Sydney Grosso

Julia Haber ’18 is making a difference with her business Home From College

In a world that’s ever-changing with new obstacles arising, Julia Haber has become a powerful and successful female founder. Julia graduated in 2018 with a major in advertising and media in Newhouse an minor in psychology, but she started her journey and ambition at a young age. Her eagerness to solve problems started her hometown in Westchester, NY and flourished when she joined the LaunchPad at Syracuse University.

Throughout her time in college, she used her opportunity to explore and try new activities that provided her with great resources and support. One of those organizations was LaunchPad. A unique fact about Julia was she was one of the first founding members of LaunchPad at Syracuse because of her passion for entrepreneurship. She described her relationship and connection with LaunchPad to be a match made in heaven. She started her first company during her time in LaunchPad in her junior year of college with her dream to continue building it after college. Little did she know, that was just the beginning to a great success story.

Her first business, WAYV, was designed to allow pop-up experiences on college campuses for students to engage with companies. Julia, with her business, visited eight different campuses on a tour for Shopify. WAYV was created in 2017 and by 2018 it had taken off and won a grand prize from a LaunchPad competition. This milestone led her to pursue her business straight out of college.

After graduating, Julia continued to work countless hours on building WAYV, but little did she know the pandemic was about to change her progress for the better. All the puzzle pieces fell straight into her lap. Seeing how impactful COVID-19 had on college students finding internships or jobs after college, allowed her to envision a new idea for WAYV. Julia saw Gen-Z struggling with these issues and made it a goal to ameliorate the issue the best she could. Thus, she created Home From College.  Home From College is a platform that allows students to start their career and take control of their opportunities. Similar to LinkedIn, they can connect with companies in unique ways in which students reach out to businesses.

This idea didn’t just originate from other students’ struggles, but from Julia’s own experience.   She discovered that the lack of internships in college did not produce a sufficient connections or portfolio work for students. Julia realized that internships meant more than what is recognized in a student’s experience on campus. With the couple internships she did pursue, Spotify and Snapchat for marketing, opened her eyes to what others were not fortunate enough to experience. So she built Home From College to connect, build, and maintain relationships. It was built as a space and place for those seeking internships to make connections out of college.

Home From College is wonderful because it is operated by a group of ten individuals dedicated to the success of your future. Furthermore, it is completely separated from colleges that allows for a more personal experience for all ages and no background needed. Users can explore others with the same interests and a space that could truly make a difference.

Julia and her co-founder have both had impactful experiences that led to their dedication to helping others achieve success. Her creative, ambitious, and ideal of not taking no for an answer has led her to wonderful success.

Julia says, “You have to keep on going, it’s the only way to success. There has to be a solution.” Her mentality to push through any hardship and continue working hard has made her into the amazing woman she is today. Just like she always has, her future entails helping as many students as possible and that’s exactly what she’ll do.

Story by Sydney Grosso ’23; photo supplied

Kayla Simon ’19 is an entrepreneurial engineer and a role model for women innovators in STEM

Photo of Kayla Simon smiling into the camera

There are inspirational women all around the world, but one special woman from the Syracuse community and the LaunchPad has made her mark. Kayla Simon ‘19, has taken her engineering skills and entrepreneurial passion to be an outstanding role model for women in STEM.

Kayla had a great love for space and knew she wanted to pursue her degree in Aerospace Engineering. Being a woman in STEM is not easy, but with her large ambitions and drive to accomplish some of the greatest tasks; Kayla was extremely successful. Right out of college, she was offered a position at NASA as well as Virgin Orbit and had to make one of the hardest decisions of her career. Although Kayla was very grateful for the opportunity provided by NASA, she knew in her heart that Virgin Orbit would be the best option for her. Kayla said she learned many skills as an employee at Virgin Orbit; however, through new self discoveries she realized she wanted to focus her career on a slightly different path. As a result of her hard work, she landed a phenomenal job at Relativity where she is still learning and growing her skill set as an Integration Engineer. In the future, she is interested in advanced technology and getting her master’s in Artificial Intelligence and Policy.

Talking to Kayla, you can hear the love she has for creating, building, inventing, and manufacturing the newest technology used in space. Her current role involves using 3D printers to design, manufacture, and create products, including rockets, to advance quick innovation and iteration. Her qualities including problem-solving skills and thirst for success, makes her a great engineer.

Kayla’s experience at Syracuse and LaunchPad played a significant role in shaping her into the person she is today. When talking to her, she stated that LaunchPad was a great part in her success as an undergrad in aerospace engineering. For her major, she created a wearable asthma inhaler that led her to a national competition.  Her journey with the LaunchPad also launched a lasting mentorship and friendship with its director, Linda Hartsock. Linda swept her under her wings, encouraged her with the development of the inhaler that eventually led her to win some amazing competitions. Kayla said, “She helped me not only with my business idea but also school and building new connections.” Some awards include the Panasci Business Plan Competition, and the ACC InVenture Prize, where she had the chance to pitch at Georgia Tech, along with numerous other campus competitions..

Her junior year of college she was honored to become a LaunchPad Global Fellow and Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar. She used her talent and knowledge to help others define their products as well as assist students in competitions. An admirable trait of Kayla’s was her ambition to help others succeed even with her busy schedule. Balancing school, being a writer, a residential advisor, and an entrepreneur demonstrates there is nothing she can’t do.

Kayla is very grateful for all that the LaunchPad had to offer and how it contributed to the fierce woman she is today. She loved the environment, walking into a space with brilliant minds, new inventions and ideas and a space where everyone was your friend. Talking about ideas, watching pitches, and developing herself were all essential experiences. She reflects, “I would not be where I am today without the LaunchPad.” Before she wasn’t as confident and shy but with no time she increased her leadership and people skills. Today, she applies all that knowledge and skill and believes that she is presenting herself every day as a woman in STEM and that is the most important aspect to remember.

As a member of the LaunchPad, she also created and hosted a video series called 50/50, featuring other female founders at Syracuse – which has a 50/50 ratio of women who are C-Suite leaders at student startups.

Listening to Kayla and the inspiration she receives from other women in her career is heart-warming. She loves watching women pivot, make an impact, and discover “your mission”. “A mission doesn’t have to be a job, but it’s working hard, presenting and amplifying your power, strength and leadership to the world and those around you.” She says to know your worth and make sure your efforts and value are compensated for as a woman. One of the most powerful and touching quotes by Kayla is, “Being a woman, you are representing more than yourself. You are representing the history of women and the women who helped create tools for today.”

In her ongoing love for the LaunchPad and supporting the Syracuse community, Kayla now pays it forward by mentoring other students and volunteers as a judge for LaunchPad competitions as well as mentoring. Furthermore, when she can, she collaborates with the Syracuse University LA Regional Council. Even though she lives 3,000 miles away, she always finds her way back home.

Story by LaunchPad Fellow Sydney Grosso

Olivia Aguilar ‘22 will change the game for women and exercise

Olivia Aguilar, ‘22, an Economics major and minor in Information Technology, Design and Startups, has taken her passion of working out to a new level. Growing up in Westchester, NY, Olivia spent most of her time engaged in physical activity and sports. While being a team player and fitness enthusiast, she wanted to carry that to her college career. ‘

After her first few months of her college experience, Olivia realized how hard it can be to exercise. She said, “I had no idea how hard it would be to balance classes and keep a consecutive workout routine.” She explained it was easier in high school because she played sports like basketball and volleyball, which permitted her to have designated times during the day.

Olivia was active on campus but discovered an even greater obstacle when the pandemic hit. While at home, and thinking about fitness, she decided to conduct research and the metrics associated with her Apple Watch. Throughout her findings, she was surprised to find her Apple Watch wasn’t as accurate as she had previously known. Now Olivia had the chance to combine her love for fitness and passion for helping women to create both an astonishing network and product to assist the younger generation. Olivia created LivFit.

While combining the knowledge she found on the internet and her personal experiences, she was inspired to create a clothing line that “makes women feel good.” An idea of stylish, comfortable, and feel-good clothing inspired her idea of a sensor for her new product.

The sensor would connect to the inside of an individual’s tank top, via Bluetooth, that would allow for a more accurate reading on vitals. Furthermore, the tops would be machine washable and allow the individuals to remove the sensor for charging convenience. This sensor would replace the need to wear an Apple Watch and produce more accurate results for tracking exercise routines. The sensor would connect to an app on an individual’s phone recording heart rates, blood pressure, activity, minutes, and a summary of the overall workout.

Just when you thought that idea was brilliant enough, there’s more. This app is designed to inspire women to work out, create a positive and friendly environment to motivate women. Uniquely, this app would have features like Facebook in which women can friend each other, send messages, create groups, and meet to exercise. Moreover, members could use the app to find a gym buddy and build relationships in their community. Lastly, the app would create a space for women to positively challenge each other through fitness, exercise and goals. Her idea was to create an environment that motivates women to bolster each other throughout their fitness journey. Olivia said, “working out with someone makes me want to go to the gym” so creating a platform that can permit those opportunities is where her passion lies.

Additionally, a member could sign up for a premium plan that would include weekly workouts and even healthy recipes to support their fitness journey. Olivia believes, “Going to the gym without knowing exactly what workouts to do can be hard. I want women to be confident and provide them with workouts that suit their body.”

Originally Olivia had started her fitness idea with another partner while working on an IDS class project in the fall of 2020. Eventually she decided to continue her brand while creating the sensor simultaneously.

Her target audience includes women between the ages of 25 and 35 and eventually allows for women of younger ages to be included. Her clothing would consist of high-quality material and retail prices like Nike or Lululemon.

With graduation right around the corner, Olivia is excited to start a new chapter of her life. She will be working in Manhattan and continuing the development of LivFit. In the future she hopes to recruit college ambassadors for pop-ups on campuses to promote her product and mission. Additionally, she is seeking for a team to bolster other sectors such as legal and financial responsibilities to expand her network.

Olivia’s positive attitude and outlook for herself and her community will lead her entrepreneurial success. Her mission is to support the women of our generation and create a healthier environment which will make our world a better place.

Elizabeth Goldblatt ’22 is creating a stylish clothing line for individuals with disabilities

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From Chicago to Syracuse University, Elizabeth Goldblatt ’22 has taken her many passions and is working toward building a fashion empire for the underrepresented. Elizabeth is currently a senior in Newhouse studying fashion and beauty while creating a clothing line named “Drake Riley.” Additionally, she is an active member on campus as the head fashion editor Jerk Magazine and working with Zamboni Revolution.

In high school Elizabeth was a devoted advocate for the disabled community co-founding the organization, “Acting for Change.” She showed her support by working with differently abled students as well as raising money for them. Additionally, Elizabeth worked countless hours to raise funds for the disabled community, and after she graduated wanted to continue that dedication through her business. Since this community is often overlooked in the fashion industry, she was determined to change this pattern.

Back home in Chicago, her grandma suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She has witnessed her grandma struggle to find comfortable clothing while also being stylish. Elizabeth stated, “I was looking through my grandma’s closet and realized she didn’t have any comfortable clothing. Nothing fit her. After talking to her caregiver, I wanted clothes she could wear that would be both comfortable and fashionable.” Asking her grandma’s opinion and gathering all her measurements, she immediately jumped into creating a brand for not only those with disabilities but her grandma as well.

One trait to admire about Elizabeth is her drive and passion for what she cares about most. To get a hands-on experience, she worked at New York City Fashion Week for Bronx and Banco, Duncan, Moschino, Peter Dundas, Prabal Gurung, and Michael Kors. She built a relationship with a woman named Jacqui Bennett. As a result of Elizabeth’s great networking abilities, she was able to get advice from Jacqui who guided her to “look at her vision on a larger scale” and ultimately saw how much clothing doesn’t work for some groups.

This past year, Elizabeth saw an advertisement for the Impact Prize at LaunchPad. With only two weeks to prepare, she used her commitment and drive to create a business plan and develop several prototypes. She met with numerous mentors in LaunchPad as well as sending out surveys with a 200-person interest response. Just when you think she would be busy enough with all those tasks, Elizabeth goes above and beyond and checked out four books about entrepreneurship to learn as much as she could before the competition. Simultaneously she had an individual create a new logo for her business.

Although Elizabeth did not win the competition, she won more than what she could have imagined. She learned more about the business industry and how she can combine that knowledge with film and fashion. Looking forward, she wants to continue her passion for film and continue her passion for clothing. Nonetheless, Elizabeth created her brand name with meaning and depth, that not only represents her but her mission. Her name was derived by thinking of “The Life of Riley,” meaning “‘to live carefree and comfortably”’ and combining that with the name of the Chicago building her grandparents lived in, The Drake. She said it “was fun and creative.”

As a result of learning from her experiences and other people, Elizabeth has learned to “stop finding inspiration in other things and to look for what is not out there.”

Elizabeth Goldblatt is unstoppable and will make an unbelievable difference in this world. Not only has she shown this with all her hard work and talent thus far, but 15% of her profits will be donated to the National Organization of Disability. With a heart and passion as big as hers, there is no other route for her other than success.

Christopher Thomas turns his passion for biodegradable plastics into an entrepreneurial success

headshot of a man in an office setting

Christopher Thomas has always had a passion for nature and solving environmental problems through science, going back to his hometown in Bridgeport, NY. During his undergraduate program at SUNY ESF, he studied bioprocess engineering then went to China to conduct research in Beijing where he explored and studied the fundamental science of wood and plants for biofuel.

In discussing his passion bioplastics with his roommate, Dr. Ryan Scheel, they were inspired to combine their knowledge and skill sets in a new method to create advanced biodegradable plastics from waste materials. Building on his studies overseas as well as his diverse experience and interests, Christopher decided to pursue a new profound idea through PhD research. He worked countless hours with his PhD advisors Dr. ‘s Bandaru Ramarao and Deepak Kumar to secure and patent a novel approach to biodegradable plastic technology.

His company, Envision Biopolymers LLC, combines the advantage of advanced physical properties with upcycling of abundant agro-waste material, which makes a more compelling business case based on bioplastic technologies.

With such great success, he reached out to the CSMM, Center for Sustainable Materials Management, funded by the NYS DEC. He was offered a position to work with the CSMM Executive Director Kathryn Walker to further develop and commercialize this technology through a two-year project.

Christopher’s invention is of great interest to industries that manufacture packaging. In recent studies, PFAS, Per-polyfluoroalkyl Substances, found in many packaging and consumer goods products, were deemed toxic and harmful. Thus, many states have begun banning the use of PFAS. Consequently, businesses in the food-packaging sector need a new plastic to replace PFAS and Christopher has the ideal product for them.

He notes that “People haven’t cared as much about the environment up until recently. Gen Z and Millennials want companies that are eco-friendly and are pressuring the government to enforce safe material. Sustainability is imperative for business.”

The bioplastic generated by Christopher and his team make it a great candidate to meet these new market demands for sustainable and safe products. His product is derived from natural waste and formulates it into a marine biodegradable, home-compostable, and highly functional product.

Christopher has developed a wonderful support system and team that have made these developments possible. In particular, the diligent and enthusiastic research of ESF alum Michael Glinski and ESF PhD student Daniel Fougnier have been critical to many of the recent technology milestones.

Traction for his product has flourished through his team’s acceptance into the NSF I-Corps Teams program, and relationship with the Center for Sustainable Materials Management. Most recently, Christopher has been corresponding with their first potential beachhead customer who has expressed a great interest and need for their product.

Next steps include scaling the process from the laboratory to industry in collaboration with corporate partners. Additionally, seeking for a venture capitalist to fund scale-up developments has been an ambition that would hopefully permit him to share the success of this business with the ESF and Syracuse Community.

Christopher has a year and a half to continue working for the CSMM and if successful, he plans to continue working toward his dream, saving the environment, and collaborating to form a network of like-minded folks to make it a reality. He states, “This is my passion, and I am so fortunate to be where I am.”

Story by Sydney Grosso for the LaunchPad; photo by the LaunchPad

Julianna Mercado ’23 launches a nonprofit venture, UpSkill

headshot of a student in a black shirt

Julianna Mercado, class of ‘23, a biochemistry and forensic science major, is working hard to make a long-lasting impact on her college and community. Born and raised on Long Island, she wasn’t exposed often to inequities in the U.S. because she grew up in a predominantly white, middle class family. After coming to Syracuse, she had an eye-opening experience of the inequities the surrounding community faced. Throughout her time working as an EMT, she was exposed to children living in poor conditions and realized she wanted to use her knowledge and privilege to become a support system for those in need. She created a tutoring and mentoring program, UpSkill. UpSkill as a 501(c) nonprofit and registered student organization designed to support educational equity through accessible academic resources.

Julianna understood the difficulties communities struggled to obtain the same educational and financial means to learn. Driven by her empathy, her goal was to provide a resource that offered academic assistance, financial capability, and guidance. Julianna states. “I want to change this. In whatever capacity I can, I want to ensure that socioeconomic barriers do not prevent students from reaching their educational goals.” UpSkill is an academic resource at no cost for students, and they receive tutoring and mentoring assistance through the guidance of Syracuse students. Her idea began while the rest of the world was battling the difficulties of academic life through the pandemic. Julianna was aware of the difficulties previously faced before Covid-19 and knew the pandemic put a major burden on the educational system. UpSkill is fairly new, but she aspires to offer support so students through their educational journeys and goals.

An admirable trait about Julianna is her ability to create and excel in all her activities from school, to work, to clubs. In her determination to make UpSkill a success, she became president and established committees that uniquely support educational equity.

Her first committee is Fundraising/ Philanthropy which designs events centered on engaging SU and ESF students with the surrounding community to improve educational equity. Julianna says, “The money raised from these events is used to offer academic resources through UpSkill, support other educational organizations, and offer scholarships to students with financial needs.”

The tutoring and mentoring committee provides tutoring to students in the Syracuse district and designated to helping improve students academic and leadership skills. Moreover, they work specifically with the North Side Learning Center which assists refugee students become acclimated with education in the U.S.

Additionally, the Raising Awareness/ Community Education committee is designed to educate members and students about educational equity.

Their role would be to propose ideas for guest speakers and workshops related to social and education issues in the local and larger communities. As a result, this would allow for educators to be updated with the up most recent educational disadvantages and utilize their knowledge to reduce inequities. Furthermore, they would also be responsible for creating fun graphics for social media. Lastly, the College Preparation Program for First-Generation Students committee was designed to support and assist first-generation students in applying for colleges; activities include working on the common application as well as FASFA.

To ensure the success of their new program, Julianna plans to serve as president through spring 2023. Her successes include being approved as a 501c non-profit, securing a collaboration with North Side Learning Center, creating a new website, doubling membership size, and creating strong committees.

Her goals are to increase involvement with NSLC, become engaged with other organizations like the Catholic Charities as well as the Boys and Girls Club. She will continue making a more accessible and interactive media platform while maintaining her excellence in all other departments.

Julianna exceeds the definition of success, between managing school, applying for medical school, volunteering at the hospital, and more; she manages to create an amazing resource for others. A dedication like hers is hard to find, and with her focus, UpSkill will always be on its way up.

Story by LaunchPad Zaccai Foundation Fellow Sydney Grosso ’23; photo supplied

Xinyi Wang ’24 is creating a FoodAI system

decorative graphic of a student

When you meet Xinyi Wang, the first trait you will notice about her is her radiant smile and positive attitude. Her wonderful personality radiates into every activity she participates in. Xinyi, 24’, is an Industrial and Interactive Design major with a minor in marketing. Her passion to become a design major started when she found her love for solving problems and learning to navigate different ways to reach her end goal. She is from Mongolia, China, and has lived there most of her life. When she was going into her high school years, she moved to the United States and finished her high school diploma in California. After, she decided to attend Syracuse because of the student opportunities it had, and she knew she could explore different areas of study.

On campus, Xinyi is very involved and continually keeping herself busy. She was a representative for Women in Design, which is a program that promotes women’s rights in design. Her love for design and her love to help groups made this club perfect to express her talents in problem-solving. Furthermore, she is in IDSA, Industrial Designers Society of America, which provides multiple opportunities for design students to display their skills and working on a variety of different activities. In the past, she has also worked with start-up business to help them grow by providing her knowledge to hopefully see them become successful. As a result of all her activities, Xinyi has grown immensely, not only as a student but as a person.

Currently, she is participating in DES 400, Inclusive design with Don Carr. This course connects design students and allows them to help solve a difficulty that students with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis. It is part of the Intelligence ++ Program, and Xinyi is currently working directly with a student, Shawn, to create a program that allows him to make his lunches on his own.

Since August, Xinyi and her team have been working countless hours to create the best program to help Shawn. She is creating a FoodAI system through meal prep. They have worked closely with Shawn and his father to brainstorm different methods that would best suit him. For example, they started with printing off pictures of food that Shawn uses every Tuesday night to make his tacos for dinner. In class, they tested their first idea by allowing Shawn to move these pictures on to the taco shell as if he was building his own taco. After, they collaborated more ideas that led them to understand that Shawn responds well to his father’s voice. Thus, they had his parents make a video of them creating a taco at home and the following week Shawn attempted to make his own taco through watching the video. As the team predicted this would be successful, they ran into a road bump. Since the food provided to test their idea was not identical to the products used at home, he had a hard time making his taco. Although this has been a slight set back in their progress, Xinyi is determined to solve it. Hopefully they can open it to other individuals with disabilities and add features that include navigating around food allergies in the future.

Xinyi is empathic, determined, and has a strong passion for helping others. Between her personality and her strong skill set of solving tech problems and contributing well in her group, there is nothing she can’t do. In her future, she aspires to create her own UX design company and be a manger. Lastly, she wants to make a lifelong impact to severing those with disabilities. She has a lot on her plate, but there is nothing Xinyi can’t do.

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Story by Sydney Grosso ’23 Zaccai Foundation Fellow, Policy Studies & Public Health

Jared Anderson ’23 is passionate about saving lives

two firefighters
Jared Anderson (left) with his father, Brian Anderson

A junior at Syracuse University with a major in biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Jared Anderson ‘23 is contributing not only to his local community but those across the country. As he’s working toward his ambitions to pursue medical school, he is also building a platform to save lives. Jared is working hard to succeed in school and make a difference in educating people with knowledge they can use in emergency situations.

Jared is a dedicated student who is passionate about making a difference in the world. He has always been a leader in his community, and one of those leadership roles is being a resident advisor in Shaw Hall for the past two years. One of Jared’s traits is his keen interested in being engage. Immersed in Syracuse campus activities, he is also a member of Engineering World Health Club and Christian Outreach. Jared has also served as an EMT and is an active firefighter/ EMT at DeWitt Fire Department.

Jared comes from a family of ten and knows the importance of taking care of others, especially his family. With his own mission to keep his family safe, he has the same passion to keep others as well. Through his time as a firefighter and taking care of his siblings, he has understood the importance of safety when dangerous situations arise. Jared is the type of person to put others before himself, and it is no surprise he would create a platform to ensure others safety.

Through his many experiences on the job, he has seen community members who are unsure about how to handle emergency situations.  Jared was determined to fix that. Civilian Medical Response (CMR) is a non-profit organization that will teach the basics of first response skills and emergency preparedness. The goal is to teach and inform others to ensure their safety at and away from home. Jared states, “Through my experience as a firefighter and EMT, I have seen people struggle in emergency situations from a lack of information and training.”

You might be thinking that some people already go through training for these types of situations, but not enough.  Jared is determined to tackle training differently. He has discovered that many people undergo these trainings for work and are less likely to pay attention.  Jared has observed that  modules aren’t as impactful because individuals rush through it to complete them and don’t retain the information.

The mission of CMR is “to empower individuals to recognize and react to medical emergencies through training and education.”  CMR will offer hands-on workshops to churches, schools, work, all free of cost to ensure quality information and training for individuals.  Jared wants to build convenience into the program, reaching more community groups and people to accommodate training within their schedule.

With the concept for CMR, Jared joined the LaunchPad to find greater community support to help grow his venture.  He said, “Once I had the idea, I knew it would be the best place to pursue my aspirations.”

He competed recently at ‘Cuse Tank and said that pitching his idea was a great experience.  He received valuable feedback on how to improve and build his non-profit.  After the competition, in recognition of his hard work and good idea, he received a $2,500 LaunchPad Innovation Grant to help incorporate, and to develop his product and curriculum.  He is eagerly awaiting his next competition, the Impact Prize, to compete for additional funds and to develop even more personal and professional skills.

His goal is to offer his very first training in the community that supported him – the LaunchPad.

Story by Blackstone Global Fellow Sydney Grosso ‘23

Alexandra Santangelo ’22 on industrial and industrial design innovation

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Alexandra Santangelo ’22 is determined to excel in design. The VPA major studying Industrial design and a double minor in Information and technology and art history, would never turn down the opportunity to display her skills. Technology, history, and design are more than just degrees to Alex.  They represent a way of life and an opportunity to shine.

Originally from New Jersey, Alex wanted to find a school that could embrace her full potential and provide her with an unlimited number of opportunities. Syracuse University struck her because of its large campus population, but more importantly, the diversity it upholds for its students. She knew her ideas would flourish in a diverse background and incorporate her passion into this environment.

Alex has many talents academically but also athletically. For the past three years she has been a member of the Syracuse University Women’s Soccer Team, playing hard and cheering on her teammates. Not only is she able to exercise her leadership on campus, but she also displays it on the field with her friendly and outgoing personality, which led her to become team captain last year.

One of Alex’s greatest traits is her eagerness and determination to assist others in need. Because of her talent in design and graphics, she has been able to work with a variety of people. She enjoys assisting students who need support with graphic design, logos, and presentations. She goes above and beyond by teaching them how to brand and express themselves, and helps bring their concepts to life with 3D-models. .

Furthermore, she is actively participating in a digital fabrication workshop, helping students with projects. As a result of her knowledge and experience, she was chosen by professors to sit on the search committee for new VPA School of Design faculty.

As a student representative on the search committee she learned about the LaunchPad. After a few conversations, she was excited to join the LaunchPad team as a Launch Star. Without hesitation, Alex dove right into her position headfirst, working with a group of students to prepare them for Cuse Tank. They are collaboratively creating logos and designs to enhance their digital storytelling.  Alex says, “I absolutely love it, working with a team and creating graphics is what I enjoy doing.”

This is not her first time working in an environment similar to what she’s doing now. This past summer, Alex spent countless hours working in the IT department, enhancing her technological skills. She was assigned to a task using interactional design and interface at UI UX.

After exploring and engaging into her passions, she has concluded what she loves most. Her passion for hands-on work has motivated her to be an empathic designer. Every day she strives to be a better designer for herself, her teammates, and the people that surround her. Her never-ending drive to continuously improve her creativity makes her an exceptional candidate for any future endeavor.

Her goal is to work in the public sector, where she can exercise her passion for the greater good and help people in any way she can. Hopefully she can work for the government to “solve problems every day and make a long-lasting impact.”

She believes she can utilize her characteristics of being driven to spark new conversations within LaunchPad. She hopes to contribute to the culture and dynamic because she says, “It’s such a unique place on campus.” Alex is ready to be a part of the “powerhouse of entrepreneurship” to bring her own experience and learn about others. Nonetheless, the best part of LaunchPad is that, “Students are coming from all over, bringing their experiences and contributing with so much potential.”

Overall, there is nothing Alex can’t do and isn’t willing to accomplish. She gives more than just her ideas, she gives her heart and herself to everyone around her.

Story by Sydney Grosso ‘23

Sydney Grosso ’23 on new beginnings

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In the ever-changing environment that makes up Syracuse University, an active junior has great ambitions to get involved. Sydney Grosso ‘23, a double major in Public Health in Falk College and Policy Studies in Maxwell, is determined to use her degree to build a foundation for a meaningful career as a trailblazer.

Sydney, from the Syracuse area, decided to attend SU because of her interest in a biomedical degree. However, she soon discovered her passion for public health and policy studies. Creating new policies that will benefit the public for the greater good was her new commitment. Helping others gives her purpose to what she does, “I am building my skills and knowledge now so that one day I can give back to those who gave to me and many more,” Sydney stated.

Throughout Sydney’s three years at Syracuse, she has used her leadership skills and creative ideas to support residence halls through Resident Hall Association (RHA). She continued building on those skills by becoming an RA in Marion hall and involving herself to become more immersed in the Syracuse community.

She has also given back countless hours to local community members by volunteering to write to the elderly during the heart of the pandemic and tutoring kids in need.

Sydney is actively applying her studies by working with the NYS Grange, a non-profit organization, to relocate their meeting facilities and creating districts within the state to assist with current changes in the organization. She can showcase her leadership and communication skills by using pre-existing surveys and information to ameliorate discomfort in members as well as minimize the decrease in membership. While learning new business strategies and using creativity, Sydney has begun applying these new skills to work towards her upcoming business idea.

As a result of her new idea, she sparked interest in surrounding herself with people who are reliable, intelligent, and more than willing to assist with her aspirations. Sydney said, “Once you become a part of LaunchPad, you become more inspired every day to be the best version of yourself and exceed more than what you ever thought you could accomplish.”

Sydney is currently working with the LaunchPad’s writing team to meet new individuals and display their stories and the value they contribute to the LaunchPad team.  She is also a Zaccai Foundation working with the Intelligence ++ program, an inclusive entrepreneurship program that is a partnership between the LaunchPad and SU Libraries, InclusiveU and VPA’s School of Design.

At the LaunchPad, she aspires to advance her concept for a sustainable product. Furthermore, she aims to continue building connections with previous, current, and upcoming LaunchPad members to hopefully establish business and personal relationships.

“If there is one thing I could change, it would be joining LaunchPad freshman year, so I could have developed more confidence in myself while being surrounded by like-minded people.” Sydney knew she had aspirations outside receiving good grades, she just didn’t know that with the right code, she could unlock more of herself and her ideas.

As Sydney continues her RA role, she has a desire to inspire people to propel out of their comfort zone and to create new ideas. Sydney is continually working towards regaining her social skills with her residents similar to pre-covid times. As many others would agree, “The social strain Covid-19 left on the community has made it difficult to retreat to what it used to look like,” Sydney said.

She is continuously looking for ways to reconnect with her residents, so she can motivate them to reach their full potential.

One struggle Sydney faces is balancing work life and creating time for herself to take a break. “Working thirty-two hours a week, taking eighteen credits, and being involved in extracurricular activities makes it hard to find time for myself,”she said. Learning how to balance all her activities has been one of her greatest challenges thus far.

Making time and prioritizing herself has been a work in progress. But with her new understanding, she has implemented community events to help other students learn how to multitask and create time for themselves.

Sydney is eager to learn more about LaunchPad and establish new relationships within its network. With her drive for success, commitment to helping those who surround her, dedication to seeing others succeed, and contributing to the process, Sydney will find more than just co-workers, she will find a home in LaunchPad.

Story by Blackstone Global Fellow Sydney Grosso ‘23