FARGO - Dieumerci Christel is used to odysseys.
The North Dakota State University junior, born in a refugee camp in Tanzania, immigrated to the U.S. as a child and has navigated his way from learning English to working toward a college degree.
Now he’s on another journey: becoming an entrepreneur.
Christel, who goes by Chris, is one of 12 “founders” selected by Wefunder for their Workaway, an intensive weeklong mentorship in Hawaii that will, hopefully, help Christel move his Enlight education app to the marketplace.
Enlight is a software package that collates data about individual students, such as their learning styles, hobbies, goals and passions, and turns it into easily readable dashboard profiles for teachers.
Enlight also takes multiple profiles, such as for a class of English Language Learners, and collates them on another dashboard, using graphics to break down information on learning styles and other attributes to help teachers better choose their teaching methods.
Christel said the app was born of his experiences as an ELL student in Colorado and at West Fargo High School. He developed the first version as a Packer.
“I need to build something for teachers. I want them to really know their students,” Christel said Friday, June 7, a day before he took off for Hawaii.
The aim is to help teachers avoid what he called the “too late” effect.
“If I can build an app, I think the student can say, ‘This is what I am, and this is what I like to learn,’” Christel said. That can give teachers an important access point to their students, so they can better understand, support and motivate them.
“I want to cut down the time teachers take to get to know their students,” he said.
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Wefunder bills itself as a crowdfunding service to connect startups with investors.
Wefunder says it has funded 287 companies with nearly $93 million. And that those companies have gone on to raise over $2 billion in venture capital.
“The whole thing is like, ‘Come and meet a bunch of cool people who are passionate about their ideas, … make friends, and get mentored to get your businesses started right away,’” Christel said.
Scott Meyer, the Ozbun Director of Entrepreneurship at NDSU, is thrilled for Christel.
“I think the best part for Fargo and NDSU is that he’ll bring back energy that he can share. I think it will be great for the entrepreneurial community,” Meyer said.
“He is positive and hardworking. And I think that comes through in his interviews. Whenever he hits a roadblock, he’s able to find a solution for it. I think that’s a really important trait for an entrepreneur,” Meyer said.
Christel is majoring in business management at NDSU, with minors in computer science, economics and entrepreneurship. The busy student is thankful to be able to work at Emerging Prairie’s downtown Fargo co-working space, the Prairie Den.
“It’s like a little community of entrepreneurs that I can get to pick their brains,” Christel said. “I always call it ‘the circle thing.’ People who know people who know people who know people. And that’s kind of what Emerging Prairie gives you.”
Christel had his travel costs picked up by The Nice Center at NDSU, which also worked with the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation to help Christel prepare his application.
“I’m very thankful for them,” Christel said.
Christel hopes his app helps teachers and students connect faster.
After all, the “cool teachers” are the teachers that you have good relationships with, he said.
“You don’t want to disappoint them,” Christel said. “What this app can do, like where I want it to go, I want it to allow teachers to be mentors to students, because I feel that’s why teachers actually teach.”