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Campus Celebrity: Katelyn Edwards

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tampa chapter.

The University of Tampa is full of amazing, high achieving people, but Katelyn Edwards tops the list! On top of being an honors student and an editor for the campus literary journal, Neon, she is also transforming into an activist, philanthropist and entrepreneur. Her commitment to excellence and service makes her a Campus Celebrity for this week. Edwards is on a mission to make the world smile. After recently being awarded first place in the 2013 C.R.E.A.T.E. pitch competition, she is passionately spreading her message, which is that every child in the world should have the ability to smile.

 The Creating Real Entrepreneurial Action Through Education (C.R.E.A.T.E.) pitch competition is sponsored by Sykes School of Entrepreneurship. This eight-week program began in September with close to 30 pitchers, hoping to win a coveted spot in the next phase of the program. Eventually, judges narrowed down the pool to three students whose ideas would be put to the test during the eight-week intensive program. Every Friday Edwards and the two other winners would attend workshops on finance, business planning, and speech perfection in preparation for the final 15-minute pitch they would give in the beginning of November. Edwards came out on top and was awarded $1,500 to use toward the development of her idea. In addition, she won a luncheon with Sykes Entrepreneur of the Year. Okay, how cool is that?

 Edwards business idea is called Smile Brand. She envisions it as a non-profit organization that works to raise funds for cleft children in need of an education. In most countries, children with a cleft lip are not allowed to attend school and are essentially shunned from the entire community. Upon receiving this knowledge, Edwards started to think about ways to solve it.

“I was looking and I was like, are there any educational models? I found sadly, there weren’t. So that’s where I started getting this idea of what if I could start something for cleft education for the third world?” said Edwards.

The Smile Brand would work with businesses such as Louis Vuitton, Ford, and Coca Cola to develop campaigns connected to products being sold. For example, Louis Vuitton would design a “Smile Bag” and one percent of the purchases from this bag would go toward The Smile Brand. Edwards would then take the money and funnel it to previously established institutions that provide housing, medical treatments, and education specifically targeted toward children with cleft lips.

Edwards’ passion for helping cleft children started in Winter Park, Florida, when her younger brother was born two years after her with a genetically generated cleft lip. The children on the playground, which she vividly remembers, sometimes teased her brother for his cleft lip. Throughout her childhood, her family donated to the non-profit organization, Smile Train. The charity’s mission is to provide cleft children with the same opportunities as those who are born without one. Donations to the service help train doctors and medical professionals who provide free cleft surgeries for children born with cleft lips in third world countries.

Last summer, the English major was thrilled when she won the Timothy M. Smith Inspiration Through Exploration Award, which is given to a UT honors student with funds to travel. In addition to raising close to $5,000 for the Smile Train, Edwards had the rare opportunity to travel to Ghana along side a surgeon, who would be performing surgeries in a rural area of the country.

While she was overseas in Ghana, Edwards began to journal about her experiences, writing a blog for the Smile Train. Luckily, her experience as an editor for UT’s newly vamped literary journal, Neon, helped her put together a touching story about one of the cleft children she met on her trip.

When Edwards initially heard of the pitch competition from a friend only a week before the presentation date, she was nervous about entering. Being an English major, she would be one of few non-business majors to reveal their idea. She eventually found that her analytical thinking mixed with her artistic ability helped rather than hindering her.

Her adventurous spirit and giving heart are all products of what she calls a “passion” for what she does. Currently she is looking for a web designer and hopes to use her monetary earnings to build up a website. In the mean time, she is constantly thinking about changing lives. Not only lives of those in need, but lives here at UT and beyond.

“I think a smile and an education is a privilege. So often you say a passing joke or you complain about papers, but we don’t realize how amazing we have it. Some people are just not blessed with that. So, rather than having pity parties and feel guilty about what we do have, change what others don’t have. We have the ability to give what we do have, and I think that is something truly powerful,” said Edwards.

When she isn’t actively changing the world, you can find Edwards running or working. In all that she does, she wears a smile plastered on her face everyday. She is truly a unique soul who is gracious, empathetic, and driven. Now THAT is sufficient enough to earn UT celebrity status! Watch out UT, Katelyn Edwards is making moves in this world! 

Daina is a junior at the University of Tampa pursuing a degree in Journalism. Daina has loved writing from a the time she was a little girl. She is happy to have traded in the cold winters of her native state of Minnesota for the sunny beaches of the Tampa Bay area. When she is not hitting the pavement in search of her next story for class, Her Campus, or UT's newspaper, The Minaret, she has another set of interests. Chances are you will find Daina spending time with her family. Or she will be in the studio performing sun salutations, as she is a newly initiated yoga addict. Like most college students her age, Daina is engaged in the social media world, her favorite platforms are Pinterest and Tumblr. In the future, Daina aspires to be the Editor-In-Chief of a women's health magazine.