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ELI winning team The Casers - Safe Cell

ELI winning team The Casers – Safe Cell

Four graduates of The Center for Rural Development’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI) have earned college scholarship offers from Eastern Kentucky University for an innovative new market product that will help keep cell phones germ free.

High school students Breece Hayes II, Shawna Holbrook, William “Mason” Miller, and Hunter Davis, members of the winning team The Casers – Safe Cell, pitched a business idea for an antimicrobial cell phone case that repels germs at this year’s ELI Business Concept Challenge competition.

The prototype, produced through 3D printing, was the top business concept presented at the competition and earned each of the winning team members an exclusive EKU scholarship offer valued at $14,000 over a four-year period.

Breece is a junior at Casey County High School. Shawna attends Allen Central High School in Floyd County. Mason will be a junior this fall at Harlan Independent School. Hunter is a sophomore at Wayne County High School.

The winning team was announced at ELI’s graduation program on Friday, July 10, at The Center. Twenty high school students from 16 Southern and Eastern Kentucky counties graduated from the 2015 ELI program.

Other ELI business teams
KCJT College Clique — a service business that provides colleges and universities with a social network for incoming freshmen. Team members Jacob Deaton, Laurel County;  Corbin Kirksey, Wayne County; Tateton “Tate” Asher, Leslie County; and Kaley Miller, Clay County.

Tying Knots of Love — a non-profit organization teaching patients at nursing homes and hospitals in the region how to make no-sew blankets. Team members Emily Bolinger, Knox County; Emily Parsons, Magoffin County; and Mallory Thompson, Monroe County. — a specialized, all-inclusive tourism and vacation planning service company for Southeastern Kentucky. Team members Nathan Fielder, Jessamine County; Thomas Burdette, Rockcastle County; Micah Wooldridge, Clayton Dalton, and Colby Thacker, Pulaski County.

Imagination Incorporated-iBox — a business focused on creating safe products for child enjoyment. Team members Zoe Vaughn, Green County; Cole Moore, Whitley County; Cody Evans, Knox County; and Shawn Nickell, Morgan County.

The UK College of Agriculture E-Discovery Program has agreed to provide $300 to each ELI team for further development of their business ideas.

ELI logo

About ELI
ELI, a one-week summer youth leadership program, is open to high school students within The Center’s 45-county primary service area in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.

ELI was presented in partnership with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Eastern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Community and Leadership Development Department), and the Kentucky Innovation Network.

Ann DeSpain and Melony Denham, co-developers and co-teachers of E-Discovery Challenges You! program, delivered the curriculum for this summer’s program.

For more information about ELI, call Delaney Stephens at 606-677-6000, email or visit

ELI Flickr gallery
Click here to view photographs from ELI’s graduation program and individual photos of each graduate.