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Alliance Academy students win startup contest hosted by UNG
Alliance Academy for Innovation students Varoon Kadithala, Bradley Litsch and Arnav Patidar won the 2021 innovateUNG High School Pitch Challenge.

Three students from Alliance Academy for Innovation won the 2021 innovateUNG High School Pitch Challenge on Feb. 16. All seven public Forsyth County high schools took part in the event, which was hosted virtually by the University of North Georgia’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. 

Varoon Kadithala, Bradley Litsch and Arnav Patidar won a total of $1,500 to aid their Powabites innovation: $1,000 for finishing in first place and $500 for the selection as crowd favorite. They advanced to the March 16 virtual innovateUNG Pitch Challenge, where they will compete against UNG student teams.

Powabites is a line of high-energy snack foods infused with the caffeine-rich South American herb yerba mate. Each serving of the energy bites provides 70 milligrams of caffeine.

West Forsyth High School’s Elisabeth Christina Kearney and Cindy Guo took second place and a $750 prize for their GreenBox innovation. The GreenBox is a monthly web-based subscription that provides customers with biodegradable containers, small one-time-use bags, and compostable cutlery to replace plastic goods. Customers also receive a simplified composting kit used to decompose the biodegradable containers provided by their company.

A $1.45 million Workforce Opportunities Rural Communities grant from the U.S. Department of Labor supports the event and opens the door for UNG to expand its entrepreneurial efforts into the Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer and Lumpkin county school systems and Gainesville City School System. Dr. Ruben Boling, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UNG’s Mike Cottrell College of Business, is grateful for the opportunity.

“We want to enhance the entrepreneurial spirit and capability within our region,” Boling said. “We’re starting at the high school level.” 

This year’s event included mentorship for the students from industry professionals, including several UNG alumni who benefited from the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation while at UNG.

Dr. Valery Lowe, director of Forsyth County Schools College and Career Education, said students and teachers started asking about this year’s event months ago. “We hope it becomes a part of what we do and something our students look forward to every year,” Lowe said. “We appreciate UNG bringing it to the high school level. I think it’s definitely going to take off.”