"All Across America, college and university students are helping our country out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," President Obama said last fall as the White House launched the Campus Champions of Change Challenge to spotlight the efforts of involved students. In February, finalists in the nationwide competition were selected, and Matt Norris (’14) was among those who got a call from the White House.
Matt's entry was the nonprofit teen organization, A-List, that he co-founded with Asha Sharma. The two were University students in 2008 when they entered an Ernst & Young competition with a business plan for a snack and apparel shop run by and for teens. Their win provided a $10,000 seed grant. Soon foundations, businesses, and individual supporters stepped up, and the City of Brooklyn Park, Minn., provided funding toward a facility. A-List opened its doors in April 2011.
In addition to selling snacks and T-shirts, A-List provides a place for teens to socialize and learn. Volunteers offer afterschool tutoring, mentoring, skill-building, and other professional and personal development activities. Norris and Sharma dream of establishing a network of A-List shops to serve youth nationwide.
Although A-List was not among the top five e-vote getters, who were offered an opportunity to host an episode of mtvU's "The Dean’s List," Norris and Sharma were invited to the White House for a March 15 event. The President shared an inspiring message at event, and Norris and Sharma had a chance to meet him.
"It was also exciting to meet with the other finalists and learn about the work they’re doing in their communities," Norris said. "We're hopeful this entire process will help bring more awareness and support for The A-list. It certainly is an honor that recognizes the work of everyone who has played a role in making The A-list what it is today."