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Meet the 2024 Truist Foundation Fellows

 

Airene Montgomery, 2024 Truist Foundation Fellow

Generously sponsored by the Truist Foundation

Inspire and build better lives and communities

Aireane Montgomery

GAEEJ, Georgia Educators for Equity and Justice

GAEEJ is committed to rejuvenating the prestige of the teaching profession and ensuring psychologically safe, inclusive work environments and classrooms for Black educators and students across Georgia. Their Melanated N’ Educated Programming establishes an extensive Black teacher pipeline. Their goal is to align the number of Black educators with the proportion of Black students in classrooms statewide, while recognizing that all students deserve a just and rigorous education. To date, the venture has raised over $215,000 and is run by a team of 5 employees to support its initiatives.

Alicia Rivera

Feeding GA Families’ Community Learning Center (CLC)

Feeding GA Families’ Community Learning Center (CLC) serves homeless and minimally housed individuals in Georgia through development programs focused on career readiness and job training. With a focus on employment rates, retention, and meeting basic needs, the initiative aims to double its outreach in underserved communities, collaborate with local employers, and leverage the 2024 Truist Foundation Fellowship for capacity building, network access, and enhanced awareness on the work they are leading forward. In 2023, the venture served over 1.2 million meals.

Amanda Spann

The App Accelerator

The App Accelerator is an onboarding business incubation program for individuals interested in pursuing a career in tech-entrepreneurship throughout Georgia. The venture aims to address the challenge faced by millions of diverse, emerging founders who lack the technical skills required to develop their apps, often leading to wasted time and fear of financial loss. Their goal is to produce 10,000 diverse new app entrepreneurs in the next 10 years. Amanda has been named one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women in Tech Under 30.

Deija (Felicity) Swindell

Felicitea Digital Lab

Felicitea Digital Lab is a comprehensive business and marketing hub designed to address the time and resource constraints faced by small businesses. The lab aims to empower businesses in the Metro Atlanta community by enhancing website traffic, lead generation, customer conversion, brand awareness, and online presence. To date, Felicitea has achieved significant results for its clients, including an 80% increase in website traffic, a 90% growth in social media following, and assisting in generating over $1 million in new sales.

Erin Smith

The Smith Enterprise

The Smith Enterprise is focused on redistributing Black wealth into the community through collaborations with sectors like agriculture, logistics, insurance, real estate, and construction, providing crucial tools for business success across Georgia. The enterprise aims to create accessible jobs, redefine traditional work hours, and empower team members to become partners, not just employees. Despite facing challenges during the pandemic, the venture rebounded in Georgia, securing new clients and partners – including Young Democrats of Dekalb.

Ernest Comer III

E Howard Co Professional Innovations

E Howard Co Professional Innovations collaborates with highly ambitious servant leaders to offer strategic planning and cohort experiences that adopt an asset-based and human-centered approach to enhance organizational capacity for significant impact. The array of services they offer include strategic planning support, staff and board retreat facilitation, individualized executive guidance, interim executive leadership, and facilitation of employee learning experiences. To date, the venture has raised $120,000.00 to support its efforts.

KaCey Venning

Helping Empower Youth (HEY)

Helping Empower Youth (HEY) tackles the lasting impact of poverty on Black male youth throughout Georgia by addressing graduation rates, truancy, youth crime, and generational poverty. Providing opportunities for livable wages through employment or entrepreneurship, HEY aims to reduce petty crimes, enhance school performance, and break the cycle of financial hardship. To date, the venture has successfully redirected 25 Black males from unlawful transgressions, with all participants avoiding a return to such practices.

Kacie Willis

Could be Pretty Cool

Could Be Pretty Cool redefines the traditional podcast chat show by employing innovative audio production techniques, experimenting with nontraditional formats inspired by devised theater and experimental media. Their mission is to help diverse audiences connect with stories where they can feel seen and heard. To date, the venture has raised $5,000, was a semifinalist for the 2023 Pharrell Williams Black Ambition Prize Competition, and their original podcast ‘You Heard Me Write’ was in the top 5% most shared podcasts globally on Spotify in 2022.

Kayla Life

The RebrandLand Community Innovation Center

The RebrandLand Community Innovation Center is on a mission is to serve as a catalyst for creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship for Atlanta community members. They offer a diverse array of technology-focused programs, including coding classes, digital literacy courses, and STEAM initiatives, alongside comprehensive entrepreneurship support that includes courses, small business accelerators, and access to capital resources. To date, they have raised $3,000 in capital and support 50+ entrepreneurs.

Keena Pierre

Prep Capital

Prep Capital is committed to addressing the racial wealth divide by targeting statistically underfunded Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in underrepresented U.S. regions, with less than 1% of venture funding currently reaching founders of color. The venture provides education in capital readiness and deploys funds through a variety of investment vehicles and catalytic capital financing options such as convertible debt, recoverable grants, and equity. Keena has an Alternative Investments Executive MBA from Emory University Goizueta Business.

Kewaan Drayton

Red Eye Film Productions

Red Eye Film Productions aims to empower and inspire underserved communities in Georgia through comprehensive training programs in filmmaking, podcasting, video editing, and performing arts. The organization strives to bridge the opportunity gap by providing access to creative education and resources, fostering a diverse and vibrant arts community. To date, the venture has raised $500,000 in capital and trained 10 young people who have gone on to become successful photographers, videographers, and video editors.

Kiesha Halliburton

K. Cooper Consulting

K. Cooper Consulting specializes in assisting growth-stage and mid-size businesses, particularly those led by women and minorities, in optimizing their operational development. Through collaboration, follow-up, and project management, the company ensures the realization of leaders’ visions by offering unique services based on their specific needs. To date, the venture has supported over 20 companies and aims to achieve a revenue cycle of $320,000 in three years.

La’Quata Sumter

STEAM Thru Drones

STEAM Thru Drones addresses the racial gaps in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education, focusing on practical learning experiences and diverse representation. Using innovative drone technology, the venture organizes engaging drone education shows and in-school field trips for students, fostering hands-on experiences and enhancing skills in teamwork, problem-solving, and creativity. To date, the venture has impacted 5,026 diverse students across 243 schools and organizations.

Nnamdi Ihenacho

NSTAR Technologies

NSTAR Technologies is on a mission to empower immigrants across Gerogia, facilitating their entry into high-income tech careers. Through targeted training and community support, the organization aims to create a pathway for success, fostering not just skill development but also a collaborative environment crucial for sustained growth. To date, NSTAR Technologies has raised $250,000 in capital and trained approximately 75 students over the last three years. Notably, 80% of program alumni are currently employed in their trained areas.

Olivia Lamb

The Shop on MLK

The Shop on MLK serves as a retail hub with a mission to enhance the economic strength of crafters, makers, and small businesses in Savannah. Offering affordable retail spaces in a central and thriving area, the store provides vendors with expanded market access and increased growth and earning opportunities. Beyond its maker-centered retail space, The Shop on MLK engages vulnerable youth through entrepreneurship workshops and partnerships with youth-centered organizations. To date, the venture has raised over $16,000 in capital and hosted their first pop-up market in December 2023.

Rachel Shanklin

Capital Ready Atlanta

Capital Ready Atlanta addresses the challenge faced by Atlanta’s underserved entrepreneurs in accessing capital, due to gaps in financial literacy and creditworthiness, by equipping them with the skills to become ‘bankable’ and secure funding. Their approach involves interactive financial literacy workshops, personalized mentorship, networking events connecting entrepreneurs with investors, and an online resource portal. To date, the venture has collaborated with 75 partners, facilitated over 90 events, and reached over 6,500 participants, with 80% identifying as BIPOC and 74% female.

Sherrell Byrd

SOWEGA RISING

SOWEGA RISING is dedicated to elevating Southwest Georgia’s quality of life metrics by fostering rural revitalization, community organizing, education, and advocacy for human and civil rights. The center plans to offer co-working spaces, meeting lounges, state-of-the-art commercial kitchens, and specialized studios for online commerce, to provide inclusive and equal opportunities for everyone in the community. The venture is currently awaiting appropriations funding at the congressional level to begin the building process of their center.

Victoria Huynh

Georgia AAPI Hub

The Georgia AAPI Hub is dedicated to enhancing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) nonprofits across Georgia by providing technical assistance, grant support, and strategic capacity. Central to fostering community stability and growth, the Hub offers trainings, mini grants, partnerships, and a centralized resource database for these underserved groups. Thus far, the venture has reached over 944 individuals through both in-person and online training sessions to mitigate the current operational gaps and funding shortages within the AAPI populations across Georgia.

Truist Foundation is committed to Truist’s purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. The Foundation, an endowed private foundation established in 2020 whose operating budget is independent of Truist Financial Corporation, makes strategic investments in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations centered around two focus areas: building career pathways to economic mobility and strengthening small businesses to ensure all people and communities have an equal opportunity to thrive. For more information about Truist Foundation, visit Truist.com/Foundation.