Amy Helman-Darley (right) along with MJCCA teens David Hoffman, Jacqueline Weiss, Katie Goldstein, Ted Grant, Sam Grant and Ross Brill on a service trip to New Orleans. Photo by MJCCA

Amy Helman-Darley, Teen Community Outreach Director at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) in Dunwoody, has won the JCC Shark Tank, a national competition for innovation in Jewish teen engagement. Helman-Darley will receive a $1500 micro-grant of start-up funding to incubate her idea.

The contest, styled on the ABC business-themed reality show, was held during the JCC Association’s Biennial in San Diego in May.

Through the MJCCA’s Teen Community Service program, Helman-Darley led a trip to New Orleans in April, based on social justice and community service. Five teens were selected to participate and they attended pre-trip learning sessions to be educated on different social issues. While in New Orleans, the teens had a packed itinerary. Some of the highlights of the trip included volunteering at Sustain the Nine where teens helped to build a house in the Lower 9th Ward and two visits to NOLA Grassroots where teens planted and harvested in an urban garden. The teens were educated on the history of New Orleans and had a great time giving back.

Helman-Darley’s project was selected because of the creativity of her concept, the impact for the local community, the possibility of replication in other communities, and her presentation style and pitch.

“We are thrilled that Amy’swas selected as a project to incubate, as Amyimpressed our panel of judges with her project idea and pitch. Her idea will be a game changer for the engagement of Jewish youth and teens,” said Jodi Sperling, Director of Camping and The Merrin Center for Teen Engagement of JCC Association, in a press release.

Helman-Darley said, “I was so excited to win the Shark Tank competition. I plan to expand the service trip next year to engage more teens and collaborate with other JCC’s to plan a trip together. Teaching teens the significance of Tikkun Olam is very important and I am lucky I get to do this through the MJCCA Teen Community Service program. “

The Shark Tank was part of the concluding seminar for the 18-month Merrin Fellowship, a selective continental training program that helps JCC professionals working directly with teens develop their own leadership and management skills, enrich their Jewish literacy and that of their participants, and network and collaborate with teen professionals from JCCs and JCC camps across North America. The curriculum of the fellowship was recently enhanced to include an emphasis on social entrepreneurship through a partnership with PresenTense, to foster innovative approaches to community-building and engagement.

The JCCA Merrin Fellowship is a wonderful leadership opportunity. It has allowed for professional growth and development and gives you a network of resources, ideas, and colleagues. There have been many participants in the Merrin Fellowship over the years from the MJCCA and we are so lucky that Amy was a participant in the 8th cohort,” said Laura Ross, MJCCA Teen Department Director.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.