Hillman Entrepreneurs Student Lenace Edwards Wants to Be the Voice for Those Who Have None

Lenace Edwards

Talk to Hillman Entrepreneurs Program student Lenace Edwards for five minutes and you will learn that she aspires to be a politician. Talk to her longer and you want to write her into your next political ballot.

Lenace wants nothing less than to be the voice for those who have none. She’s seen first-hand how people can slip through the cracks.

In 2005, she left New Orleans, La., with her mother and brother just before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Here in Maryland, she watched in horror as the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States wreaked havoc upon her hometown.

“I saw people standing on the roofs of houses holding up “help me” signs. My dad and brother were trapped in water and only escaped because they hopped on an empty boat that was floating down the street.

“The local, state and federal government failed our community. Those who were hurt the hardest didn’t have a voice. I want to make sure that never happens again. I want to stand up and fight for those who do not have a voice.”

She already has.

Lenace’s mom, Trinace Edwards, is without healthcare. She has a lemon-sized tumor behind her optic nerve. It has not been treated.

Thanks to Lenace, Trinace’s voice was heard through none other than President Barrack Obama, during his Rose Garden remarks on October 1, 2013. Both Lenace and Trinace were there.

Lenace Edwards at the White House

Lenace Edwards, in the red jacket on the left-hand side, with President Barrack Obama in the White House.

“Trinace Edwards was laid off from her job a year ago today,” said President Obama. “Six months ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She couldn’t afford insurance on the individual market, so she hasn’t received treatment yet.  Her daughter Lenace, a student at the University of Maryland, is considering dropping out of school to help pay her mom’s bills.  Well, starting today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Trinace can get covered without forcing her daughter to give up on her dreams.”

Lenace’s dreams are big. The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program has helped her start to realize them.

Earlier this year, she was offered an unpaid internship with Maryland Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). A full-time student and single mother, Lenace could not afford to work for free. Through the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program scholarship fund, she was able to take the internship and continue supporting her family.

“With so many other responsibilities, I debated whether or not it was feasible for me to accept an un-paid internship no matter how amazing I knew it would be. The Hillman program eased my worries by providing me with a stipend.”

Lenace now works for Mizeur as a political assistant and field organizer. She helps find and organize events and house meetings for Mizeur to go to, and serves as president of Terps for Mizeur.

“She’s a politician that stands on principle, and that’s not common,” said Lenace. “We have politicians that just go with the flow of things. She’s one who hears your concerns and does something about it. It’s not about the glitz and glamour. She’s there to do the work.”

As is Lenace. In 2012, she was chosen as a Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellow, a highly selective honors program through UMD’s School of Public Policy that connects students with a desire to serve the public with elected officials and nonprofit leaders. She is also an active member of Phi Alpha Delta, the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the U.S.

As a commuter, Lenace credits the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program with helping her engage at the university.

“I would have had a tougher time being an off-campus student, coming in, taking classes and then leaving without the Hillman Program,” said Lenace. “Having our own place on campus, the Hillman lounge, is critical. It helps us be more connected on campus.”

The friendships she’s created through the Hillman Entrepreneurs Programs have helped as well.

“We can sit in the Hillman lounge and I can ask [fellow Hillman student] Sidra [Malik] how to word something on my resume. We help each other academically and professionally. I am honored to be surrounded by a group of amazing individuals who are constantly encouraging and supporting me in all of my endeavors. I am indebted to the Hillman program.”

Now in her senior year at UMD, Lenace sees herself in the future working with Mizeur or attending law school. Politics, to her, are the key.

“The entire time I was at the White House I had this overwhelming feeling of belonging,” said Lenace. “It proved to me that politics is where I want to be.”

With her there, perhaps those without a voice, those who need it most, will be heard through Lenace.

Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute Startup Recipe

In honor of our official “State Crustacean,” the Maryland Blue Crab, whose scientific name (Callinectes sapidus) translates to “beautiful swimmer that is savory,” the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) is releasing a Startup Recipe inspired by crab feasts. We might note that September (just nine days away) is one of the best months for picking sweet crab meat.

Over the past 29 years, Mtech, an initiative of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, has carefully assembled a comprehensive ecosystem of programs and resources to promote and foster entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Maryland and in the region.

Coupled with the powerful and vibrant Mid-Atlantic R&D and venture communities, Maryland is ripe with opportunity for a flourishing economy driven by entrepreneurship and innovation.

Click here to view a larger version of the Mtech Startup Recipe.

Note: This graphic was inspired by the Seattle Startup Recipe released by Gist and developed by Column Five.

Mtech Releases Latest Impact Report

Mtech Impact ReportThe Mtech Impact Report includes an overview of the historical and 2011 impact of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), an initiative of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, as well as 2011 highlights. Read the report online.

109 Current and Future Entrepreneurs Graduate from Mtech’s Programs

Mtech’s three undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, each of which features a comprehensive curriculum and experiential components that prepare students for a lifetime of entrepreneurial thinking and activity, graduated 109 students this spring.

Hinman CEOs Program: 33 Graduates

Hinman CEOs

More photos>>

Hinman CEOs Program graduates will be all over the country, in financial and business consulting roles at Deloitte, Accenture, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Ernst and Young, General Electric, KPMG and Capital One. They will engage in investment banking at RBC, strategizing at Blue State Digital, engineering at Exxon Mobile, and IT consulting at IBM and Microsoft. They will work on their own startups and at startups in New York and Colorado. Some will continue their education, at dental school, medical school and law school, while some will earn their MBAs. They will attend Georgetown, Harvard Business School 2+2, and the University of Maryland. Others will join Teach for America and NPR Associates.

New alumni launching startups include:

  • Bernard Wong and Esmaeel Paryavi are starting Wesk Medical LLC, a company developing a medical device to better serve patients and their respiratory treatments. The team won $500 in the Speed Pitch competition at this year’s University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition, as well as 5,000 from the Warren Citrin Impact Seed Fund.

  •  Robert Seng and Albert Wavering are starting Brainbox Learning LLC, a company creating an online platform that will serve as the easiest way for parents, teachers, and students to share classroom materials online. The company won $5,000 through the Warren Citrin Impact Seed Fund.

Hillman Entrepreneurs Program: 13 Graduates

Hillman Entrepreneurs

More photos>>

Of the 13 students graduating from the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program this spring, Lloyd Akpuaka has been accepted at Temple University’s School of Dentistry. Emmanuel Ogunsalu has taken a position as an analyst with Deutsche Bank in their Investment Banking Division (leverage finance group). April Rashad is off to London to study advanced graphic design. Kennesha Rogers obtained a social work position with St. Luke’s. Austin Ikechi is applying to medical school while also continuing his research at the National Institutes of Health.

David Hillman video

Watch the graduation speech by program benefactor David Hillman, chief executive officer of Southern Management Corporation>>

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program: 63 Graduates


More photos>>

While the 63 graduates of the two-year Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program will technically be juniors this fall, they are already making their mark in exciting internships this summer with prestigious companies and organizations.

EIP students will join NASA, NIH, Texas Instruments, Under Armour, Amazon, Google, SAIC, Tetra Tech, Arcode/Inky (Dave Baggett’s venture), AT&T, Northrop Grumman, Aberdeen Test and Evaluation Command, Army Research Lab, EducationWeek, Howard County Board of Education, Congressional Bank and T. Rowe Price. Others are tackling their own projects, including apps being reviewed by Apple, electical/electronic devices, commercial product design, cloud-based supply-chain management, IT services, consumer web services and social ventures.