Kiera Kupsho 2024 Young Innovator of the YearKiera Kupsho was recently honored by the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce as the recipient of the 2024 Young Innovator of the Year award. This award, sponsored by CAN DO's entrepreneurial arm, the CAN BE Innovation Center, has been presented annually by the Hazleton Chamber since 2018.

The award was presented to Kiera on May 28th at the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce’s 48th Annual Academic Banquet at Four Blooms.

Kiera, a Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences senior, was selected for her growth and commitment to innovation. In addition to participating in the Inaugural Management 215 Penn State Hazleton Dual Enrollment class, Kiera was also a finalist two years in a row for the tecBRIDGE High School Business Plan Competition. This year, she and fellow schoolmate Kiara Vasquez dazzled the judges with their passion for an international cuisine-inspired meal subscription box dubbed “Global Grub.”

Kiera’s interest in business began during her junior year when she first learned about the PSU management course offered at her school. "I found the concept of this course intriguing and decided to sign up for it," she said. The final project for the course involved developing a business idea, and with encouragement from her school principal, Kiera entered her idea into the tecBRIDGE High School Business Plan Competition (HSBPC). Though initially hesitant, she took a chance, and her experience in the competition inspired her to compete again in her senior year, which allowed her to hone her presentation skills further.

For her, one of the biggest outcomes of participating in the HSBPC has been the advancement of her public speaking abilities and presentation skills. She says, “Before this competition, I was very uncomfortable presenting in front of others. Through consistent practicing, I was able to overcome this fear and present in an effective way.” The competition also taught her the importance of having a clear and concise presentation, as well as an appreciation for the talent of others.

“Working with students like Kiera is the highlight of my year – truly! The growth and dedication that I have witnessed in her over the last two years has left me in awe.” CAN DO Director of Economic Development Jocelyn Sterenchock gushed while presenting the award to Kupsho. “This award is not just about winning a competition or starting a business; its about living, and leading, through an innovative mindset – and Kiera has, and does, that in spades. CAN BE is honored to sponsor an award that highlights such an intangible skillset held by so many students in our region. To say that I am proud of the work she, and others, have done – is an understatement.”

Kiera intends to leverage her experiences and the skills she has developed in her future career in healthcare. Following graduation, she will attend Misericordia University as a medical and health humanities major in the Doctor of Physical Therapy track. "As a physical therapist, I would consider opening my own practice, which would put my business skills to use," she noted.

Additionally, she said she hopes to bring her communication skills and interest in others' experiences into her future career in healthcare. Kiera is a strong advocate for innovative practices within the healthcare sector and credits her business-related programs and activities with fostering this innovative mindset.

Kiera expressed gratitude for her mentors, including Jocelyn Sterenchock, Jerry Lisman, Nico Makuta, and Ana Perez, whose guidance was instrumental in her success. She also thanked Mrs. Ernst for introducing her to the tecBRIDGE competition and providing these opportunities for students at HAAS, Dr. Bill Andahazy from Penn State for sparking her interest in entrepreneurship, and Mike and Jane Dougherty from Junior Leadership Hazleton for teaching her the importance of community involvement. She also wants to thank her parents, especially her mom, for listening to her practice presentations and providing endless devotion to her success.

“Being named Young Innovator of the Year is a capstone for the hard work and effort I have put into my various activities in high school. I hope to make my community proud by providing innovative ideas and helping in any way I can," Kiera said.

Kiera plans to continue her participation in FBLA through the collegiate division and encourages other students to take advantage of the entrepreneurship opportunities available in Greater Hazleton.


If you are a local entrepreneur interested in starting or expanding your business or want to learn more about the CAN BE Innovation Center, visit or contact Nico Makuta at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..