Tech company creates STEAM scholarship to honor employee’s legacy

Nika Marie Price was passionate about community and empowering young women and girls, especially Black women. She put that passion into action working for nonprofits that support youth – Girls on The Run, The Boys and Girls Club, and The Wellhouse – before landing her dream job at Carnevale in 2018.

At the Grand Rapids tech firm, she led the effort to strengthen the firm’s co-op arm that supports nonprofits.

The firm designs and develops advanced technology applications, such as virtual reality, for some of the biggest brands in the world, Including Walmart, Honda, and Rockstar Games, famous for the Grand Theft Auto video game series. Carnavale’s co-op initiative provides the same services for low or no cost to nonprofits, helping to create a more just and equitable society. 

“Nika was an amazing friend and inspiring coworker,” says Lydia Kauffman, project manager at Carnevale. “She always wanted to work in tech, and I think she really prided herself on being a  woman of color in tech. When she made the transition to Carnevale, it was just a natural transition from the nonprofit world to fitting into this space because she brought structure to the co-op work that they’ve been doing for a really long time.”

Kauffman credits Price being a “catalyst” in taking the firm’s work in the community to the next level. 

In addition to supporting the work of nonprofits in West Michigan and beyond, Carnevale has put resources into increasing the pipeline connecting under-resourced youths to the tech industry, a focus close to Price’s heart. Carnevale facilitates workshops for youth through community partnerships. 

Fitting memorial

The firm has found a way to honor Price, who died Aug. 3, 2022, at age 30. A scholarship has been set up in her name to continue her work of supporting young people. 

“Losing her to cancer last year was devastating, to say the least,” says Kauffman, who met Price when they were students at Grand Valley State University, where they became roommates their sophomore year. The two were best friends.

 “It has been healing to see her memory and legacy honored through this scholarship. Our hope is to immortalize her vision for social change by providing financial support to passionate students in our community who need it most.”

The Nika Marie Social Impact Scholarship, administered through the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, began accepting general GRCF applications for the 2024-2025 school year this month.

Applicants must be a resident of Kent County pursuing a major in a STEAM-related field (science, technology, engineering, art, or mathematics) and must demonstrate a financial need. Decisions will be made by the second week in May.

“This scholarship is another small step toward creating equity and opportunity for the future,” says Mike Carnevale, founder and creative director of the technology and user experience agency.

The firm worked with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to set up a fund that would enable this scholarship to exist in perpetuity, keeping Price’s missions and memory alive for years to come. 

“I think that she would be really happy that she can still do the work,” says Kauffman. “Nika was all about getting things done. If nothing else, she'd be proud that work she started is still getting done through her scholarship, and that scholarship recipients are going to be able to move into careers in the industry. I think she would be happy that this is the way we decided to honor her legacy. 

Donations may be made to the scholarship fund at any time by visiting
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