Local high school students are invited to enter the Carolina Eco-Innovators Scholarship Competition sponsored by Bank of America!

Carolina Eco-Innovators is a “Shark Tank” style competition for local high school students who have ideas to tackle environmental problems facing our region.

How does it work?

Phase 1: Idea Submission

Participating nonprofit partners (Catawba Riverkeeper FoundationSustain CharlotteAnne Springs Close GreenwayCarolina Raptor CenterTrees Charlotte) pose local environmental challenges. Competitors choose one of the challenges and propose a solution. If chosen as finalists, competitors will be paired with a mentor from the nonprofit that posed the challenge they are solving.

Students submit a written plan (no more than two pages) and a video presentation (no longer than 2 minutes) to supplement their written plan. Submissions may be research-based, involve coding and database creation, revolve around a built solution, or a be a public awareness campaign to make a concern or issue more relatable and relevant; the possibilities are endless.

Submissions accepted September 7 – January 31.

Phase 2: Evaluation & Selection

Catawba Riverkeeper staff and Bank of America representatives will review all submissions and sort entries by category. Each participating non-profit will be given the proposed solutions to their challenges and will select a single finalist for their issue.

Submissions evaluated January 31-February 10. Competitors will find out if they are finalists by February 11.

Phase 3: Coaching

Finalists will be coached by mentor at the nonprofit that corresponds with their chosen challenge/solution.

Coaching starts February 11 and runs until the competition on March 24. Competitors and mentors will set coaching schedules together.

Phase 4: The Stage

Finalists will present their ideas in an on-stage event. Presentation pitches (no more than 5 minutes) will be scored by the competition judges. The top 3 finalists will earn scholarship money for college. An audience favorite will win $500 in scholarship money.

Finalists take the stage on March 24 (evening). Location and details TBA.

Scholarship Awards

The winner of the competition receives a $4,000 scholarship, the first runner-up receives a $2,000 scholarship, the second runner-up receives a $1,000 scholarship, and the audience vote winner will receive a $500 scholarship, which can be any finalist. Each finalist is also invited to intern with their non-profit the summer after their first year of college.


Judges consist of a board member from each non-profit organization and two representatives from Bank of America, our presenting sponsor. The finalists are judged on creativity of solution, viability of the solution, and presentation.


Local high school students that are residents from the following counties are eligible to compete.

North Carolina: Alexander, Catawba, Lincoln, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Rowan, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Union, Stanly.

South Carolina: York, Lancaster, Chester


  • September 7 – Submission portal opens at catawbariverkeeper.org
  • January 31 – Submissions close and judging of semi-finalists begins
  • January 31-February 10 – Semi-finalists are notified of submission status. At this point, each of the seven non-profit organizations will deliberate on their semi-finalists and choose a finalist to send to the stage.
  • February 11 – Seven finalists are chosen and notified. Coaching and mentoring by non-profits begins.
  • March 24 – Final Event

2020 Recap

2020 was the inaugural year for the Carolina Eco-Innovators Competition (then called CLT Future and sponsored by Catawba Research) and was a great success despite the challenges that COVID-19 threw at us. Applications exceeded expectations and the top six competed in the finals.

2020 CLT Future Final Event

2020 Winners:

  • 1st: Harrison Kendall (Grade 12), Collaborative College for Technology and Leadership
  • 2nd: Lauren Rydel (Grade 11), Charlotte Country Day School
  • 3rd: Shivanjali Bhasin (Grade 11), Providence Day School
Left to right: Harrison, Lauren, Shivanjali