Cleveland innovators 'Accelerate' 2016

Cleveland innovators 'Accelerate' 2016
Sixty admissions were narrowed down to just one winner. (Source: WOIO)
Sixty admissions were narrowed down to just one winner. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Have you ever thought of something that you believe could change or impact the city of Cleveland? The Cleveland Leadership Center has a program that brings those ideas to life!

This is the second year it hosted the "Accelerate" program, which builds on the momentum of creativity in the city by assisting people to launch their small project ideas.

"This is a great opportunity for people to have individualize ideas, not companies, not organizations, but individuals, to talk about them, bring them into light, and hopefully find a way to put them into action and make their dreams come true," said Joe DiRocco, the event chair.

On Wednesday night, finalists presented to an audience at the Global Center for Health Innovation. Applicants submitted ideas they believe will create a positive community impact in the areas of community change, economic development, education, quality of life, and arts and culture.

After 60 submissions this year, the pool was whittled down to 25 finalists, who had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to more than 100 of Cleveland's community leaders.

Then it was narrowed down to five finalists. One woman pitched a social media site called "Motherboard," which helps new moms get back into the workforce. Another finalist created "Bus Stop Moves," which encourages local transit riders to use exercise equipment that would be installed in bus shelters.

The audience chose the winner, who gets to take home $5,000, and the runner up, who receives $2,000, to fund their ideas.

Benjamin Colas walked away the winner. The crowd loved his pitch for "Families Building Future Leaders." He says providing families with a box of supplies before school starts could jump start their education.

"So many kids in Cleveland are coming into kindergarten so far behind. My pitch is an opportunity to help parents know how to prep their kid. So, rather than just saying, 'your child needs to know how to count or categorize things,' we have things like, Fruit Loops or Skittles, and explain to them how that can be used, so they can come close to where they need to be," explained Colas.

Colas, a teacher, recognized a need in our community and "Accelerate" is helping him meet it. He says the prize money will help him get a pilot program started in time for the next school year.

Event organizers hope everyone walked away inspired to make Cleveland a better place

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