Julia and Margaret Neely
Julia and Margaret Neely are competing for Fan Favorite in the Verizon app challenge.
Edgewood residents Julia and Margaret Neely are part of a team of seven representing Alabama in the Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge.
The Neelys, both 11th grade students at the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate school at Shades Valley High, have been part of the Best in State team in the app challenge two years in a row. Now, they're hoping to get enough votes to be named fan favorites and see their app idea become a reality.
The app challenge asks student teams to identify a problem in their community and create an app proposal that would overcome that problem. Both sisters have an interest in coding.
"It just seemed like a great way to get involved in the community," Margaret Neely said. "You can go a lot of places with a computer."
Their team of seven first came together over the summer, but work on the app proposal began with the start of the school year. Margaret Neely said their idea for the app came from a conversation in the Neelys' home about how difficult it is to find jobs as teenagers. If they struggled to find opportunities while able-bodied, Margaret Neely said it's even more challenging for job seekers with disabilities.
"The job market - it's a difficult thing to work through, even more so if you're not able-bodied," Julia Neely said.
Thus the idea for an app called Panagi was born. The app, named after the Latin term for "all work," would be a place for employers to post volunteer and job opportunities. The Neelys said Panagi would provide a way for people with disabilities to find jobs that suit their individual strengths.
"Maybe somebody that couldn't hear well but could lift things could find the job for them," Margaret Neely said.
While their app was named Best in State, their team did not move on to the regional level of competition or to compete against teams across the nation. However, Panagi is in the running for Fan Favorite, where the team with the most votes will receive help from a team of Verizon developers to build their app and make it available to users.
The Neelys and the rest of their team have put a lot of work into the proposal for Panagi, and they want to see it become a reality to promote inclusion and opportunity in the job market.
"Everybody deserves the chance to build your own future," Margaret Neely said.
Voting for Fan Favorite in the Verizon App Challenge lasts until Feb. 12. To vote for the Neelys' app, text "Panagi" to 22333.