Social Entrepreneurs Focused on Education Land $100K in United Way’s OneUp the Pitch

ScholarShot and Education Opens Doors came away with the top awards in the second annual Shark Tank-style event from the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas' GroundFloor accelerator program.


Surrounded by first-generation college graduates that went through the ScholarShot program, Dan Hooper impressed the judges to take home the $75,000 Social Innovator of the Year award at OneUp the Pitch Thursday night.

ScholarShot pairs at-risk students with academic managers who act as degree planners, personal counselors, and advocates to give them the support they may not be getting at home. The program will be adding two more academic managers with the prize money.

“The students are all just awesome. These are all first-generation college graduates,” said Hooper, the executive director of ScholarShot. “[The funding] doubles our capacity to 200 kids so we’ll have 100 more kids on the stage next year. Every major metropolitan city should have this program, but they don’t.”


ScholarShot Executive Director Dan Hooper makes his award-winning presentation during OneUp the Pitch Thursday.


The second annual United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ OneUp the Pitch competition drew 1,000 people to The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum Thursday. The Shark Tank-style event featured five judges who listened to pitches from five fellows in the United Way’s GroundFloor accelerator program for early-stage social ventures.

“ScholarShot is the capstone, the final yard to help them exit poverty and reach their potential.”

Dan Hooper

The judges were: Amber Venz Box, president and co-founder of rewardStyle; David Brown, retired Dallas police chief; Jack Furst, founder and CEO of Oak Stream Investors; Ken Hersh, president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center; and Todd Wagner, founder and CEO of Charity Network and CEO of 2929 Entertainment.

In his pitch, Hooper said 9 out of 10 at-risk students dropout of college because the system doesn’t properly prepare them for the transition.

“There’s a very costly blindspot in our education system,” Hooper said. “They’re thrown off a cliff we call college and end up with debt, funds they can’t repay and their grants are frozen. We’ve blocked them from their potential.”

ScholarShot holds students accountable to make sure they graduate from college.

“ScholarShot is the capstone, the final yard to help them exit poverty and reach their potential,” Hooper said.


Another social entrepreneur, Education Opens Doors, took home $25,000 for winning the live audience vote, based on the crowd weigh in on their mobile devices. The audience gave Education Opens Doors 30 percent of the vote.

“It’s the millions of students we haven’t met that inspire us to scale.” 

Jayda Batchelder

Jayda Batchelder, an eighth-grade science teacher, started Education Opens Doors to help middle and high school students get better college and career guidance. She was inspired by one of her students who wanted to be a scientist and had a “million questions” for her about his education. Now, that student is attending the University of Texas at Austin, the first in his family to do so.

“There’s one counselor for every 449 students and they get about 38 minutes of college guidance,” Batchelder said. “Imagine being a first generation college student. That’s too little information and it’s coming too late.”

Education Opens Doors sells curriculum that teachers can use in their classroom to help students build a roadmap for their career. The $25,000 prize will help digitize the content so it can be used in more schools, Batchelder said.

“We’re getting more demand from schools than we can meet,” she said. “They shift their mindset, they see the potential, and they see the outcomes. It’s the millions of students we haven’t met that inspire us to scale.”


Jayda Batchelder, founder of Education Opens Doors, makes her pitch. She went home with $25,000 for the audience participation award.


The OneUp the Pitch competition started last year to help social innovators showcase the positive things they are doing and to compete for prize money. The program was so successful that it garnered the attention of Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, who funded the $100,000 award this year and have committed to funding it for 2019 and 2020.

Also competing were CEO (Center for Employment Opportunities), which helps individuals transition back to the workforce after serving time in jail, First3Years, which seeks to revolutionize the foster care system for babies and toddlers, and Youth with Faces, which helps children in the juvenile justice system get their life back on track.

OneUp the Pitch also provided an update on last year’s winner, Akola, a nonprofit jewelry company that hires women who live in poverty in Dallas and around the world.

“We’re giving more women across the globe an opportunity to work at a living wage,” said founder and CEO Brittany Underwood in a video at the event.


Photos by Merissa De Falcis.


Dahna Hull, vice president of AT&T University, was the master of ceremonies for the night.


Hull points to the crowd of about 1,000 people at the OneUp the Pitch event.


The crowd of about 1,000 people watches the pitches at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum.


Sadie Funk, founder of First3Years, talks about the effects abuse and neglect have on babies.


Funk answers questions from the judges about First3Years.


Ryan Suchala of YPO Lone Star speaks during OneUp the Pitch.

Suchala at OneUp the Pitch.


Jayda Batchelder, founder of Education Opens Doors, makes her pitch. She went home with $25,000 for the audience participation award.


Brent Christopher of YPO Gold Dallas speaks during OneUp the Pitch.


Dan Hooper from ScholarShot talks about his plan to get more at-risk students to finish college.


The crowd listens to the pitches at The Bomb Factory.


Christopher Quadri, founder of Youth With Faces, talks about his program to get teenagers who are in juvenile detention catering jobs to break the cycle of imprisonment.


Quadri spent time in jail when he was younger and wants to help others in that situation.


Quadri explains how Youth With Faces has helped get troubled teenagers on the right path.


The audience votes on who they think should get the $25,000 prize.


Hull (eighth from left) explains how the audience voting works while the judges hold on to the $25,000 check.


Batch elder (fifth from left) accepts the $25,000 prize for Education Opens Doors. She won the audience participation award.


Dan Hooper (far right) walks out to accept his $75,000 Social Innovator of the Year award at OneUp the Pitch.


Hooper celebrates with his first-generation graduates and OneUp judges.

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