Students from Rio Rico High School brought home the $5,000 grand prize in a recent Shift Day, “Shark Tank”-type competition.
Sophomore Andrea Altamirano and junior Janelle Bastian-Estrella were part of a seven member team of native Santa Cruz County youth who won the Shift Day competition.
Shift Day, a virtual competition sponsored by the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, Tech Core and McGuire Center For Entrepreneurship was designed to encourage young people to seek out solutions for issues such as poverty, hunger, water scarcity, climate change, human rights, gender equality, and work and economic growth.
Shane Reiser, Founder For the World, the organization that planned and facilitated Shift Day said, “With the help of Eller Tech Core, we designed Shift Day to be an opportunity for students to reconnect virtually in the middle of this pandemic and focus on something positive — building and launching solutions to help our community and the world work and live more sustainably.”
However, the idea stemmed from RRHS sophomore Andrea Altamirano and NHS senior Fernanda Ruiz.
What exactly is NOGECO? Andrea recited the company’s motto, “NOGECO is a startup founded by the youth, for the youth. With all the founders being native to Nogales, Arizona, we’ve had first hand experiences with the tons upon tons of food waste that piles up in our community. We aim to give wasted food a second life, in the hopes of finding solutions to the problems surrounding our community’s waste management systems.”
The company’s solution to food waste is to convert tomatoes into organic and eco-friendly beauty products. “And that is just a start”, said Andrea, “our long-term goal is supporting the creation of a composting center, ultimately diverting more food waste, creating jobs and helping alleviate poverty.”
NOGECO was one of 15 proposals in competition, and Andrea and Janelle’s team were the only high school team out of 121 participants. The other teams were college age and beyond.
When asked what made their team stand out, founder Shane Reiser said, “It was no surprise that NOGECO took the 1st place spot. They showed up to Shift Day with a ton of energy and optimism. I’m excited that the prize money will be used to help NOGECO take their project to the next level, get some of their first products to the market and start to generate revenue — not to mention redirect valuable food that would have otherwise gone to waste in a landfill.”
The company plans to use the prize money for startup costs, and hopes to launch their website this summer.
As for Andrea’s personal goals, she said, “My long term goal is to see the change that I make in the community. Before last year I didn’t have as much pride for this beautiful place that we live in as I do now. All I knew was that we were focused mainly on the transportation of vegetables from country to country, not the impact that it had on my community or just how much of it was wasted. So I want to see NOGECO flourish, and make a change in our border town. I also want to help other students see just how amazing Nogales and Rio Rico is, because it’s changing and growing a lot nowadays, the question is, will they be here for the change? Most students want to leave here as soon as possible to start their future, and that’s okay, but I want them to have at least some pride in where they came from. The more pride our youth have, the more change we can have.”