It's pretty obvious that these three eighth-graders from Cedar Riverside Community School in Minneapolis are going to be successful in life.
Charly Tiempos, 13, Sayed Adan, 14, and Hamsa Osman Abdalah, 14, have won the SAP Social Innovation Series Teen Innovator top prize — $10,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to the Super Bowl next month in Houston.
Their winning idea is "Sports-Check It Out," a library-like system for sports equipment, safety gear and warm winter clothing designed to get kids outdoors and active in all four seasons.
The system was launched Sunday with a celebration at the school. It started with controlled chaos as young volunteers found their stations and registered kids, and it culminated with flag football, snow fort building, scooter riding, skiing and sledding.
The trio's journey started in October when teacher and mentor Jen (Coach) Weber, a behavior specialist and after-school coordinator/athletic director at their school, was asked to pick student leaders for a competition held on the University of Minnesota campus.
The goal was to develop a health and wellness program in their school or community, then pitch their ideas to a "Shark Tank"-like panel of judges. Minneapolis was one of six regional sites across the nation; a total of 300 mostly high school students from 69 schools participated. Twenty-six teams or individuals competed in Minneapolis, with 10 winning $1,000 grants to bring their ideas to life. Two teams from each region would then compete in a nationwide open, online vote.
The series was hosted by SAP, AdVenture Capital and the GENYOUth Foundation, with help from the Midwest Dairy Association. Going in, the boys knew only that they'd have to speak in public.
Each had their own idea: "Mine was to get kids outside during all four seasons, not playing video games," said Charly.
"My idea was to relieve stress," Hamsa offered.
"My idea was to get people outside in the winter with coats, equipment and stuff," said Sayed.
The three decided they were stronger together, and Sports-Check It Out was born.
The team held hands — Sayed's idea — as they learned in October that they'd gotten a $1,000 grant.
"They thought that $1,000 was like a million," Weber said. "They came back and they were just pumped! They knew the possibility of going on for $10,000, but they were just focused on getting it going."
Weber helped the three put together a time line and business plan. The teenagers converted a storage area at the school into an organized collection of snow pants, coats, basketballs, footballs and soccer balls, sleds and all manner of sports equipment.
They solicited online votes at cultural dinners, in front of community groups, sports teams and at a sports ethics class at the U. They started a GoFundMe campaign, Facebook page and a Twitter account and made videos.
On Dec. 20, Charly was the only one of the boys present when Weber got a phone call saying they'd won the top prize. He flung Weber's cellphone into the air, flew out the door and launched himself into a snowbank. Sayed and Hamsa did the same when they arrived.
All four — Weber included — will fly to Houston for the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 and return Feb. 6. Yes, they're excited about the game, but even more excited about the amenities at the five-star hotel. It will be the first plane ride for Charly and Hamsa.
The boys are committed to Sports-Check It Out at least through their senior year in high school and probably beyond. They are learning to build an app; their dream is to franchise the program to other schools and communities.
"In our neighborhood, we've seen kids use a flat soccer ball to shoot basketball," Charly said. "Sayed's seen water bottles used as footballs, 20 people with one basketball.
"With great prizes comes great responsibility," the 13-year-old said.
Said Sayed, "We want kids to have hope. We think sports is going to make them get hope."