Contest taps creativity of college minds

The challenge for teams of Western North Carolina college students sounds simple enough: Take a piece of garbage and create value out of it, while getting across a message of environmental responsibility. The underlying objective: to help teach young people what it feels like to be an entrepreneur.

Who’s got the juice? Creative Juice is a competition among teams of college students who will be challenged to take a piece of everyday garbage and turn it into something valuable that communicates environmental responsibility.

That’s the essence of the Creative Juice Collegiate Competition, which started at AdvantageWest Economic Development Group but has grown to include several regions around the country.

“The goal is, through this emphasis on youth engagement, to tap into the creativity and innovation of our youth,” says AdvantageWest CEO Dale Carroll. That’s critical now because the generation of young people in college and just entering the workforce, known as the Millennials, “has a higher interest and potential for entrepreneurship than any generation in the history of our country,” he says.

Teams in the region have until Sept. 10 to register, and the competition begins at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 when the throwaway item will be announced during a live Webcast from the Carolina Connect conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. The annual conference brings together investors and entrepreneurs from across the Southeast for networking and professional development.

The piece of trash could be a plastic bag, paper clip or aluminum can. The item has to be remade into something that has value or meaning, while communicating the message of environmental stewardship. Teams will create a short video explaining their project and upload it to YouTube for judging.

For Aaron Peacock, a student at Appalachian State University who is leading a team, the contest is an exciting challenge.

“I really like to show my creative side and, along with that, I really like social change,” he says. “So it’s not really about the money. It’s about showing students being creative and having environmental responsibility. We can use our creativity to help better the world.”

The judges are: Erskine Bowles of the UNC System; Rhett Weiss, Google Inc.; Ryan Allis, iContact; Kurt Mann, AmericanGreen TV; June Atkinson, N.C. Department of Public Instruction; and a representative of the N.C. Community College System.

The top team in Western North Carolina will receive $5,000 in scholarships, a Biltmore Estate outdoor experience, a paid-internship project with the Asheville Sustainability Center, an evening at the Grove Park Inn and tickets to a Carolina Panthers home game, among other prizes. The winning regional team will face the champs from South Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa and Oregon for the grand-prize trip to Google’s corporate headquarters in January.

Interested students can sign up at


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