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Engineering first-year Harrison Chong won Bronze at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards for his company, Jalan Journey (Photo courtesy of Harrison Chong).

Jalan Journey, an ed-tech startup founded by Engineering first-year Harrison Chong, recently won a Bronze award at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards in Singapore.

The Singapore National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards — which started in 2017 — take place annually to reach and celebrate the achievements of budding entrepreneurs on a national level. Organized by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, the awards are given to youth who have displayed entrepreneurial qualities and contributed the Singapore startup ecosystem. Chong represented Penn in the award’s Open Category, competing against top student entrepreneurs from Singapore.

Chong's startup conducts virtual educational programs and collaborates with charities and subject matter experts. They use storytelling and technology to build themed virtual worlds for students to learn about social impact and values through gamified experiences. As students learn more about topics such as homelessness, sustainability, and other social issues, Jalan Journey connects them to real-world opportunities to volunteer and make a social impact.

Chief Executive Officer of Action Community for Entrepreneurship Patrick Lim congratulated Chong for his achievements in an email sent to him and his team.

“As a social enterprise providing gamified programs with a social [and] environmental agenda, Jalan Journey also plays an important role to educate and urge students to make an impact on their community,” Lim wrote. “Kudos to Harrison and Jalan Journey for being a changemaker for our youths.”

Jalan Journey boasts a 92.4% student engagement rate and 70.4% follow-up volunteer rate, based on the internal post-program assessments of their participants. They have impacted over 1,500 students by working with over ten schools and three charities in Singapore, and are currently expanding into three other countries, including the United States. They plan to expand into five more by the end of 2024, Chong told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

“I am extremely humbled to receive the NYEA 2023 Bronze Award,” Chong said. “Pursuing Jalan Journey while being a student has definitely not been an easy task, but the meaningful work we do reminds me it is worth it.”

Chong credited the recent accomplishment to his team and partners.

“This award isn’t truly mine; it belongs to the Jalan Journey team who work alongside me,” Chong said. “It also goes out to our partners and supporters, whose unwavering belief and support have guided us along the right path thus far.”

Jalan Journey was selected from hundreds of applications as one of eight category finalists to pitch live at the competition held on Nov. 2 at the ACE Ideation Centre in Singapore. The top three winners of each category were later announced at the NYEA Awards Ceremony that was held on Nov. 22. Chong’s co-founder and co-CEO, Sricharan Bala, attended the event in person in Singapore and represented their team in receiving the award directly from Singapore’s Minister of State, Alvin Tan. 

Dr. Rodolfo Altamirano, the Executive Director of International Student and Scholar Services at Penn, served as Chong’s endorser for the competition by penning the needed recommendation letter for his application.

“Harrison's initiative to integrate gamified entrepreneurial workshops into school curricula reflects a forward-thinking approach,” Altamirano said. “Such endeavors contribute significantly to nurturing a generation of entrepreneurs who are not only business-savvy but also socially conscious.”

Altamirano, who first met Chong at Penn’s inaugural Penn Global Mosaic pre-orientation program earlier this year, said that he resonated with Chong and Jalan Journey’s mission of social impact and that Chong’s “entrepreneurial spirit, charismatic personality, exceptional networking skills, and passion for creating meaningful connections” made him stand out during their initial interactions.

“To Harrison and fellow international students aspiring to represent Penn in global competitions, I wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue your dreams with unwavering determination,” Altamirano said. “If the desire resonates deeply within your heart, take the leap and make it a reality. I firmly believe that at Penn, the realm of possibilities is boundless when fueled by genuine belief.”