As young people find their footing in the middle of a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, they are taking career matters into their own hands. At New College of Florida, a current student and a recent alum are leading the charge. Third-year student Aleah Colón-Alfonso and recent graduate Erin Crobons have created their own individual businesses in a year marked by unparalleled shakiness in the job market. These entrepreneurs are showing Gen Z’ers what it’s like to be resourceful regardless of the circumstances—a critical-thinking approach they have learned at the state’s honors college right here in Sarasota.


She built two companies, all before graduation. Colón-Alfonso, an immunocompromised student who has always had entrepreneurial ambitions, is designing health-focused products to help people like her thrive. Three years into her studies at New College studying biological psychology and neuroscience, she has already created two companies: Aleah Wares (a line of patient-friendly sweaters)  with added openings to make it easier to put on or take off during long IV treatments and Stay Safely Away (wearable merchandise—from T-shirts to masks—that allows customers with immune issues to “stay distantly social” during the COVID-19 pandemic). Colón-Alfonso began working on the latter company ( while in quarantine in the spring of 2020.

“I had been noticing the lack of mask wearing and social distancing in Sarasota, and I just wanted to wear a sign around my neck that said, ‘Please, I don’t want to be on a ventilator’ to try to encourage people to have better behaviors,” she  says. “Clothing became my wearable sign.” Colón-Alfonso has small fiber neuropathy, Lyme disease and accompanying secondary illnesses. She received these diagnoses before the age of 18 and was in a wheelchair for much of her senior year of high school. Her illnesses may be inconvenient, but she doesn’t view them as hindrances; Stay Safely Away speaks to that way of thinking. Colón-Alfonso’s website officially launched on July 20 and she has since shipped orders across the globe. Her most popular item is a face mask that asserts “Science Is Real.”  The growth of this company is so much more than I had expected. I made a map for myself to track where the orders were coming from and I quickly outgrew it,” Colón-Alfonso says. “I’m running the company by myself from my dorm, from the beach, anywhere I can. It’s a one-woman show. I already have people telling me that what I’m doing has a possibility of making a real difference. It’s so surreal and exciting.” 


She opened a studio mid-pandemic, four months after graduating.  Erin Crobons—a devoted dancer, choreographer and teacher throughout her collegiate career—was wrapping up her senior semester at New College in May 2020 when the pandemic erupted. A local dance studio, where she had been instructing for three years, shut down. The psychology and applied mathematics student was soon out of college and out of work. And her beloved young students—ages four to 18—suddenly had nowhere to dance. So, Crobons boldly decided to create her own studio: a space called Energize (

The physical location at 5900 South Tamiami Trl,, Ste. F, Sarasota, opened on September 7. “I had always imagined opening my own dance studio,” Crobons says, “but I planned on it maybe being 20 years in the future, after I had already started my career.” The economic effects of the pandemic sped up the process. Crobons found a 1,200-square-foot space to teach group and individual classes, which she would hold in person and simultaneously stream live on Zoom for students ages 18 months to 18 years. Crobons is currently the only instructor for the studio (ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and lyrical dances are her specialties). She has been dancing since she was six years old and competing since age 10, and she is the recipient of two choreography awards from the 2019 BravO! National Dance and Talent Competition.

“I work pretty much all day every day. I do it for my students. I think it gives them a sense of normalcy to be here. It makes me happy to know they can come to dance and that it makes their day better,” Crobons says. “I also put an emphasis on the whole dancer—not just learning techniques but also having them grow as human beings and be able to express themselves. I teach them that there is no ‘can’t.’”   SRQ