2021 DezMax Scholarship Winners Address Global Warming, Covid-19 Vaccination & Bronx Community Organizing

2/10/2021 Unknown 0 Comments

Congratulations to this year's DezMax Scholarship winners, Paul Bernabe BIC '21, Emma Rayner BIC '22, and Natalie Figueroa BIC '22. Each submission fulfilled the award's criteria which asks BICsters to develop a communications project that champions a cause with persuasion, passion, and charisma. 

Winner: Paul Bernabe, BIC Class of 2021

For his winning submission, Paul tackled climate change, citing deforestation as one of the leading contributors to global warming. To make a difference, his proposal would support non-profit Rainforest Trust which partners with local organizations around the world to purchase and preserve threatened tropical forests. 

Paul has long enjoyed playing video games; however, his big gripe is that all that time spent in the virtual world doesn’t make much of an impact on the real world. His light bulb moment: What if he could develop a game that actually added value to his life or helped the real world? ​That would be something worth playing. So for his DezMax submission, Paul created a mobile game called "Earth Defenders." Set up like a tower defense game, enemies walk along a path while the player builds towers to eliminate any threats that come along. By partnering with charitable corporations and individuals, the game would reward Rainforest Trust with a small donation every time players complete levels. Players can also give support by buying upgrades within the app or watching an ad to generate revenue for Rainforest Trust. 

His proposal for the DezMax scholarship included market research, a business proposal, mock-up of the mobile game as well as an integrated communications campaign to promote Earth Defenders and champion the cause. 

Paul first started thinking about Earth Defenders in last semester’s Multi-Media class taught by Professor Ricard Valero. "I’m proud of what I’ve made with Earth Defenders. I’ve come out of this project more passionate and knowledgeable about tackling the climate challenges we face today and in the future." 

Runner Up: Emma Rayner, BIC Class of 2022

Utilizing some preliminary research on vaccination skepticism that she did in Professor Michael Doody's Strategy course, Emma developed a communications campaign that encouraged communities to roll up their sleeves to fight Covid-19.  Her research indicated that the most effective way to encourage people to get vaccinated is to emphasize the benefits of being a protector of others. This led Emma to leverage community involvement by highlighting local heroes or “neighborhood protectors” who are already trusted within the community. In her communications campaign "Protect to Reconnect," local heroes and everyday Americans share their more selfless reasons to get vaccinated on Instagram and owned media with the aim of encouraging their neighbors to do the same. 

"The idea is ultimately to turn every vaccinated American into a ‘local hero’ who protects other Americans in the final battle against COVID-19."

Merit: Natalie Figueroa, BIC Class of 2022

As a Bronx Latina, Natalie's lifelong mission is to help people in hardship situations find meaningful connections that launch them towards life-changing opportunities. In her proposal for "Bronx CXN," Natalie would build an organization for Bronx people by Bronx people that is entirely dedicated to providing career-preparation and network-building workshops and events. This organization would be a building block in creating a more positive image for the borough and to debunk some of the negative connotations often associated with the Bronx. 

Natalie said, "My ultimate wish is for the Bronx to become someplace others go to instead of moving away from to find success."

ABOUT the Desmond Maxwell (DezMax) Cause + Charisma Scholarship. As a student in BIC's inaugural Class of 2015, Desmond Maxwell was a successful media consultant, boastful undergraduate of City College, and proud member of the US Marine Corps, having served with distinction. He often said with great pride that he was “born and buttered in Harlem.” Dez was not just a charismatic man, but a generously supportive and inspiring classmate who championed causes that were close to his heart. Sadly, Dez died a few months before graduation. However, through the generosity of classmates, BIC Board Members, and friends (with a special shout out to GroupM), BIC was able to set up the DezMax Scholarship in his honor. Each year, BIC students compete for $4,000 in scholarship money with proposals that best demonstrate a communications-based solution to a societal problem.

Interested in donating to the DezMax Scholarship fund? Ask bic@ccny.cuny.edu how...