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10/04

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Rio Grand Valley Students Named Finalists in Innovative Entrepreneurship Program

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 1, 2010 – Local students Ariana Mata,Michael Suarez, Sarai Maldonadoand Sean Ramirezhave been named finalists in BizFest, an innovative entrepreneurship program that teaches Hispanic high school juniors and seniors to turn hobbies into profitable business ventures. BizFest is sponsored by Sam’s Club® and The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC).

The Rio Grand Valley finalists competed against other regional finalists for college scholarships during the USHCC National Convention and Business Expo, Sept. 24 and 25 in Dallas. The BizFest curriculum focuses on leadership development and entrepreneurship training. As part of this training, the students developed a viable business idea and business plan that was presented to a panel of judges.

Ariana Mata, a senior at Economedes High School, developed a business plan for a local animal shelter because this service is critically lacking in her community. The Second Chance Animal Center is a humane alternative to other traditional shelters.

Michael Suarez, a junior at Juarez Lincoln High School, was a runner up at this local BizFest, but became a finalist when another student could not attend convention. His business plan for a recycling center in McAllen, Texas received very high points from judges.

Sarai Maldonado, a senior at the Business, Education & Technology Academy, developed a business plan called Hop-A-Ride. Located in San Antonio, Texas this surrey business would provide a unique sightseeing alternative for tourists.

Sean Ramirez, a senior at McAllen Memorial High School, is also an avid musician. His business Treble Sounds provides affordable music lessons to students between the ages of 5-11. His focus is on string instruments.

Eleven students – from Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles and the Rio Grande Valley – competed, with the top three students winning scholarships of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000. All three winners came from the Rio Grande Valley. Sarai Maldonado placed first for Hop-A-Ride, a business in San Antonio that would provide surrey rides for tourists. Ariana Mata placed second for her no-kill animal shelter idea, Second Chance Animal Shelter in McAllen, Texas. Third place went to Sean Ramirez for Treble Sounds, a business that provided affordable music lessons to elementary school students.

“Education focused on entrepreneurship provides students with crucial, ‘real-world’ skills that bolster success of their start-up businesses. For many of our youth, this will be a career path out of necessity, and it’s important that they are equipped with the skills to be successful. We are pleased to be part of an initiative that empowers our youth with knowledge and insight to start their own businesses,” said Catherine Corley, Sam’s Club Vice President, Member Program Development.

“Thanks to the generous support of Sam's Club, the USHCC Foundation is able to provide this unique program to the future Latino entrepreneurs of our country,” said Javier Palomarez, USHCC president and CEO. “I am particularly proud that all three winners this year come from my hometown in Texas."

About Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club is a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., (NYSE:WMT). The first Sam’s Club opened its doors in Midwest City, Okla., in 1983. Today, Sam’s Club serves more than 47 million U.S. Members with locations nationwide, as well in Brazil, China, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Sam’s Club saves its members on average 30.4 percent over grocery and specialty retailers by offering superior values on quality merchandise and services for home or work. Saving is made simple at Sam’s Club. Visit samsclub.com for more information. 

About the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Founded in 1979, the USHCC actively promotes the economic growth and development of Hispanic entrepreneurs and represents the interests of nearly 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States that generate nearly $400 billion annually. It also serves as the umbrella organization for more than 200 local Hispanic chambers in the United States and Puerto Rico.