It’s typical for high school seniors to be excited about graduation, but Crystal Sanchez of Lawndale was more anxious for the day after the ceremony.

That’s when Sanchez, 18, began developing the prototype for Guardian Locket, a wearable safety device she created. Guardian Locket has a simple functionality with a greater purpose: using an inconspicuous accessory to prevent sexual assaults.

The device uses a mobile processing chip similar to that found in cellphones, allowing a user to click a button in the back of the locket that activates a fake call to the wearer’s phone to ward off potential predators. Two clicks will send the user’s location to local police and loved ones.

The idea for Guardian Locket was born out of a classroom project. Sanchez knew she wanted the project to center on preventing sexual violence, a cause she’s been especially passionate about since her close friend was raped in college.

“We live in a world where one in three women will become victims of sexual assault and one American is raped every two minutes,” she said. “I really don’t want that to happen to any other person.”

The project quickly became a much bigger accomplishment for Sanchez. She submitted her Guardian Locket to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s Regional Challenge. Ernst & Young, sponsor of the program, awarded Sanchez with the EY Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship, which includes a $3,000 prize and $1,000 scholarship. Next up, a national competition later this year with a $25,000 prize.

April Spencer, a partner at EY and co-director of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Program, said Sanchez presented the most creative idea in the pool of 2,000-plus contestants in the regional competition.

Sanchez’s locket, Spencer said, “really stood out as exhibiting entrepreneurial spirit of thinking of a problem that needed to be addressed and coming up with a solution.”

Sanchez, who will enroll at UC Irvine in the fall, wants to manufacture the Guardian Locket and have it on store shelves someday.

“I’m very nervous, but I believe in my product and I believe in my cause,” Sanchez said. “I think I can make it far in the competition with this prototype.”

– Covey Son

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