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DAILY BREEZE: Lawndale student awarded first place in entrepreneurship competition

[PHOTO] Crystal Sanchez, a senior at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, recently won an entrepreneurship award for her invention of the Guardian Locket, a necklace that protects women against sexual assault.


By Katherine Richardson
Photo credit: NFTE Staff
Published: June 15, 2015

daily breeze

“My best friend, her first year into college, was raped,” Sanchez said. “Seeing the change that happened with her, I decided that I didn’t want that to happen to anybody else. Rape changes you, and it hurts you physically, mentally and emotionally. I really wouldn’t want to see any other woman or any other person go through it.”

As a senior at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, Sanchez decided to write her thesis about the prevalence of sexual assault in the United States. She discovered staggering numbers — one in three American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually violated.

In addition to her research, over the course of her senior year through a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship course, Sanchez came up with an idea for a product she calls the Guardian Locket, a necklace that could add a line of defense to help prevent sexual assault.

During the class, Sanchez developed the technological specifics of the Guardian Locket; the necklace utilizes Snapdragon technology to connect it to an app on the wearer’s phone. One click of the button on the back of the locket sends a fake phone call to the wearer, which could potentially scare away a possible attacker, and three clicks alerts local authorities and emergency contacts with the wearer’s coordinates.

In the entrepreneurship course, she created a business plan for the locket. And in May, Sanchez won first place and $3,000 in the NFTE Los Angeles Regional Challenge out of a pool of more than 2,000 young entrepreneurs.

Sanchez will be honored at the Ernst & Young LLP Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Awards Gala on Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and receive a $1,000 scholarship from the firm for her efforts. EY has partnered with NFTE since 2009 to honor the youngest entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area.

“She’ll get to be up there with CEOs and business owners in Los Angeles, and she gets to have her moment with them, which is really cool,” said April Spencer, EY partner and Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Program co-director. “We always get a lot of great comments and reactions for being able to connect the current CEOs and entrepreneurs with someone as young as Crystal just starting out in her entrepreneurship career.”

Sanchez, who graduated Monday night from Environmental Charter, developed the Guardian Locket business plan in a NFTE course she took during her senior year of high school. NFTE, an international organization founded in 1987, provides high school students in low-income communities with entrepreneurship courses and competitions. The program offers curriculum and partnerships to high schools in 17 U.S. communities and 10 countries.

According to Environmental Charter High School NFTE teacher Brandie Cobb, the course requires students to develop an original business idea. Cobb teaches marketing, mathematics, economics and other practical skills to help the young entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground.

“It teaches them critical thinking, how to problem solve,” Cobb said. “It definitely helps to solve a lot of their issues in terms of paying for college, because many of them are looking for options other than loans. Starting a business is a way to support yourself if you can’t always find a job.”

Cobb helped Sanchez and her peers develop their ideas, plan short marketing pitches and enter into entrepreneurship competitions.

“It’s really inspirational,” Sanchez said of the course. “You’re surrounded by people who have so many different ideas with different purposes for different reasons. When you work with them, you start thinking of new ideas and they kind of bounce off of each other.”

Cobb said that Sanchez immediately stood out due to her passion for sexual assault prevention and strong work ethic.

“Crystal has always been a go-getter from Day One when I brought up the project,” Cobb said. “She wanted to do something that was going to be impactful. She is very passionate about that topic.”

Sanchez plans to create a prototype for the Guardian Locket this summer with the help of her prize money from NFTE and EY. In October, she will attend the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and compete for a chance to win $25,000 in prizes and scholarships.

“All of the money that I’m winning is going to go toward my business,” she said. “It is going to help develop it so that not only will it be something we think about, but it will be out on the shelves available to all who need it.”

Sanchez hopes to continue to learn about business and entrepreneurship at UC Irvine, where she will major in business and economics. She plans to continue to develop the Guardian Locket in college, someday creating an entire jewelry line.

Sanchez’s mother, Maria Sanchez, said she is proud to see her daughter follow her calling.

“I believe everyone has a purpose in life, and I think her purpose in life is to save lives,” Maria Sanchez said. “I just know her product is going to get out there. It’s amazing.”

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[PHOTO] Crystal Sanchez, a senior at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, holds the entrepreneurship award she won for her invention of the Guardian Locket, a necklace that protects women against sexual assault.