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Two Rio Salado College Students Receive Scholarship During National Small Business Week

photo of Devotera Hill and Olivia Vela with text 'National Small Business Week'

Two Rio Salado College Students Receive Scholarship During National Small Business Week

Each year during the first week of May, Maricopa Community Colleges celebrate the National Small Business Week, but 2021 was an exception. Despite challenges, MCCCD Small Business faculty found a way to celebrate National Small Business Week by recognizing the entrepreneurial spirit of students with scholarships.

Two Rio Salado students joined four other MCCCD students who were awarded National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) and Everyday Entrepreneurship Venture Fund (EEVF) funding. This helps student-entrepreneurs with their start-ups.

Devotera Hill (Insurance and Risk Management Major, 2Leftfeet dancing studio - and Olivia Vella (Dual Enrollment, Magic Moments AZ, a princess performing art) were recipients of scholarships, which include $2,500 and a full year of mentoring.

Hill said she was inspired by her son to start her path toward entrepreneurship. 

“In the year 2015 my son, Terence McGary Jr., stated he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. I looked into his gorgeous eyes and told him I would support him 100 percent,” she said. “I started to realize I never followed my dreams, so I wondered how could I truly and genuinely support my son.”

Armed with a dance background, she set out to create her company as a safe space for dance students. She also sought the skills necessary through education to give her the marketing and business knowledge to make it a reality. Today, she has associate degrees in dance and dance technology, as well as a certificate in dance performance and technology and a business administration associate degree in marketing. She plans to use her award to help trademark her company.

Hill brought her past experience on the stage to Rio Salado College and found the training she needed to run her own business.

“I've always loved performing. I love how music, acting, and dance have the ability to empower and uplift. Knowing this, I wanted to start my own princess performing company. Rio Salado has been there for me every step of the way. With top-notch administrators and unbelievable support, they have allowed me to kick-start and manage my business,” Vella said.

Special thank you to donors: NACCE/EEVF, FEE, and K16 Solutions. This program will continue in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. If you know of a deserving student with a promising start-up, please refer them to

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