DALLAS, November 3, 2021 — A trend report in Forbes magazine during the peak of the global pandemic noted that social enterprises targeting low-income and underserved communities—people most severely hurt by the pandemic— have found themselves uniquely positioned to help those populations cope. The American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, is investing in social entrepreneurs and innovative scholars working with community-based businesses to address the social determinants of health. The Association awarded $65,000 to the top finalists in the National EmPOWERED to Serve™ Business Accelerator™ and $30,000 to the 2021 EmPOWERED Scholars.
During the live virtual broadcast of the National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator held on October 21, eight women entrepreneurs from across the United States presented their business models and concepts designed to drive health equity, sustainability and community transformation.
Through the EmPOWERED Scholars program, the Association also awarded six female undergraduate students $5,000 each towards their education expenses.
The American Heart Association is also committed to investing in new research programs and science-based solutions to health inequities and structural racism. Through initiatives like EmPOWERED Scholars and National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™, the Association seeks to expand diversity-research opportunities for underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in science and medicine and to identify and elevate community-based initiatives that aim to improve health and well-being.
This year’s EmPOWERED Scholars were selected from a pool of 137 applicants who are currently enrolled freshmen, sophomores and juniors in a U.S. college or university with a 2.0 GPA or higher who are working to improve community wellbeing. They are:
- Melina Rodriguez, a junior at California State University in Long Beach, California, majoring in Public Health,
- Michaela Greenlee, a sophomore at New York University in New York City, majoring in Global Public Health,
- Lesley Lopez, a junior at the University of Houston - Clear Lake in Houston, Texas, majoring in Biology,
- Madison Tate, a freshman at Howard University in Washington, D.C., majoring in Biology,
- Caitriona Greene, a sophomore at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, majoring in Health, Behavior & Society, and
- Akshara Molleti, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, majoring in Biomedical Engineering.
More about the work the EmPOWERED Scholars have done in their communities can be found here.
The top finalist for the National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ is Sharon Samjitsingh, who was awarded a $50,000 grant. She co-founded Rochester, New York-based Health Care Originals to address a need for change in respiratory monitoring with the goal of ensuring health equity along the continuum of care for respiratory disease. The runner up, receiving a $10,000 grant, was Cornelia Williams. She co-founded EMTomorrow in June 2020 with two colleagues to provide emergency medical technician certification training to individuals in Washington, D.C. With more than 1800 votes, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Kimberly Brown was the fan favorite and was recognized with a $5,000 grant. The founder of Get Up Get Movin’, was inspired to create the health and wellness program by her own struggle with her weight and journey to better health.
The Virtual EmPOWERED to Serve™ Business Accelerator™ Finale was hosted by Sharon Epperson, CNBC Senior Personal Finance Correspondent and judged by a panel of experts in the business, entrepreneurial and health sectors including Shelly Bell, founder and chief executive officer of Black Girl Ventures Foundation, Alfred Edmond Jr., senior vice president and executive editor-at-large of Black Enterprise, Monik Jimenez, M.D., cardiovascular epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Prathamesh Prabhudesai, co-founder of SafeBVM and the 2020 EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator runner up and fan favorite grant recipient.
This is the fifth year of the National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator. Since 2017, more than 100 social entrepreneurs have completed the business training and the Association has awarded more than $700,000 to help accelerate start-ups, social entrepreneurs and organizations improving social determinants of health in their community.
Earlier this year, the American Heart Association announced plans to invest more than $230 million over the next four years to support targeted initiatives and programs addressing health equity, while leading additional efforts to drive systemic public health change focused on improving the social determinants of health and tackling issues of health justice and structural racism head on. The virtual EmPOWERED to Serve™ Business Accelerator™Finale can be viewed at EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator Finale - YouTube.
For more information on the EmPOWERED Scholar recipients, go to, https://www.empoweredtoserve.org/en/capital-access-grant-funding/empowered-scholar
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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
For Media Inquiries:
Tresa Chambers, firstname.lastname@example.org, 214.706.1978
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)