A First Ever Homecoming for Innovators in the Inland Empire

By CSI Staff |

Riverside, CA -  The Inland Empire is a fast-growing region that is teeming with innovation, and much of that innovation centers around the people who were born and raised in the region. Some of our innovators have made a name for themselves in the region, while many others have distinguished themselves in other parts of the state or across the country. 

What if we had an alumni reception for our innovators, not for any particular high school or university, but for the entire two-county region? 

This is the idea behind the first ever Inland Empire Innovation Homecoming. On Thursday, May 12 we will be welcoming back and celebrating our alumni entrepreneurs and innovators via a virtual awards event.

Although we will not be crowning a “king” and “queen” at this homecoming, we will be awarding outstanding innovators and entrepreneurs in different categories. Winners have been selected through a comprehensive nominations process, enlisting the help of institutions, alumni, and professional networks. 

We will be lifting up inspiring stories of innovation, like the work of local teenagers Zubin and Tenzing Carvalho. As students at Western Center Academy in Hemet, they saw the growing need for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the height of the pandemic. They spent thousands of hours and coordinated with 18 local schools in four school districts during the pandemic lockdown to deliver essential PPE to those that needed it most. They are also having an impact abroad. For example, they distributed 1000 safety glasses in Uganda and Rwanda to local community hospitals, STEM programs, gorilla reserves (i.e. Dian Fossey Foundation) and university hospitals like Makehere University in Uganda (grants and ppe) where their grandparents went to school. Zubin and Tenzing prove that innovation is certainly not limited by age. 

We will also be spotlighting regional alumni Shailendra Singh and Leslie Hickle for their work with FarmSense. Their company developed ‘FlightSensor,’ a digital monitoring system that alerts growers about crop pests so they can better manage the use of insecticide sprays. The company’s product combines an automated sensor with a data subscription service to provide treatment options based on artificial intelligence and predictive modeling. Historically, the Inland Empire has played an important role in the advancement of agricultural technology. Startups like FarmSense strengthen our region’s contributions to the field and solidify the IE as a leader in this space. 

But innovation isn’t just about the latest technological advancements. For example, Rakayla Simpson and Dar’rell Jones have done amazing work with students in the region, with a focus on students of color through BLU Educational Foundation. This nonprofit provides education and human services programming for youth, adults, and organizations to build healthy and productive communities. They focus on education, health, civic engagement, leadership, advocacy, and the arts. Based out of San Bernardino, much of their work centers on college access and working with high schools throughout the region. 

These are just a few highlights of the amazing innovators and entrepreneurs we will be honoring on May 12. The awards will be presented by Devorah Lieberman, President of University of La Verne, and Karthick Ramakrishnan, director of the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside. There will also be recorded comments provided by Senator Roth (California Senate District 31) and Majority Leader Reyes (California Assembly District 47).

Honorees include: Zubin Carvalho & Tenzing Carvalho, teenage students in Hemet; Shailendra Singh & Leslie Hickle, founders of FarmSense, Scott Agajanian, Murrieta Innovation Center, Corey Jackson, Sigma Beta Xi, Gabe Maldonado, TruEvolution, Erica Beal, CEO of AVIVV, Jesus “Chuy” Flores, Estolano Advisors, Suzie Gomez, Inland Empire Community Collaborative, Rakayla Simpson & Dar’rell Jones, BLU Educational Foundation, Ashley Hill, Magdalena’s Daughters, Mohammed Kuko, Pantri, and Joshua Morales, StarNav LLC.

All of the biographies and contributions of our honorees will be listed on the website of the Inland Empire Innovation Ecosystem at https://iesquared.org/ 

Please watch our virtual event as we welcome back our alumni and lift up the work of these great innovators and entrepreneurs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDNBuxb_htI

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact us. For more information and future events please visit: http://iesquared.org/