UCI student wins $25,000 top prize in entrepreneur competition

After beating out dozens of competitors, UC Irvine student Crystal Sanchez took home the $25,000 grand prize in the 2015 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge on Tuesday in New York City.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a New York-based organization that works to help students refine their business skills, holds the competition to give aspiring business leaders from across the country the chance to present their ideas before a judging panel of chief executives and company founders.

Students pitched eco-friendly candles, a food truck for healthy smoothies, a needle-free device to help diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels and an app to help students find scholarships.

Sanchez won for Guardian Locket, which, while appearing to be a piece of jewelry, acts as a security signal. If attacked, the wearer can push a button on the locket and a cellular chip embedded in the necklace will send an alert to local authorities and emergency contacts.

"Her idea was unique and special because she addressed a critical problem we have in society — sexual assault," said Estelle Reyes, executive director of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in Greater Los Angeles. "It wasn't just a business she was creating based on a hobby or general interest she had. She made it her personal mission to address a big issue."

Sanchez began developing the idea as a 12th-grader at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale.

Her prize included $5,000 in support for her business and a $5,000 college scholarship. The rest is devoted to various technical products and services.

"I am thrilled and honored to win the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge," Sanchez said in a statement. "I've learned so much from my teachers, classmates and fellow competitors."

The competition also awarded $5,000 each to runners-up Kenneth Huertas of Downey and Urbana Anam and Jannatul Rowshan of Queens, N.Y.

Huertas presented his idea for an environmentally friendly auto detailing service called A Touch of Eco. Anam and Rowshan presented Urbanalifa Hijabs, a business for fashionable and customizable head coverings for Muslim women.

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