standing at this podium talking about my business. But I look forward to the day when I am sitting out there, and you are up here, talking about your business…and how BUILD helped get you started.”
We are excited to officially welcome BUILD Boston's new Regional Executive Director, Betsy Neptune! Betsy comes to us with many years of experience as an executive leader and brings to BUILD wisdom and experience in entrepreneurship, economic development, coaching, team development, and nonprofit management.
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