Local teens swim with Shark (Tank)

From left, Christopher Chan, Taima Walker, Emy Diaz, Nhan Nguyen, Wanntha Sim Chanhdymany, Lynn Y director of grants and volunteerism and Chantha Luk, Lynn Y music director, at Lynn YMCA.


LYNN — Fresh off of pitching their business ideas and being awarded seed funding in a Shark Tank-style format, four teams of Lynn and Peabody teens are working to implement their community ventures.

The four teams from Lynn YMCA and Salem-based Camp Fire North Shore programs, were eligible to earn up to $1,000 for their projects. Two teams earned the full funding and two received $750, with an opportunity to pitch again in January for the remaining $250.

The team from Camp Fire North Shore, through the Teens in Action program, earned $1,000 for their business venture, 5K Throwaway. Zachary Robinson and Sydney Spiess, of Lynn, and Peabody brothers, Evan and Nuno Bazarian, talked about their project on Sunday.

Robinson, 16, said the funding will go toward organizing another Earth Day race at Lynn Beach. He said the race works by first cleaning up visible trash in the parking lot area, and then participants are given a trash bag to pick up garbage along the route while running. Checkpoints are set up to deposit waste along the race.

“I think we felt we were going to get the full funding,” said Robinson. “We were pretty well-prepared.”

To go beyond the race, the group plans to try to set up trash and recycling receptacles at Lynn Beach, and throughout downtown Lynn. Nuno Bazarian said the poll conducted by MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) showed that downtown Lynn needs more receptacles. To further their goals, the team is partnering with those who conducted the poll and Friends of Lynn Beach and Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.

Nuno Bazarian, 16, said the idea came about a year ago from one of their friends who runs track. He told the group that when he runs through Lynn Woods, he sees a lot of trash along the way.

“That definitely is an issue, not only Lynn Woods suffers from that,” he said. “How can we make something interesting out of cleaning up trash?”

The group also received $1,000 seed funding last year and organized a race in Lynn Woods on Earth Day last spring.

Emy Diaz, 16, Taima Walker, 16, and Christopher Chan, 15,  from Lynn, were team leaders for their respective teams from the Lynn YMCA.

Diaz and her team from the Music Studio Clubhouse of the YMCA pitched an idea for “Project Project” to develop a podcast so teen voices could be heard. The podcast would be shared on social media to gain views. Her team won $1,000.

“This experience was stressful, but at the end of the day, it was liberating and I feel proud,” she said.

Chan, of the Kaya program, said his team’s project was “We are Hear,” to provide middle and high school students an opportunity to talk about things they normally wouldn’t.

A support system would be set up in the YMCA, he said, for kids who might be on the edge of committing suicide. For teens who need more assistance than the program can provide, contacts would be given to them for therapists. The team won $750 and Chan said they plan to pitch for the remaining $250.

Walker and her group from the Lynn Youth Council presented “Leveled Streets,” which would install drug awareness in middle schools through sports games and talent shows.  

“All we wanted to do was provide a different channel of information for middle schoolers to ensure another generation is aware of drugs,” Walker said. “This is our way of pitching in against the opioid epidemic by teaching the young.”

She said the idea came to her group because they realized lots of middle schools don’t realize how harmful marijuana use can be. Providing awareness, Walker said, makes sure youth have an equal opportunity to succeed, and a level playing field. Her group also won $750, but plans to pitch again.

“It was definitely a great experience to venture into the world of social entrepreneurship,” Walker said.

The competition began with 30 teams of youths from Lynn, Salem and Boston as part of United Way’s Youth Venture “Pitch Day” at Simmons College.

United Way’s Youth Venture Initiative invests in youth teams, which allows them to develop, launch, manage and sustain community-benefiting projects, and provides them with ongoing training, mentoring and financial support.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

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