Three entrepreneurs working to increase access to quality education in New Orleans were awarded $10,500 in total funding from a PitchNOLA: Education competition.

Winners are We Play Center, $5,000 first-place prize; Upbeat Academy, $3,000; and Eat Your Words, $2,000, plus an Audience Favorite Award of $500.

Organizers said the competition brought together educators, parents, students and entrepreneurs to spotlight new ideas to tackle an achievement gap divided across lines of race and income at all ages and a young adult population disconnected from work and school.

The competition was co-hosed by Propeller and nonprofit 4.0 Schools and presented by Capital One.

We Play Center — Melanie Richardson and Christine Neely — is an initiative of Training Grounds. It will use the funds for its free learning center for caregivers and their children 3 years old and under. Training Grounds works with over 800 families and will expand its services to 100 more over the next two years. The center provides activities that promote social and cognitive development. 

Upbeat Academy — Matthew Zarba and Dante DiPasquale —  provides underprivileged, at-risk children with an opportunity to learn how to produce and perform music.

Eat Your Words — Chef Carla Briggs — provides students, teachers and parents with early learning tools using food and focuses primarily on pre-K to 2nd grade.