Nearly 100 Appalachian Students Embark on Entrepreneurship Opportunities and STEM Skill Development

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 23, 2021—This summer, nearly 100 Appalachian students are paving the way for educational growth and entrepreneurship in the Region by engaging in two of ARC’s four Academies & Institutes. Twelve students graduated from the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy (AEA), while 84 students and two teachers began their two-week virtual ARC Oak Ridge Summer STEM program. 

“As someone who has certainly advocated for education and leadership, I believe in leveraging the creativity, ingenuity, and potential from within our Region to enhance economic vitality,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “ARC’s Academies and Institutes do just that—they help empower the next generation of leaders in building networks, honing skills, and cultivating an enduring commitment to Appalachia’s future. I congratulate the graduates of the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy, and welcome the students of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Summer STEM Program.”

“Encouraging growth and development for students, educators, and entrepreneurs within the ARC region is vital to sustaining regional economies and cultivating future leaders,” said Virginia Governor and ARC States’ Co-Chair Ralph Northam. “I applaud the work of the outgoing graduates of the ARC Entrepreneurship Academy, and I am excited to see the great work of the new class of the 2021 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Summer STEM Academy, including our six students and teachers from Virginia!”

This year’s Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy (AEA) was a 12-month, free, blended learning curriculum featuring working modules led by regional experts in business planning, market analysis, product development and other entrepreneurial services. As part of the program, students participated in a four-week summer intensive online training, continued training over the academic year, and completed the program with a final capstone pitch event where they had an opportunity to showcase their work. Together, these teams received $8,000 in prize money. 

  • First PlaceTeam Refill Vibes – A solar-powered vehicle which operates as a mobile refill station allowing customers to refill items such as liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Additionally, the vehicle also contains refill vending machines which reduce plastic usage in hopes of setting a new trend in refiling and reusing plastic containers.
  • Second Place – Team Ferrity – A platform seeking to connect with local communities, support local businesses, and increase tourism revenue by engaging with people that are looking for things to do and buy in Appalachia. Similar to Yelp and Trip Advisor, Ferrity is involved with reviews, business information, and accommodations, to help spur economic development in Appalachia. 
  • Third Place – Team What’s Cookin’? – An app that collects information of what ingredients are in a user’s refrigerator and what dietary restrictions one may have, and sends personalized recipes. The app further partners with local grocery stores so consumers can shop more mindfully. 

The ARC Oak Ridge Summer STEM Program partnership between Oak Ridge Associated Universities and ARC, has pioneered access to STEM-related research opportunities for Appalachia’s high school and middle school students and high school teachers for 30 years. As part of the ARC Oak Ridge Summer STEM program, students collaborate with award-winning scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on guided group science, math, and computer science technology research projects, while high school teachers work with science practitioners to develop STEM-related curriculum. This year’s students and teachers will participate via a specialized two-week online curriculum including lectures, group work, and individual STEM skill development. Students will also participate in a final virtual showcase to present their work in July 2021.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission ( is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.