The following was originally published by the Sun Community News.

TICONDEROGA | Eliza Strum, a senior at Ticonderoga Central School, is one of five finalists in the Vermont Pitch Challenge, a new entrepreneurial competition that gives high school students from around the world the opportunity to develop and pitch innovative and impactful business plans.

The competition is sponsored by the University of Vermont and CFES Brilliant Pathways of Essex, N.Y., a nonprofit that helps students in underserved communities become college and career ready.

Strum’s entry, EcoCharge, is a device for active people that uses their kinetic energy to charge their cell phones. EcoCharge also addresses the ecological problem created by discarded chargers.

“I take my phone with me everywhere for email, music, books — and a problem has always been battery life,” Strum said.

Since she is physically active, Strum said she got to thinking about how to tap into the energy generated by her movement when she walked to school, hiked with her parents, or walked her dog, Huckleberry. Although charging devices powered by kinetic energy are in the research stages, no commercially viable models have yet been brought to market.

Strum began to research her idea when the onsite CFES Fellow at Ticonderoga, Lindsey Holman, told her about the Vermont Pitch Challenge, which became part of a project in teacher Jay Wells’s Participation in Government and Economics class.

Donna Wotton, executive director for the Ti Alliance business and community advocacy group, helped the class develop business and marketing plans to demonstrate how and why their projects would be commercially successful. Christine Frasier, program director for the CFES GEAR UP program, helped Strum polish her entry and prepare it for final submission.

CFES president and CEO Rick Dalton said the Vermont Pitch Challenge taps into a national trend: two-thirds of America’s high school students want to own their own businesses and work for themselves.

The Pitch Challenge “is an opportunity for students to map out plans for jobs of the future,” Dalton said. CFES prepares young people for postsecondary opportunities and that requires understanding what jobs of the future might be. “Eliza’s EcoCharge idea is spot on,” said Dalton.

Another upside of entrepreneurial opportunities is that rural students like Strum may not have to leave their communities to pursue jobs. “Innovations like EcoCharge give rural students the chance to remain in their communities instead of having to strike out for urban centers in search of work. You don’t have to go to the workplace, it comes to you,” Dalton said.

Strum, who was in band class when she got the email notifying her she was one of five finalists out of more than 150 entries from around the world, said she was “pretty shocked, but excited” by the news. She will travel to Burlington, Vt., April 4 to pitch EcoCharge to a panel of judges. Other finalists hail from Pennsylvania, Florida, Vermont, and the Virgin Islands, with projects that include helping prison inmates find work after release, preventing re-injury of those with spinal cord damage, boosting kids with mental health problems through sports, and promoting agriculture in the Virgin Islands.

The grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship to the University of Vermont, and the four other finalists will receive cash prizes.