Sisters of Nia co-founders Synthia Smith and Malika Hollinside, holding a $5,000 prize check alongside College of Education Dean Sasha Sidorkin.Sisters of Nia co-founders Synthia Smith and Sacramento State alumna Malika Hollinside receive the $5,000 prize during the 2017 ReinventEd competition, alongside College of Education Dean Alexander “Sasha” Sidorkin. The College of Education is sponsoring the event again this year to promote and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in education. (Sacramento State/Kristi Garrett)

The words “innovation” and “entrepreneurship” often bring to mind toughts of business, or maybe the tech industry. But Sacramento State’s College of Education wants to make it clear that creative, out-of-the-box thinking has a place in the classroom as well. 

For the second year, the college is organizing ReinventEd, a competition meant to celebrate and promote grassroots innovation in education. Teams submitted proposals for innovative, education-related projects earlier this year, and semi-finalists will be coached to present in the pitch competition in front of a panel of judges in Fall 2018. The winning team will receive $5,000 to implement its project.

“Top-down education reforms have not produced the expected results, and what we need now are grassroots, community-based ideas about how we can transform education and respond to 21st-century challenges,” said Alexander “Sasha” Sidorkin, dean of the College of Education.

“Making greater Sacramento’s education more innovative can improve overall attractiveness of the region for new businesses and new population.”

Teams are not limited to teachers and other educators. Proposals are welcome from businesses, nonprofit organizations, parents and students, or any other groups or individuals, as long as the project is related to education. Examples of ideas include a unique educational project or program, new curriculum, a digital solution for learning problems, or resources for parents.

New this year is a two-day “Summer Institute” in June for teams selected as semi-finalists, which will provide each team the opportunity to practice their presentations privately and receive feedback from judges and guest experts before the official semifinal competition. Participants also will hear from speakers about education reform and entrepreneurship.

 “The final pitch competition is exciting and a productive experience for participants," Sidorkin said. "Our larger hope is that the competition will become a part of the innovative ecosystem of the region.

“Education is overwhelmingly a non-profit industry, and educators need extra help to make their innovative ideas spread.”

Last year’s winning entry was Sisters of Nia, an Elk Grove-based after-school program designed to support and empower African American middle school-aged girls. The organization’s creative director, Sacramento State alumna Malika Hollinside ’04 (Ethnic Studies), MA ’13 (multicultural education), Ed.D. ’17 said participating in ReinventEd greatly helped the organization secure more funding and support.

“Knowing how others perceived us, based on our pitch, really helped us get a sense of what works and what may not work, which areas of our organization we need to better inform the public about, and which areas are maybe not as important when we are trying to acquire funding,” she said, “It taught us a lot about how to present our program in a very, very concise way.”

The prize money is helping ensure Sisters of Nia, which serves about 24 girls, has broader impact by providing the funds necessary to complete and publish their after-school curriculum so it can be shared with others.

“It felt wonderful to be recognized, and it really justified all of the hard work that we've done,” Hollinside said. “It also inspired us, to know that this program can be upscaled on a much larger level.”

Go to the ReinventEd page on the Sac State website for more information. - Jonathan Morales