In New York City last week, three new video or computer games were awarded for excellence at the 12th Annual Games for Change Awards. Melissa DeRosier was at the event representing Personalized Learning Games, a Cary startup she spun out of 3C Institute last year. The company’s first game to hit the market was a finalist for the “Most Significant Impact” award and chosen from a record number of companies—150.

Called Zoo U and backed by her clinical research, the game helps elementary students better communicate, cooperate, empathize and interact with their peers.

Zoo U didn’t win, but the company’s new CEO Tim Huntley, a Triangle startup veteran, says his team was “pleased to be nominated.” 

For a product that just recently launched, and doesn’t have any real market penetration, Games for Change recognition is a huge honor in and of itself. It validates the years of research and testing that went into designing the game. It’s also a validation to DeRosier that a year-long realignment—which included executive changes, a new name and lots of counseling by Soar Network mentors—was worthwhile. The company is better positioned to sell Zoo U and other forthcoming games to schools, counselors and parents, making an impact in the lives of children.

But the year wasn’t without its trials, and to better understand DeRosier’s journey, we caught up with DeRosier, Huntley and Soar mentor Lauren Whitehurst.

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