Poster competition win “sparks” Elssa Kenfack to action

By Megan Bradshaw on November 20, 2017

Senior is developing a non-profit connecting under-resourced youth to community service trips

Elssa Kenfack, pictured in the Center for Student Diversity, where she is a SAGE mentor.
Elssa Kenfack, pictured in the Center for Student Diversity, where she is a SAGE mentor.

When you talk to Towson University senior Elssa Kenfack, the word “spark” comes up a lot.

You see it first in conversation with her. She seems to be in constant motion, driven by her passion for her subject.

Elssa Kenfack with her poster
Elssa Kenfack with her award-winning poster

It comes up again when she talks about her award-winning entry in the College of Business & Economics’ Big Idea Poster Competition—a requirement for her Creativity and Idea Development class. Kenfack calls it the spark she needed to realize her direction. 

“I’ve always had a vision of doing something more, but I didn’t know what it was.”

She was originally reluctant to enter the competition, hesitating to propose a non-profit idea in a “saturated” market. Her background in and love of community service required a concept with staying power. 

Kenfack ‘18 attended the TU Incubator's Women and Minorities in Business Conference on campus and fell into conversation with Brittany Young, a chemical engineer from West Baltimore who turned her own love of STEM into B-360—an organization that teaches science and math through the medium of dirt bikes, a common sight in Baltimore City. 

She spoke of her desire to help “disadvantaged” youth to Young, who demanded to know why Kenfack thought youth with fewer resources should be treated as disadvantaged and encouraged Kenfack to draw from her own background when developing her business idea.

From that conversation emerged “Spark: Igniting Minds and Unlocking Potential,” based on Kenfack’s experiences with community service travel growing up.

“We didn’t have much, but I was really big on service in middle and high school,” she said. “I was always doing something. Mom was like, ‘Elssa, sit down!’ I’d be in organizations giving back and donating food, and one time I came home, and I realized my siblings were receiving those packages. We needed that help, but I gained so much more from giving than I ever did from receiving.” 

A lot of times under-resourced youth have a mindset that their zip code is their destiny. I really want to negate that. Where you are isn’t necessarily your outcome. ”

Elssa Kenfack 

She also participated in service trips throughout her childhood, traversing the south and even traveling to the Bahamas to help others. In Georgia, she worked at an animal shelter called Noah’s Ark and stayed in a homeless shelter for women and children where she planned activities and organized donations. She helped rebuild homes in North Carolina and Louisiana after hurricanes, and during her trip to the Bahamas, she worked in children’s hospitals, shelters, senior citizens’ homes, and cleaned up beach litter.

Her project Spark will be a non-profit that helps under-resourced youth go on service trips to build relationships with one another and see parallels between where they live and areas around the country and world. 

“A lot of times under-resourced youth have a mindset that their zip code is their destiny,” Kenfack said. “I really want to negate that. Where you are isn’t necessarily your outcome.”

The word spark comes up one last time when she talks about the parallels between her entrepreneurial efforts in the Student Launchpad and her work as a Students Achieve Goals through Education (SAGE) mentor. She was a SAGE mentee as a freshman and has served as a mentor and mentor facilitator the past three years. 

“I really get to know people, see where their strengths are and spark something bigger. It’s all about finding that passion that moves you and finding that unique quality about you and your brand and rolling with that.”

Elssa’s profile is the second in a series featuring three Towson University student entrepreneurs in recognition of National Entrepreneurship Week.