Paducah Tilghman student Mary Caroline Noneman was among the third-place team Demo Day finalists at the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs program in Frankfort.

The GSE hit the high point of its three-week program Saturday with its annual professional business-pitch competition, where 18 teams of high school students presented their startup ideas virtually to an audience of more than 550 people and a prestigious panel of entrepreneur judges. Three teams came out on top, winning cash prizes to continue their innovative ventures.

During the highly competitive summer program, 18 teams of four students each developed business models, designed prototypes and learned from business entrepreneurs.

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, the competition was held virtually using Hopin, a web-based technology platform.

“I am so proud of all of our 72 young entrepreneurs and what they have accomplished in just three short weeks,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “I’m impressed with their ideas and with their tenacity to keep going even in the face of uncertainty this year. I am confident that our young entrepreneurs will help us meet future challenges.”

Noneman’s Zense team won $500 for an alarm clock that wakes users up slowly, eliminating harsh alarm sounds and replacing them with aromatherapy and noises that steadily increase in volume.

While building a working team during GSE, teens virtually toured 15 startups and businesses, networked with more than 20 seasoned entrepreneurs and spent more than 150 hours developing their business models.

GSE provides more than $2.7 million in scholarship funding opportunities to high school students each year to attend colleges and universities in Kentucky. Through partnerships with entities such as the Kentucky Workforce and Education Development Cabinet, the Cabinet for Economic Development, and numerous public and private supporters including Toyota (TMMK), the Marksbury Family Foundation and the Parker Family Fund, GSE is completely free for selected entrepreneurs.

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