6 Accelerate presenters accepted for SEA Change NEO Signature Cohort

CLEVELAND (March 8, 2024) – Six ideas pitched at the Cleveland Leadership Center’s 10th annual Accelerate: Citizens Make Change civic pitch competition on February 22, 2024, are among the 12 initiatives participating in the SEA Change 2024 Northeast Ohio Signature Cohort for social entrepreneurs.

More than 750 people were involved in Accelerate 2024, which brought to light 26 initiatives pitched by a diverse group of individuals from across northeast Ohio at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. See details here.

Three of this year’s SEA Change participants were finalists at Accelerate, which is presented by the Leadership Center in partnership with Citizens and more than 100 other corporate, foundation, and individual supporters:

  • Johnathan Jamison and Heavenly Aguilar, who pitched an idea of “Reel People, Real Legacies” to gather unique stories for communities that are unheard or overlooked and share and archive the stories. “Without Reel People, Real Legacies, our stories will continue to die generation after generation,” Aguilar said. Their pitch was in the Arts & Culture category presented in partnership with Oswald Companies and Westfield.
  • Ariana Smith, who pitched “M.H.M. Youth Summit” to empower students by addressing their mental health concerns. “The sustainability of our community depends on the mental health of our community,” she said, adding that she hopes to launch the summit this fall. The pitch was in the Health & Well-being category presented in partnership with MAGNET: The Manufacturing and Advocacy Growth Network and The MetroHealth System.
  • Paula Coggins, whose pitch, “Sew City Quilts,” is about creating an indoor quilt trail that will bring hope to the Lee-Harvard neighborhood. “I believe in the potential of our collaborative minds to pull us up from our bootstraps,” she said of the project, which will foster artistic expression and community building. The pitch was in the Thriving Neighborhoods category presented in partnership with Growth Opps.

In addition, 3 other pitches from among the 26 that were accepted for Accelerate are part of SEA Change 2024 NEO:

  • Tricia Chaves, who pitched “Restauratour” to increase accessibility to the culinary arts and boost business at local restaurants. She envisions a digital tourism guide with featured dining destinations, social media content, pop-up events like tastings and tours, easy-to-follow chef tutorials, and cooking demonstrations. Her pitch was in the Arts & Culture category.
  • Veranda Rodgers, who pitched “Bloom” to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum Black women. Rodgers wants to ensure that families receive needed support during these vulnerable periods of life. Her pitch was in the Health & Well-being category.
  • Davida Pantuso, whose pitch, “Fit After Pink” would provide a fitness community designed for and by breast cancer survivors. Pantuso’s pitch was accepted for Accelerate, but she was unable to make her presentation at the event.

SEA Change helps entrepreneurs develop a sustainable business model, solidify meaningful social impact, and access tools to successfully launch their venture through a series of workshops and meeting with mentors. The SEA Change 2024 NEO accelerator runs from March 4 to June 17. Those interested in mentoring can apply here.

Last year, five Accelerate 2023 finalists participated in the SEA Change 2023 NEO Signature Cohort. Three of them won cash and in-kind support:

  • SoundBender Institute, which teaches DJ skills to provide youth self-esteem, took home the top SEA Change prize of $29,280.
  • Seeking Supervision was awarded $8,000 plus the $2,000 crowd favorite prize and a graphic design package for its work to address mental health issues in the Black community by helping professionals gain licensure.
  • Clean and Beautiful Cleveland received $2,500 and a graphic design package in their work to plant trees and flowers and beautify streetscapes.


Media contacts

SEA Change: Brian Kuric, Director of Storytelling & Marketing, O: 614-515-0919, bkuric@seachng.org

CLC: Michael E. Bennett, VP of External Affairs, C: (216) 408-3874, O: (216) 592-2426, mbennett@cleveleads.org