Want to make a change in the world? Invest in the next generation! On July 12th, Usher’s New Look gathered over 100 potential investors for the first-ever sneak peek of the UNL Spark Center, a new career and entrepreneurship incubator coming to Atlanta, GA, where underserved high school and college students will become disruptive innovators who follow their passions, or “spark”, in order to create global change. During the event, UNL students and staff brought the current “blank slate” to life, by giving guests a look inside of the five components that will make up Spark Center once the renovation is complete this September 2016. New Look college student and host extraordinaire, Tony Betton, dressed as “Dr. SPARK” for the night, and kicked off the festivities by splitting the guests into groups for their student-led tours.
In the UNL Cafe, New Look high school student, Melvin Taylor, whose spark is cooking, prepared dishes with celebrity chef and winner of Food Network’s Cut Throat Kitchen, Chef Tregaye Frasier. We even surprised him with his first chef jacket, embroidered with his name, Chef Melvin! Together, Chef Melvin and Chef Tregaye served chicken arancinni balls (deep fried balls of creamy chicken risotto), homemade sweet potato chips with salmon dip, bbq chicken deviled eggs and Melvin’s favorite, crème brulee! Melvin, now a Junior at McNair High School, spoke on his experience in New Look since 8th grade, attributing New Look to helping him “embrace” his spark for cooking and see it as a career pathway. Thanks to New Look, Melvin has met and stayed connected with mentors like Chef Tregaye and other Atlanta celebrity chefs, who have inspired him to one day open his own restaurant.
In the Game Loft, sponsored by General Electric, Kemon White, a Sophomore at Kipp Atlanta High School, demoed robotics he built through code thanks to our partner Microsoft. Kemon told guests his story of how he “used to always take things apart and rebuild them; from remote controls to TV sets,” and that he “never knew he was meant to be an engineer” until New Look exposed him to coding and robotics through their Day of Code Workshop hosted at Georgia Tech. Kemon spoke to how he will use the Game Loft to learn more about his craft and produce alongside the STEAM mentors UNL has helped connect him with.
In Studio B4, our future green screen room, UNL College Student and fashion designer, Jasmine Elliott, showed guests how she hopes to one-day use the center to film her own YouTube tutorials. She showed guests how to make a bowtie and design t-shirts, and spoke to how New Look has helped connect her with internships and mentors like Atlanta Fashion Week.
In the Spark Tank, a white board wall room for brainstorming and creativity sponsored by the Russell Stokes Family Foundation, UNL alum, Jasmine Pollard, demonstrated for guests how the Spark Center will provide her with an environment conducive to grow her spark for song writing. She even involved the guests in the writing process by having them finish the song lyrics with her.
After the tour, The Hangar, where New Look will conduct leadership and educational trainings and workshops, early investors including Russell Stokes, General Electric, Microsoft and New England Patriot’s draft pick, Malcolm Mitchell, spoke on why they’re already on board to support the UNL Spark Center. Then we celebrated with Melvin’s crème brulee and sparklers.
Everyone who attended had a blast and left feeling “sparked” in their own way! Our friends at OMG Booth provided a fun photobooth for our guests to create their own GIFs, complete with the Spark Center logo and #StartTheSpark branding for sharing on social media. Our other favorite take away was watching our Spark Center chalk wall come to life. Each guest wrote their spark on the wall as inspiration to New Look students. The result was this amazing visual below. Each guest took a candy-filled lightbulb home as a reminder to join #StartTheSpark. Thank you to everyone who attended! Check out the photo gallery by PrimePhocus Photography here.
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of the UNL Spark Center, please email UNL Development Director, Danielle Kirk at DKirk@UshersNewLook.org to set up a private tour or meeting.