Capital Builders Center Signs Up First Students

Fifteen incoming freshman students from Bowie State University, Morgan State University and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) were introduced last week as the inaugural group for the Capital Builders Center, part of an entrepreneurial study program at UDC.

The students were introduced and cheered by their families at an event Friday that was designed like a college sports signing day. As each student came to the stage, they were given an athletic jersey with his or her name on the back.

This first group welcomed into the Capital Builders Center were identified from a pool of more than 300 applicants who were evaluated through the Gallup Business Profile 10 (BP10) that looks at 10 themes to become a successful entrepreneur.

UDC President Ronald Mason Jr. said signing the elite group of students is like signing top sports athletes.

“These are mental athletes,” Mason said. “These are the young people we hope that through creativity and grit, will produce businesses that create futures.”

The Capital Builder Center students will be in an 18-month entrepreneurial training program that enhances a student’s college experience through boot camps, courses, mentorships, summer apprenticeships, and real-world projects.

The program has a $1 million startup grant for three years through a partnership with the Clifton Foundation. The grant will be managed by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Many of the students launched a business venture before being accepted into the Capital Builders Center initiative. During the ceremony, Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton shared his perspective about the importance of this pipeline to creating new businesses.

“This is the entrepreneur’s Julliard for local high potential students that can build organizations of unlimited size,” said Clifton. “Entrepreneurship is the most important talent in America right now.”

Reese Waters, host of “Get-Up DC!” on WUSA-TV (Channel 9), served as the event’s emcee.

Samiya Hatcher, a recent McKinley Tech High School graduate who will attend Morgan State University to major in Information Systems, enthusiastically walked to the stage to receive her Capital Builders Center jersey. Hatcher will pursue a career in cybersecurity, but she also will work toward her dream of creating a T-shirt line called “Culture of Expression.”

The shirts will convey a message of hope amid the oppression felt by many LGBTQ youth, teens and adults.

“When I came out, my family was very supportive,” Samiya said. “But I have a friend who came out and her family has not been supportive. Her experience inspired me to create this T-shirt line, so people know they have support.”

Isaiah Koroma-Crawford, a recent graduate of Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, aspires to own a landscaping business with multiple locations. An initial investment of $125 from his grandmother allowed him to buy his first lawnmower six years ago, and he and his friend immediately began mowing their neighbors’ yards, making $400 in their first weekend.

A first-time expectant father, Isaiah sees that as a business-owner, he is building a legacy for his baby.

“As an employee you don’t own anything in the building you work in,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, you have something that you own, that is branded to your name.”

A special guest at the event was Virginia Ali, who along with her husband Ben Ali, opened Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C. The globally-known restaurant on U Street will celebrate its 60th anniversary on Aug. 22.

“I’m so inspired by these young people,” Ali said. “I heard their goals and the help they are getting. I am here to encourage them.”

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