BUILDFest 2012 was an incredible success last Friday evening, with hundreds of supporters showing up to Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse to purchase student products and to donate money towards BUILD programming. The night began with a huge selling expo which allowed students to promote their creations and show off their professional presentation skills. Attendees milled about the Atrium in front of Davio’s, enjoying refreshments and hors d’oeuvres as they socialized with others and viewed student business booths. Live jazz music brought a grand feeling to the atmosphere, which was buzzing with enthusiasm as students roamed the venue and approached guests to sell their merchandise. The young entrepreneurs spent time with each potential customer pitching their products and ensuring that all questions were answered. The remarkable amount of poise and confidence that was exhibited by the high school students certainly did not go unnoticed by guests at the event. While most teams had merchandise available for sale at the event, other teams used the night as an opportunity to gain some insight into consumer opinions by conducting market and prototype research.
Following the selling expo came speeches from Jeff Glass, Board Chair of BUILD Boston, and Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, Founder of BUILD. The two thanked the crowd for joining the important event and gave some background about the foundations of BUILD and the impact of the four-year program on student achievement. The pair then introduced Ayele Shakur, the Regional Executive Director of our Boston site, who spoke of her inspirational experiences thus far with BUILD students. An enthusiastic Robert Lewis Jr, Vice President for Program at The Boston Foundation, announced the 2012 BUILDer Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The prestigious award went to Alan and Harriet Lewis of the Grand Circle Foundation. The charismatic duo created Grand Circle in 1992, and the foundation has since pledged or donated more than $91 million throughout the world.
A line-up of BUILD Boston’s student CEOs were introduced to the crowd, offering an update on how their businesses have developed over the past year. A moving speech was given by Raheem Furtado, CEO of Muzentil Media and Junior at Jeremiah E. Burke High School. Muzentil Media sells pens that play music to inspire students to keep on track with their studies. Raheem explained to attendees how much the four-year program has motivated him to succeed in high school. “BUILD has never held me back. BUILD always pushes me forward,” Raheem said of the program. BUILD ensures that students who need an extra push to thrive in school are taken care of. An encouraging crowd worked to keep the energy high in the venue as the students spoke. The authentic testimonials from Boston’s student CEOs highlighted the gravity of the program’s impact. A congratulatory standing ovation was received from the massive audience after the courageous young entrepreneurs finished speaking.
Finally came the live auction where various prize packages were offered to supporters in exchange for their charity. Over the course of the auction, donations of various amounts were given to BUILD. Happy onlookers witnessed numerous guests make bids to donate, while the high-energy auctioneer explained the influence that various amounts of money would make on the program. Spirited guests cheered as the number of donations increased by the minute. The session wrapped up with dessert and one last live jazz performance by Jose Ramos. For attendees, dancing to live music seemed the perfect end to an evening filled with goodwill and compassion. BUILDFest not only brought in economic support to BUILD programming and individual student businesses, but it also helped E2 students to gain confidence as well as experience relating to customers. If BUILDFest was any indication of what the future holds for these students, Boston had better stay tuned; they will surely continue to impress and achieve greatness during the rest of high school, into college, and one day in their professional careers.