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  • Writer's pictureOscar Holmes IV

Despite Covid-19 Disruptions, the RUSE Program Announces its 2020 winners

The Rutgers University Student Executive (RUSE) program completed its third year on March 10 when it was forced to cease in-person meetings due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Sponsored by Rutgers School of Business-Camden, RUSE is a nine-week program, which is designed to introduce high-achieving, underrepresented 10th, 11th, and 12th grade South Jersey high school students to business, entrepreneurship, and community and business leaders. Despite ending three weeks early, RUSE students still worked together remotely to submit their business plans and presentations for the March 31 RUSE competition. “This has truly been an unprecedented disruption. Nonetheless, I am excited that the students and mentors still worked hard to come up with truly innovative ideas to submit to the judges. I am really proud of them and love working with these amazing and talented group of students.” says Oscar Holmes IV, an associate professor of Management and founding director of the RUSE program.

Four groups of high school students worked in teams to come up with an original business idea. To help with this process, each team is assigned a Rutgers School of Business-Camden undergraduate student as a mentor. This year’s mentors were: Luz Pagan, Emanuel Rodriguez, Steven Cook, and Anthony Diaz. This is the third consecutive year that Lloyd Freeman, RLAW’07, Partner and Chief Diversity Officer at Archer Law Firm and Damon Pennington, president and CEO of ATS Group have served as judges for the RUSE competition. Each year the RUSE students take an off-site field trip. This year, NFI served as our off-site field trip sponsor and the students toured their beautiful headquarters on the Camden waterfront and learned about careers at NFI from four leaders within the company.

The three winning teams will receive plaques and $3,000 cash prizes donated by the Delta

Epsilon Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. whose members, Freeman and Pennington, also served as RUSE session facilitators and $1,500 cash prizes donated by John Harmon, the president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. All RUSE students and mentors will receive certificates.

First-place winners are Brielle Lowther, a junior at Burlington Township High School and Shai’Asia Hamilton-Baker, a junior at Camden Big Picture Learning Academy. The team won $2,000 dollars for their business idea, Light Pack, an innovative self-lifting backpack that prevents back pain.

“The RUSE competition gave me a lot of confidence. RUSE helped me understand the perspective of an entrepreneur, and I loved being able to learn about their stories and how they built the lives they have. Ultimately, this program pushed me to know what I’m capable of achieving,” says first-place winner, Brielle Lowther.

Finance major, Anthony Diaz, who mentored the team who won first place, says “Being a RUSE mentor was a great experience. Seeing the creativity of my team and others' developing ideas was a good feeling for me and all the mentors. Every week a guest speaker came in and discussed the wide ranges of business disciplines, topics, and careers. This was the first program I got involved with at Rutgers and it has sparked an interest in me to get out and make more connections and join more clubs.”

Second-place winners are Caheil Powell, a junior at Burlington Township High School, Malachi Carter, a junior at Clearview Regional High School, and Tyrell Wilson, a senior at Camden County Technical School-Gloucester Township Campus. They received $1,500 for their business project, Cre8tive Studios, a shared studio space where creatives and artists can rent to produce many different works of art.

Third-place winners are Aayatullah Muhammad, a senior at Cherry Hill East High School and Bryan Rogers, a sophomore at Timber Creek High School. The team received $1,000 for their business idea, Brush and Chew, a specially designed gum that would allow people to skip brushing their teeth.

Please visit the Rutgers School of Business-Camden website for more information on RUSE and recruitment for the 4th RUSE cohort is expected to commence in October 2020.

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