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Student entrepreneurs strive for world change

Three North Central entrepreneurship students learned this summer that one of the most powerful tools for an entrepreneur is not their own big dream, but collaboration with their peers.

Junior Miriam Barnhart, senior Madison Errichiello, and sophomore Dennis Morales were part of an elite group of students who gathered in Los Angeles to attend Praxis Academy, “a summer program focused on training Christ-following undergraduates at the intersection of faith, startups, and culture.”

The week of interaction with successful entrepreneurs and like-minded students from across the country sparked new ideas and dreams that the North Central trio are eager to develop.

“One of my big themes in life is impacting on a global level and helping people create businesses,” Errichiello said. “The coolest think about Praxis was getting to meet so many people trying to make an impact. There is so much drive to bring redemption to the fields they’re working in.”

‘This is a big deal!’

Morales was surprised by his selection to attend Praxis, since he had just completed his freshman year, but he embraced the opportunity. “At first I thought it would be kind of like going to just another Christian school for a week [the academy was held at Biola University],” Morales explained.

“But when I got there and met people from Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton, I realized this was a big deal! The speakers were super intelligent and well known. It challenged me to make the most of it!”

Barnhart found the Praxis experience to be absolutely affirming of her heart and her calling. “I walked in feeling like I had this burden on my heart for social justice and using business as a tool—I had felt personally burdened for a lot of issues in the world,” she reflected.

“At Praxis I found I’m not the only one who cares about this!” Barnhart said. “I got to meet people already thinking amazing things and doing amazing things.”

Entrepreneurship as an answer

Bill Tibbetts, MBA, director of the North Central University School of Business, encourages his students to apply for Praxis Academy. He’s enthusiastic about what they gain and proud of the students who have been accepted over the past few years. “This program really highlights how our business students focus on entrepreneurship as an answer to their future impact of our world,” Tibbetts said.

Praxis Academy is an endeavor of Praxis Labs, whose tagline is, “creating cultural and social impact through entrepreneurship.”

Power of community

The focus on community was significant for each of the North Central students who attended in 2017. “The community was huge for me,” Barnhart noted. “I want to make sure these relationships last—not just on the business side, but on the theological and spiritual side. The Lord totally showed up, but no one was forcing it to happen.”

All of the students are passionate about the program and eager for their peers to experience the same thing. “This could be a huge part of development for business students,” Barnhart said, but also commented that it’s not just for business students, but for any Christian students who want to impact the world.

Morales said the application is not intimidating at all and he appreciated that he could tell they were looking at the whole person, not just GPA. “They want to know who you are and what you’re about,” he explained. “You can be working on a venture, but you don’t have to be; you’re given the chance to say why you’re interested in the program.”

At the academy, students are encouraged to actively look for people who are passionate about the same things. Errichiello said that was easy, “They gave us opportunities to connect with people at roundtable sessions,” she noted. “For example, if you were eventually going to live in New York, you could sit with others interested that. Or people with global impact or specific social justice issues. They just really facilitated that well to connect with people who have the same passion and interest.”

“Presence, humility, and generosity were key themes,” Morales shared. “We were asked not to bring out our phones during speakers or at the roundtables. The message was: ‘Be present. Be humble. Think generously.”

A few months after the academy, the impact of the experience has not faded for these three young entrepreneurs. Barnhart summed it up: “I felt I was part of something so much bigger than myself and what I was supposed to do with my life.”

The next Praxis Academy will be July 30–August 3, 2018. Location and other details are still pending, but interested students may apply now.