Teen Entrepreneurs From St. Paul, Minn., Win National Youth IT Challenge

NEW YORK — June 9, 2005 — Academic Par Excellence, a student-created business plan for online tutorial programs for ACT and PSAT test preparation for high-school students, won top honors at the second annual “Making the Business: Youth IT Challenge” hosted by Ed Gordon of National Public Radio’s “News & Notes.” The Youth IT Challenge (YITC) program is a technology-based business plan competition, which began in January throughout the U.S. and hosted more than 150 students vying to compete in the national event by winning locally sponsored Youth IT Challenges in their home communities.

Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, celebrity advocate and hip-hop mogul, declared team Academic Par Excellence Preparatory Inc. the national champion of the program sponsored by Microsoft Corp. and National Urban League (NUL) and presented the team with prizes valued at $15,000.

“I work with a lot of young people, and I know it takes a special kind of person to make it in the business world,” Combs said. “These students, as they have shown us here today, all have what it takes to make successful entrepreneurs. They have come a long way from the start of the competition, and that was only a few short months ago. Imagine what these kids could do with a few years of experience under their belts! Bill Gates, watch out! I know we’ll see the names of these students in the business pages and boardrooms across America one day.”

The Making the Business: Youth IT Challenge is one of the nation’s only entrepreneurial and technology-based competitions aimed at minority youth. The competition was designed by NUL and Microsoft to engage 14- to 18-year-old youth in the development of an original IT-based business.

The competition was held in the historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem, N.Y., where student teams followed an age-old Apollo tradition of rubbing the Tree of Hope, a tree stump located on stage, for good luck. Guest judges included two-time NAACP Image Award winner Camille Winbush of the “The Bernie Mac Show”; Fox news anchor Julian Phillips; Amsterdam News Editor in Chief Elinor Tatum; and Keith Clinkscales, president of KTC Ventures and former president and CEO of VIBE magazine.

As the national champion, team Academic Par Excellence received $15,000 in prizes from the program sponsors. Each student received an HP laptop; a printer; software including Microsoft® Office 2003, Digital Image Suite 10 and Plus! SuperPack for Windows® XP; a notebook optical mouse; and a $719 U.S. Savings Bond.

Coming in second was team Search It! from Seattle, which created a customized search engine for scholarships, grants and loans for college-bound students, educators and organizations. Each team member received a Canon digital camera. The third-place winner was Team District Couture of Washington, D.C., which created a business plan for an online advertising site for small urban fashion vendors. Each member of that team received a Dell Pocket Digital Jukebox with a MusicMatch software gift certificate.

All remaining team members received $100 gift certificates.

In developing this program, Microsoft and NUL aimed to emphasize the real-world implications it would have for its participants. “Too often students are told they have to wait until college or beyond to gain practical experience and explore career options,” said Michael Robinson, general manager, New York/New Jersey District, Microsoft. “YITC provides students with a unique opportunity to get an early start and gain firsthand experience working with experts and realizing their potential in the IT field.”

This year’s 10-week program was hosted by NUL affiliate offices in nine cities: Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Paul and Washington. The affiliates and local business professionals assisted students in learning basic research techniques and market analysis so they could evaluate viability of ideas and develop presentation skills. NUL President and CEO Marc Morial lauded the students for their efforts. “For many of our students, this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Morial said. “They are acquiring skills that will help them advance to a university, become IT professionals and become our future business leaders.”

About the National Urban League

Established in 1910, The Urban League is the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Today, the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its local affiliates. There are over 100 local affiliates of the National Urban League located in 35 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy and research.

About Microsoft

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