An intervention program for early readers captured top prize in a business pitch competition for startup companies in which $11,500 was handed out to narrow the achievement gap in New Orleans.

Dwann Wagner and Barbara M. Wagner, of Excellent Readers, took home the first place prize of $5,000 in the PitchNOLA: Education presented by Capital One competition.

Audience members also selected Excellent Readers to receive the Audience Favorite Award of $500. Excellent Readers will use the prize money to pilot its early education intervention program, designed to address areas of reading difficulty by building the foundation for phonics, reading and spelling skills in a multi-sensory, playful and age-appropriate way.

The first runner-up prize of $1,000 was awarded to Ben Ifshin and Leah Lykins of WhereWeGo, a matchmaking app designed to help first generation and low-income students find the right college.

The event also showcased five education ventures who have graduated from Propeller’s accelerator programs. Propeller presented each graduate with an award of $1,000 to support their growth. The recipients are Brothers Empowered 2 Teach, Healthy School Food Collaborative, Royal Castle Child Development Center, STEM Library Lab and Sugar Roots Farm.