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Campers honor Emanuel AME Church shooting victim, Tywanza Sanders, through entrepreneurship

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Four years after his death, the entrepreneurial spirit of Tywanza Sanders lives on.

Several youths cultivated their business skills at Camp Wanza, a summer initiative in honor of the youngest victim of the 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting.

Sanders, who was 26 when he was killed alongside eight others inside the house of worship, is hailed by loved ones for his passion for business. As a child, he started a lemonade stand outside a beauty salon operated by his mother, Felicia Sanders, who is a survivor of the tragedy.

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Bobby Teachey, a project manager with Brownstone Construction Group, gives feed back to Crevon Brown after his presentation at Camp Wanza Friday, July 19, 2019 in North Charleston. Students delivered entrepreneurial business ideas to a panel of professionals during the camp that is held in honor of Tywanza Sanders who died at Emanuel AME Church in 2015. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

At a young age, Tywanza's parents instilled in him the importance of hard work. He juggled several jobs and also wrote poetry.

“He was not afraid to try things," said Shirrene Goss, Sanders' older sister. “He was very passionate about what he did."

Goss also serves as president of the Tywanza Sanders Legacy Foundation, which collaborated with YEScarolina to host the inaugural camp at North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary School.

The idea spawned from the fact that Sanders would host makeshift summer camps at his parents' house where he'd teach his cousins lessons in math and reading, encouraged outdoor sports activities and taught piano lessons.

The goal of Camp Wanza was to draw from Sanders' legacy by empowering and educating young people.

Over the past two weeks, 11 students, most of whom were related to Sanders, honored the young businessman by reflecting on Sanders' warm personality and covering several business-related topics, including reading income statements, marketing to target audiences and strengthening communication skills.

On Friday, campers pitched business plans before a panel of professionals as Tywanza's parents, Tyrone and Felicia Sanders, smiled and applauded from the front row. First, second and third place winners were awarded seed money that they could use to fund their plans or pay for school. 

The students made significant impressions on the judges and some received invitations to business openings and money for classes.

Aniyah Legare, 11, was invited to attend a business conference after presenting her plan for a company that offers organic soaps, deodorant and bug spray. A cousin of Sanders, Legare's grandfather was a carpenter.

"It's in our DNA to build things," Legare said.

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Crevon Brown, delivers his business pitch for his company he created, Brown's Caring Construction, as he participates in Camp Wanza Friday, July 19, 2019 in North Charleston. The entrepreneurial camp was held in honor of Brown's cousin, Tywanza Sanders who died at Emanuel AME Church in 2015. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Crevan Brown, also a cousin of Sanders, pitched an idea for a company that provides safety devices for construction workers. The concept came after Brown learned of the high number of construction-related deaths.

"I just got to do something," he said.

The camp will culminate with a celebration Saturday at Second Presbyterian Church where scholarships will be awarded.

Since 2017, the foundation has awarded $23,000 in scholarships. Foundation leaders hope to host the camp annually.

Camp Wanza is one of several camps offered by YEScarolina. The nonprofit hosts a handful of summer programs around the tri-county region, helping children develop social skills.

Schools and agencies have tried to increase their focus on teaching students technical and manufacturing skills as the region has welcomed several large manufacturer companies over the past few years.

But entrepreneurial skills will be essential to the future of the economy of the tri-county area, said YEScarolina Executive Director Tracy Bradshaw.

“Having a Boeing is excellent," she said. "But the backbone of a healthy economy is small business.”

Follow Rickey Dennis on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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