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.