SpotLITE: Moneek Shorts

By Moneek L. Shorts


Moneek is a past LITE Finalist and current Fellow. Her projects have involved selling T-shirts meant to inspire teenagers.

Q: What special skills have you learned from being an Innovation Fellow at LITE?

A: From being an Innovation Fellow, I have learned to have better time management and being punctual. While handling a business and being a junior who wants to graduate early, I have to make sure I put time and effort into both and set times for both. Secondly, since I am in different business clubs, leadership clubs, and controlling my business, being on time for meetings, classes, and deadlines has really pushed me to keep up with myself and control my planning. 


Q: How would you describe being an Innovation Fellow in one word? Why?

A: I would say creative. We all have a vision and with out visions, we are very creative. Having a creative mind also can help with activities, meetings, and putting your best interest and heart forward.


Q: What lessons have you learned from being an Innovation Fellow and young entrepreneur that have affected your everyday life?

A: I have learned to always do what is best for you. With being an Innovation Fellow, we have meetings and sometimes my schedule clashes with the dates; therefore, I have to choose my dates and times wisely. Secondly, with being a young entrepreneur, I have to function my business according to how I can handle it, set meeting dates to where I am able to go, and most importantly, make decisions to what is best for me. 


Q: What is the most difficult part about starting a business while you’re still in High School?

A: The most difficult part is managing both school and my business. When thinking about an average day in my life, I have to stay up til whenever to make sure I am ready for tests or stay up to complete homework/project assignments. Next, I try to stay up at least 2 more hours to complete any business needs or handle orders. 


Q: What was your inspiration in creating Self-Made Empire?

A: My inspiration came from my school, Germantown High School, and my friends. I came from a middle school wearing uniforms and when I came to high school, I noticed everyone took pride into their fashion and what they wanted to have. Seeing that no matter where you came from or how you grew up, people are willing to hustle and develop their own sense of style to make themselves feel amazing and beautiful. 


Q: What makes your business unique?

A: My business is not based on what I like or what I want to have in my business. I look at how people express themselves and I take trends and put motivational/inspirational words and pictures on the pieces to have others wear them with pride. A goal of mine is to really give people a reason to express themselves in whatever they wear and to let others know its their style; they are self-made.


Q: What was the biggest challenge in getting your business running?

A: The biggest challenge is to get promotions and have people take a look at what I can offer to the table. I want my business to be exposed to all social media in every kind of way.


Q: What have you learned about yourself from your time at LITE, both as a Finalist and Innovation Fellow?

A: I have learned that I am very determined in everything I put my mind into and that if I believe in myself, I can accomplish many goals that I set for myself. 


Q: How has your time at LITE impacted the type of career you want to pursue?

A: It has given me the positives and the negatives of many careers and it has helped me narrow down many job selections. 


Q: What is some advice you would give someone who wants to start their own business but doesn’t know where to start? 

A: Do research! Always know what you are getting yourself into and what kind of business you want to start. While doing that, stay positive and never let the word “no” stop you in your tracks!

Moneek is a junior at Houston High School.

SpotLITE: Halima Morafa

By Halima Morafa


In 2015 as a sophomore in high school, I decided to participate in LITE Memphis. At the time, I was quite shy in public settings and I was trying to expand my horizons. I had always been interested in business and this seemed like the perfect way to learn more about networking, marketing, and business while working on something I love, which is art and advocacy. At LITE I established my non-profit, ArtRevival, and this program is the best thing I worked on. In addition to my nonprofit,  I also gained networking skills, improved my public speaking, grasped a number of contacts for my program, and became more confident in the projects I partake in. 


I used the skills and knowledge I gained at LITE to organize and launch an event for my senior project called "Valued."  Valued strives to impact the youth in the community by addressing sensitive and personal societal problems, such as domestic violence, through the art of fashion. 


Valued is a runway event against domestic violence. This event will take place September 29, 2017 from 6-8:30pm At Houston High School. In the runway event, diverse models will showcase an expressive clothing collection that represents the steps taken toward self-empowerment. The clothes shown during the runway will available for purchase and all proceeds will be donated towards a local domestic violence organization, Walk in a New Life. 


For the event, we also are selling shirts online! So please show your support for our cause and buy a shirt! Also you can get tickets today using Eventbrite! If you want to help out on the day of the event, sign up with our signup genius. Check out the links below for more info!

Buy a shirt!

Register for Valued

Want to volunteer? Sign up here 


Also if you have new or gently used items we will appreciate if you can donate them for our silent auction. If you have any questions, email us at


Thank you so much for your anticipated support.



Halima Morafa is a senior at Houston High School

A Summer to Remember: Reflections on My Internship at LITE


By Talia Owens

Wow. That’s really all I can say right now is… wow. If you would have told me in June of 2016 that I would spend the next year not only be an executive director of my own non profit program but also help in the process of other students doing the same I would have laughed in your face and asked “Why would I even do?” You would’ve had me at the whole being my own boss thing, but the other thing about working for 8 months without pay? Especially during my summer before college. That’s where you would have lost me. Only because I didn’t really imagine my working during that time. Instead I thought I'd be spending time going out with friends and relaxing. 

Looking back on it, I have changed and grown a lot in the past year. Last summer the only thing I was worried about was how my social life would transform between the start of senior year to the start of college. Now I’m more worried about… well being honest the whole social life thing is still a big priority for me because I’m still an eighteen year old girl but now I’m an eighteen year old girl who also focuses on building a brand and networking with influential people.

When I was presented the opportunity to work with LITE a few months back, I was extremely excited but also nervous. I was obviously thrilled because this organization is one that has done so much for me and now I was able to go behind the scenes and see where all the magic happened. On the other had I was slightly terrified because I knew that this internship wouldn’t be one where I would just sit around and be good company or get a pat on the back for doing mediocre tasks; it would be hard work. Not that I wasn’t down for tackling somewhat difficult tasks or actually working. I just have never been around people who were either extremely intense in a work environment or who were extremely passionate about what they were doing. Despite all my worries, I meshed well in the environment quite nicely. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m able to adjust to new atmospheres well or because I’m able to change the atmosphere in a way to make me more comfortable. Maybe it’s a little bit of both? I haven’t quite figured that out. 

But I digress. The summer chapter of this internship was easily one of the best experiences of my life. Of course I was extremely busy from the moment I came into the office at 10:00am (Sometimes 9:40 because I like to be prompt. Sometimes 10:15 because the train is obnoxious and unpredictable) until I left at 3:00pm, but even with the work load everything about it was so incredibly enjoyable. In between creating social media content, feverishly interviewing our Innovation Fellows with summer internships, and aiding in the communication between the team and prior former students I was able to create amazing relationships that seemed minute at first but quickly became some of the most valuable connections of life. 

I wasn’t just sitting in an office and working for five hours a day, three days a week I was learning. I was learning about the importance of these new found connections I made. I was introduced to new ideas and outlooks that in turn made me deeply reflect within myself and caused me to seek out what my deeper purpose was. These are things that are hard to grasp when working at a job that’s only benefit is providing a bit of pocket change. I know so many people who talked down on my decision to pursue this internship because, in their eyes, I was wasting my time volunteering when I could be making money for myself in preparation for college life. What they all failed to understand is while they were lightly stacking their paper, I was stacking my experience and adding to my resume. That’s something they had yet to start. So when their summer money dries out, I’ll still have my new found expertise. It’s called investing your time wisely. 

Given how much time I spent with LITE, I could honestly go on and on what I learned and what took away from this influential chapter in my life. I could write an entire novel about how much this program means to me and how much i am going to miss working with the team and how much I loved being able to aid in the process of changing minority students’ lives. Through all of my rambling and all of my playful commentary there is an actual reflection with depth I promise. With my time at LITE, I not only learned the importance of knowing how to market a brand, giving proper exposure to minority excellence, or tailoring content to a broad audience. I not only learned the importance of having a strong team, networking with those that can help me later in my career, or coming up with ways to connect minded youth to wonderful opportunities. I learned how to be a better version of myself both in a professional sense and a personal sense. Working around the people I worked around, in the job field I did made me realize things about myself that were always there, but I wasn’t confident in displaying and for that I am extremely grateful. 

My internship with LITE was more that a summer job, was more than a way to pass the time, was more than a resume filler. It was an experience. One that I will look back on ten… twenty… even thirty years from now and know that this is what shaped me to be the person I am today. I may be saying goodbye to the countless days in the office but I’m not saying goodbye to the relationship I grew with this organization. Since being introduced as a finalist last year, this has been my world and it will remain that way. Always and forever.


Five lessons that I learned at LITE

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By Marissa Pittman

Let’s Innovate through Education (LITE) is an Entrepreneurship Program for minority high school students to change their communities. Last spring, I was one of just 27 students to be selected for the spring 2017 cohort of the LITE Finalist program, an intensive 6-month business incubator for youth. As a result, LITE helped me launch Pumps and Politics 901, an organization aimed at amplifying the voice of young women of color in the political process.

1. You are never too young to provoke change.

As the youngest finalist in the program, I was intimidated at first. Yet, I realized that if you are passionate and work hard: you can accomplish anything. For instance, when I was in the program, I was juggling lots of responsibilities. I was the president of a club at my school, a member of Future Business Leaders of America, my grade’s representative on a student platform, an Honors student, and an entrepreneur in LITE’s finalist program. I was always busy, and I often reconsidered everything that was on my plate. Yet, once I was done with the school year and looked back on my accomplishments with the help of my friends and family, I was amazed.

2. Memphis is home to numerous young professionals.

Most teenage Memphians think that Memphis is full of gangs and violence. However, from female entrepreneurship panels to policy talks with Barbara Walter, LITE showed me that Memphis is actually a great city for professionals. When I had my first Pumps and Politics 901 event, I contacted powerful women in Memphis, such as Councilwoman Patrice Robinson and Ms. London Lamar, to contribute their voice at the event.

3. Social media presence is EXTREMELY important.

When I had my first event at Memphis City Hall, an overwhelming number of attendees found my event through my social media accounts. Never underestimate the power of social media. If you’re starting a business, you can broadcast your services on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, consistency on your page and establishing a theme is crucial. Even if you aren’t trying to start a business or organization, you can support other people’s initiatives by reposting an event flyer or sharing their profile.

4. Practice prevents poor performance.

LITE provided me the opportunity to pitch my idea, Pumps and Politics 901, to over four hundred people. Relentlessly, I practiced, and my hard work paid off. Although I didn't have the largest amount of votes, I proved to myself that practice makes perfect.

5. Entrepreneurship is not always what you think.

When I told my friends that I was in an entrepreneurship program, they thought I was crazy. Yet, I explained to them that there are different types of entrepreneurs : lifestyle, serial, social, and more. Once people realize that entrepreneurship isn't as difficult or far- fetched as it might seem, we can remove stereotypes and help our communities.

You can follow about Pumps and Politics 901 on Instagram and Facebook @pumpspolitics901. You can check out our blog here :

SpotLITE: Cinythia Balanos and Madisonne Cooper

Cinythia Balanos and Madisonne Cooper are two Innovation Fellows that consistently amaze us with all that they have accomplished. Cinythia is a rising sophomore at Rhodes College. She was introduced to LITE through BRIDGES where she launched Juntos, a Latino advocacy campaign that resulted in a blog and a drive to get more books for Latino elementary schools. Madisonne is a rising sophomore at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff who was introduced to LITE through being a student at PCA. Her program was called Dare2Dance, a dance showcase that leads to raising awareness about building a dance studio. Both Cinythia and Madisonne spent their time interning at Regional One Health Innovation Center, a branch of Regional One that aims to spread a sense of innovation throughout the hospital, and they let me in on just how revolutionary this experience was.

Where are you interning this summer and what do you do?

M: We are interning at Regional One Health Innovation Center. We are currently helping organize the Shark Tank, which is the idea contest. We have helped host morning huddles informing employees of the role of the innovation center and encouraging them to participate in the Shark Tank. We sit in on meetings with various departments dealing with the Shark Tank ideas. We are also helping develop an innovation playbook. We have created info graphics and power points that will either be used around the hospital or will go up on the website. Mostly, we are helping expand the knowledge of innovation and more specifically Regional One's innovation center.

What is a typical day like at Regional One?

C: So we come in at around 8:00 in the morning and the first thing we do is touch base with our supervisors named Scott Vogel. We just discuss our projects for the day and every single day before we leave at around 12:50, because it’s 8:00-1:00, so every single day around 12:50, me and Maddie get together and come up with a list of things to do for the next day and we kinda set time limits for ourselves. So we have that written on a white board and we just kinda go from there everyday. Some days it’s just research. For the past few days we’ve been researching various innovation centers around the country and we’re working on something like a playbook for innovation and like I said there is only one person working at the center right now so we want to have something where we can just hand to people and they can kinda start learning on their own. So it’s kinda like a how to guide and we’ve been researching for that and writing it

How is this experience different from a typical college students job and how is it different from prior work experience?

C: It’s actually really funny you asked that because I have another job, I work at Charlotte Russe. I’m a manager there and I’ve been in retail management for almost two years now so it’s a really different setting because you have all of these things to do on top of customers, on top of having your district manager and you have all of these upper management people pressuring you and here we have to be very self-motivated. Our boss doesn’t micromanage us which is amazing and that kinda gives us the chance to organize things on our own and work at our pace. I say it’s different from the typical college student job because we’re actually right at the center of it, you know? We’re actually working. Of course, we do transcribe random things and put stuff in folders and organize stuff but we also get to sit in on meetings and we get to talk to different people who are innovating throughout the city. I know about a week ago we got to talk to some people from the Zeroto510 and they came to the hospital and kinda talked to us it was just really interesting to be exposed to that.

M: It is very laid back. It is a very quiet setting. I work around a lot of people who are behind the scenes, so it is a very professional setting. Everything is business.

How is the environment at Regional One?

C: So there’s a lot of work to do like I said there’s only one person working on this before so when me and Maddie came in there were a ton of projects to do so I’d say we’re always busy. There’s always something to do but it’s not overly stressful. Our office is connected to our supervisor's office  so we can always just pop our heads in and just be like ‘hey can you help us with this’ ‘hey we have this question.’ But yeah it’s not stressful but there’s definitely something to so

What were your initial thoughts about your internship?

M: I initially didn't think I would be doing as much work or learning a lot. However, I completely underestimated everything. I have learned so much from this internship, and I will be able to use everything that I learned throughout life.

C: My initial thoughts were really different from what I originally thought just because, and this is just common for anyone, you hear the word ‘innovation’ and I instantly thought ‘I’m not creative enough to  work with that’ ‘I don’t know what my job is going to be.’ It was all very vague until we got there and saw that, yes it’s vague because we have so much to do and it’s so new so in that sense it’s different. I also thought that I’d have to interact with people more.

How do you feel about not interacting with a lot of people?

C: I feel like right now it’s best that we’re working behind the scene just so we can get everything together because we spend about a week just reading articles on articles about innovation so with us just entering into it  I think it was better for us to be behind the scenes.

What do you think makes your internship unique?

M: Innovation is a unique topic itself. You can apply it anywhere and in any industry. Not many young people know about innovation, especially in Memphis. My internship encourages young people, like myself, to be more innovative. I don't have to build a new piece of technology to be innovative. I can start innovative thinking, or I can change a process based on innovation. There is no specific major assigned to innovation, and I absolutely love that.

How do you feel the things that you have learned through this experience will help you later on in life?

C: It kinda forced me to be a little more creative and think outside of the box. A lot of the ideas that we talk about implementing in the hospital are things that are already being done but in different fields so maybe they’re doing this is hospitality but they’ve never tried it in a hospital so being able to talk that  in a different setting is something that I think is going to be very transferrable to other jobs.

M: Failure is necessary for success. Innovation has taught me that it is okay to take risks. We learn from our mistakes, and that is one necessary life lesson that I think just about everyone has learned.

If you could describe this experience in one word, what would it be and why?

C: I don’t know it was just very eye-opening to see how you can take people who are right there who have never really been innovators. They aren’t engineers. They’re not Steve Jobs. They’re just security guards that have an idea to make everyone’s job easier or process easier and I think I’ve never really thought of innovation in that sense to where a regular person can do it. It was just very eye opening.

M: Opportunity. This internship was a door of opportunity for me. I opened this door, not knowing what was behind it. I stepped into something that I did not recognize and became comfortable with and took away some very valuable lessons. I hope I spend the rest of my life opening doors and stepping into something new.

SpotLITE: Anisah Karim

By Talia Owens

Anisah Karim is a noteworthy Innovation Fellow and she's been up to quite a bit since her time in the  LITE Finalist program. Anisah previously attended Middle College High School, where she joined LITE, and launched Sous Chef, a healthy cooking initiative to teach low income students how to eat and cook with health in mind. She is now a rising sophomore at the University of Memphis. This summer, Anisah spent her time interning with the Memphis Education Fund, a non-profit fund that convenes educational partners and helps them coalesce around the highest priorities for improvement. Now that her internship is coming to an end, I was able to sit down and reflect on her experience.


Q: Where are you interning this summer?

A: I am working at the Memphis Education Fund located in Memphis's brand new crosstown concourse. I work under the Advocacy umbrella of the organization under the leadership of the Director of Advocacy, Tosha Downey.

Q: What is a typical day like at Memphis Education Fund?

A: I basically work from my desk, usually on various projects focusing on education and advocacy and supporting the department. I also help with office management. The internship is very hands on and I stay pretty busy. 

Q: How is your work environment?

A. For the most part, it's laid back but can be demanding at times. Everyone has their own agenda but we like to collaborate and we all help each other out.

Q: What special skills have you picked up during your time at the Memphis Education Fund?

A: I've learned how to manage an office space. I feel that that's an important skill to have. Also, I've been able to brush up my writing skills and was able to publish an article with Chalkbeat Tennessee. You can find it HERE

Q: How do you feel the things you have learned through this experience will help you in the long run?

A: I've been able to exercise my brain a lot, which is good. I've been able to make new connections and network, which is very important in the line of work that I do and will do in my career path.

Q: What things have you learned about yourself through this experience?

A: I've learned that I love education, just not the way it's done. It's good to know that there are organizations feel the same and work hard to reform it. I've been able to map out what I want to do with my career as well.

SpotLITE: Kynnedy Tuggle

By Talia Owens

Kynnedy Tuggle is way ahead of most her peers career wise. Now a rising sophomore at Rhodes College, Kynnedy came into the LITE Program through Power Center Academy where she took her love for baking and started her business ‘Love In A Kup.’ This summer, Kynnedy is spending her time reviving her cupcake business and I got an inside look on what it’s like being a young business owner.

Q: What are you doing this summer? I know you internship is slightly different from everyone else’s.

A: I am revamping my business plan and re-energizing my baking business, “Love in a Kup”. I went to Power Center Academy High School which is a business school and I made my business plan when I was in the 8th grade. Until this summer I hadn’t really touched it so it was a bit immature. We just figured that it would be helpful for me to revamp since I’m beginning to branch out from family and friends, and starting to reach out to other customers.

Q: When you started ‘Love in a Kup,’ was it because you had a deep passion for baking? If so how long has it been your passion?

A: I’ve always loved baking so when I was in 8th grade and we had to make a business plan I thought, “I might as well do a business related to something I enjoy” so that’s what I did. Then, in 9th grade I was like “I’m gonna sell cupcakes.” So when I met Hardy a few years later I participated in the LITE Finalist program and used my cupcake concept as a part of the program.

Q: With ‘Love in a Kup,’ are you focused on one specific task or are you tackling a lot of different things when it comes to running your business?

A: I’m tackling a lot! I still bake. I’ve had a over 10 orders this summer which is big for me. In the midst of me working, essentially for myself, I bake, some days I work and just use those hours and then the other days I’m working on my business plan. It’s just juggling a lot but it’s not too hard. It just requires some good planning and organization.

Q: Is building your own business something that compliments your personality or is it something that’s challenged it?

A: I like challenges. My favorite quote is, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you,” so I think challenges are everything. Typically you get challenged a lot in whatever you do. Even with the job I have outside of my baking business, I get stretched and challenged but I mean I think challenges are apart of life so it’s nothing for me to dwell on. So yes, to answer your question, I have challenges, but I don’t let them define me. I don’t let the world know about them.

Q: What are three things you’ve learned about yourself since you’ve started ‘Love in a Kup’?

A: I’ve learned leveling patience. Learning patience is everything, like a life long thing, especially for me. I’ve also learned, I’m very passionate. That sounds weird but I just used to think I was just doing my job. The third thing I’ve learned is that I’m extremely loyal.

Q: If you could tell any person or any student who has an idea or knows they want to work for themselves but they don’t know where to start, what advice would you give them?

A: Write your idea down. Don’t tell the world about your idea right away. Talk to somebody you really have a close relationship with and that you think can help you move on to the next step and just be patient. Like I said earlier, patience is key. I didn’t learn patience until I was in the eleventh grade and I feel like my life would have been better if I learned a little early on in life. But being patient with yourself allows you to be patient in your dream and be patient with others when you might present your dream to the somebody and they’re not okay with it. So being patient means ‘okay next time. It might not be my time.’ Just be patient with where you’re at.

SpotLITE: Jada Newsome & Dontarious Powell

By Talia Owens

Jada Newsome and Dontarious Powell are two dynamic students that have made a name for themselves since their time as LITE Finalists. Jada is a rising sophomore at MTSU who was introduced to LITE through Bridges. As a finalist, she launched ‘Squad Up,’ a rally to decrease violence by focusing engaging youth in her community. Dontarious, a rising junior at Freed Hardeman University and member of the very first cohort of LITE Finalists, launched ‘TIME Music Studio,’ a gospel music concert series during his time as a Finalist. This dynamic duo is now interning this summer at Imagine U, a college accelerator that brings together diverse undergraduate students from Memphis area colleges and universities for an immersive entrepreneurship experience. In between the hustle and bustle of their busy schedules, I had a chance to see what it’s like as a student entrepreneur Imagine U.

Q: Where are you interning this summer and what do you do?

J: We’re interning this summer at Imagine U which is held at The Crews Center at the University of Memphis. Here, we have formed teams to work on finding and solving business problems. We have to be really creative, come up with new ideas, and pitch those ideas, and come up with unique ways to create revenue.

Q: What is a typical day like at Imagine U?

D: We normally come all together as a collective and we’ll meet up as a group. We’ll have a discussion, presentation, or workshop covering business concepts or professional development for the first hour of the day.  Then we’ll break off in our groups to collaborate and work on our business ideas.

Q: Is your internship more of a hands on or more of a shadowing experience?

J: It’s a lot of “hands on” work. We learn a lot of concepts and theories, but the biggest part of Imagine U is learning by doing. We all have to take the things we learn on paper and work on our own and test things out as we develop our projects.  

Q: How is your experience different from other college students’ job experience?

D: Innovation. We’re blessed to be around people where we can communicate ideas, collaborate with other innovators, and learn different perspectives from other people.  I feel like a light bulb goes off in our heads every few minutes. Imagine U is so different because it truly gives you the opportunity to innovate freely.

J: With most jobs you can’t do certain things. But at Imagine U, it’s just like you’re free to try new things and work at your own pace and it’s a nice environment. Everybody is respectful, open to new thoughts, and gives constructive feedback. At  regular jobs they’re always hard on you so I enjoy this environment.

Q: Do you think you’ve picked up any special skills on the way with Imagine U?

D: I would say I’ve learned to be more attentive. That’s very important because if you aren’t, you tend to miss things. There is so much information that you have to stay on top of things. One thing I notice is that I have to kinda stop, you know? You have to stop dazing and have to zoom in on what’s ahead and what’s being discussed.

J: I say the biggest thing I’ve improved on is getting more organized. Before I started this internship,  I’d be all over the place like ‘Oh I can be flexible doing other things’ but I think that through this process, I got a lot more organized. I have to be on top of everything in order to make sure we get the job done.

Q: What are the things you’ve learned throughout your experience?

J: Being able to take criticism and constructive feedback from others. Another big takeaway has been learning how to work as a team more than individually.

D: Along with what Jada said, being able to take criticism, working in a group, working as a team, learning how to encourage each other and learning how to just move at a fast pace.

Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened along the way at Imagine U?

D: When we did the personality assessment! At the time we were just trying to get to know each other...and we got to learn a whole lot about people right off the bat. It was kinda weird to see how well the assessment described our personalities but overall it was really helpful in the long run

Q: If you could describe your internship experience in one word what would it be and why?

D: Blessed. Not too many people are afforded this opportunity so it’s just a blessing and  a humbling experience.

J: Interesting! I learn new things each day and I learned things about my teammates just from being around them and  being able to open up more.

SpotLITE: Makalah Hampton


By Talia Owens

Makalah Hampton is a name that those involved with LITE in its early stages will easily recognize. Her involvement in LITE started when she was a student at Power Center Academy. Makalah saw that there was a lack of performance art opportunities in lower income areas so she created “Dare to Dance,” a dance showcase designed to expose lower income students to the world of performing arts. Makalah is now a rising sophomore at Tougaloo College where she is studying Mass Communications. This summer, LITE matched Makalah with an internship at Startco, a business accelerator in Memphis, and I had the pleasure of chatting with her about her experience there.

Q: Where are you interning this summer and what exactly do you do?

A: I intern at Start Co. which is similar to LITE but it’s on a bigger scale. They help launch businesses and they provide founders with mentors and investors and things like that. My role there involves me helping wherever I’m needed. I also am focusing on media - I help with blog posts and I got to help make a website last week.

Q: What is a typical day like at Start Co.?

A: Everyday is different.  One day I might be helping with the founders or one day I might be sitting in on like a talk about press releases. It’s kinda just whatever the day is.

Q: What is the best part about working here?

A: Oh wow. I just feel like I’m getting a heads start on everything. I’m meeting with new people all the time. They bring in people to speak so I might be talking to somebody from FedEX one day and I might be talking to somebody from Archer Malmo, which is a public relations firm. So I just get to meet a different group of people and everyday is different and I think that’s just really cool. It’s not a very strict environment. It’s very relaxed.

Q: What special skills have you picked up during your time at Start Co.

A: I think time management is definitely one thing I’ve gotten better at.   This is my first job so the work experience itself is definitely one thing that I’ve gotten as well... you know with school, you have time management but now it’s like I have a boss. I’m answering to somebody now so I have to be even more on top of things.

Q: How do you think this job differs from like other jobs people your age?

A: When people talk about their first job, they often talk about how they hated it.  My job isn’t fast food or retail like other people my age so I think I have a great first job.  

Q: Do you see yourself working in this field in the future? Was it because of your internship or was it prior exposure?

A: I never had prior exposure before this job. But this internship has definitely helped me to know that this is what I want to do.

Q: Has this internship opened a new realm of possibilities career wise? Has it made you see communications in a new light is there a specific direction you wanna go into?

A: Yes at first I wanted to do something like broadcasting, but now like I really like public relations and marketing so yeah, I think so.

Q: How has your experience with LITE and your internship kind of like change the course of your life?

A: Well, I feel like it’s really pushed me to get out there and start reaching out to people, meeting new people. Before, I was doing those things,  but I wasn’t really doing them on this scale.I feel like this pushed me to branch out. You know...Be me, build my brand.

Q: If you could give any advice to a person who has an idea but doesn’t know where to start or what to do, what kind of message would you give them.

A: I’d tell that person to just go for it. If you plan it out and you have a strategy for something you should just get out there and do it.