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Fountain Valley High students receive scholarships for Virtual Enterprises work

Connexcities team members Gavin Schuld, Thu Luong, Jeffrey Langford, and Emily and Evelyn Tran at Fountain Valley High.
Connexcities team members, from left, Gavin Schuld, Thu Luong, Jeffrey Langford, and sisters Emily and Evelyn Tran hold up their checks for winning the 2022 Social Innovation Challenge by Intuit at Fountain Valley High School on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Five student entrepreneurs at Fountain Valley High School have seen their hard work pay off, quite literally.

The Barons quintet are each part of the school’s Virtual Enterprises program, which helps students start and launch a simulated business together as a class. Through VE, they created Connexcities, a digital platform that brings together young LGBTQ and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs who seek business mentorships, lessons and events that celebrate diversity and equality in the workplace and beyond.

The students won a regional competition. Now they have captured a title on the national stage.

They are the winners of the Intuit Social Innovation Challenge, which asked students to help underrepresented business owners gain access to opportunities in entrepreneurship and business ownership.

FVHS seniors Gavin Schuld, Jeffrey Langford and sisters Emily and Evelyn Tran, as well as junior Thu Luong, were each presented with $5,000 checks from Intuit on Friday. They also will receive iPads.

Additionally, Intuit will donate $5,000 toward continued development of Connexcities.

For six years, Ruben Salazar has worked to turn the disused lot into a cultural landmark and space for independent artists and entrepreneurs in Santa Ana. His hard work has paid off.

“We didn’t see a platform like this that was specifically made for LGBTQ and BIPOC entrepreneurs,” Emily Tran said. “So, we wanted to make one ourselves. These entrepreneurs don’t see people like them in the business industry. We wanted to give them representation, so they have an opportunity to become mentees.”

Meanwhile, LGBTQ and BIPOC mentors will be able to provide resources like internships, entry-level job prospects and investments to those they are assisting, to make their business ideas real and tangible.

The students worked hard on the project starting in early December, Luong said. They switched their theme midway through, after initially aiming at featuring personal business classes in local community colleges.

“We wanted to make a platform that’s more accessible for everyone,” Luong said. “We created a forum for both mentees and mentors to compose articles, as well as videos, that talk about their personal experience and their successes and failures in the business industry. We want the mentees and mentors to connect, not only to each other, but to other mentees and mentors in different industries as well.”

Fountain Valley High business teacher Sarah McCance oversees the school’s VE program. Though there are about 600 VE classrooms across the nation, the Barons have traditionally done very well in regional and national VE competitions, Virtual Enterprises International regional director Teri Jones said.

“They not only worked on this in class but before school, after school a bunch,” McCance said. “They’re amazing students, and I’m really excited to see where this is going to go. I know they’re going to take this to the next level.”

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