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10/04

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Denver Students Named Finalists in Innovative Entrepreneurship Program

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 1, 2010 – Local students Brianna Apodaca, Jose MadridandJackie Meraz have 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 Denver 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.

Brianna Apodaca is a senior at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver. Her business plan involved the creation of a workforce development company that would teach improved customer service skills to employees in the hospitality industry.

Jose Madrid just began his freshman year at Georgetown University. His business Energized! is an eco-friendly gym that recycles green energy and provides educational opportunities to low income children through mentorship programs, after school tutoring, and free access to

gym facilities.

Jackie Meraz is also a recent graduate of Arrupe Jesuit High School. Her business is a non-profit organization designed to help victims of domestic violence develop workforce skills through a work-study program. Jackie is currently attending Regis University.

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.