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Stark High School Entrepreneurs Take Center Stage at 2023 JA Expo

Creativity & Innovation Shine at JA Company Program Competition

jackson high school's millionaire mindset present to judges

Image caption: Millionaire Mindset (Jackson High School) presents their product at the 2023 JA Expo

“And the first place JA Company is…” Lori McCleese, president of Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio (JANCO) pauses to take a breath before an audience of rapt students from Lake High School, Jackson High School, North Canton Hoover High School and Plain GlenOak High School.

For some teens, this is their first year participating in the JA Entrepreneurship Challenge & Expo. For others, this is the conclusion of several years of participation in the JA Company Program.

The JA Company Program is truly a program like none other; melding classroom learning, mentoring by industry experts and creative problem-solving, the legacy program gives high school students the tools to not only start but run their own business.

Along the way, they build soft skills, critical thinking and individual strengths that result in professional and personal development. This year-long experience culminates in the JA Expo, where teams were judged on live and trade show presentations, as well as annual reports and commercials.

Image caption: Dr. Tarun Bhalla encourages students to find their passion and think about their individual impact.

After welcoming the students from 13 teams to the event, McCleese introduced Dr. Tarun Bhalla, Chair of Anesthesia & Pain Management at Akron Children’s Hospital and an entrepreneur with diverse interests, including co-founding OFFOR Health and owning six Donatos Pizza locations.

In his keynote talk, he addressed this unique jump from being a doctor to owning a pizza shop, in addition to advice for any entrepreneur. He encouraged students to follow their passion and to not be discouraged by “no.” “You’ll hear no, no, no, no over and over again,” he cautioned. “But it just takes a couple of yeses to make a business come to life.” Dr. Bhalla ended by challenging the students to consider: what is your impact?

Image caption: Emocean (Hoover High School) takes home first place & Best Trade Show Booth Presentation.

Back in the moment, McCleese announces Emocean of North Canton Hoover High School as the 2023 JA Expo First Place company. Second place is awarded to Battery Drop of Plain GlenOak High School and third goes to OPEER of Jackson High School. Additional Signature Awards are presented to the following companies:

  • Financial Performance: Ripple (Hoover High School)
  • Social Impact: Battery Drop (GlenOak High School)
  • Best Commercial: Scentsible Solutions (GlenOak High School)
  • Best Annual Report: Ripple (Hoover High School)
  • Best Live Presentation: Battery Drop (GlenOak High School)
  • Best Trade Show Booth Presentation: Emocean (Hoover High School)

In addition, Anthony Morgan of Tough Talks (Jackson High School) received the Burton D. Morgan Foundation Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.

“We are increasingly impressed with not only the innovation and creativity of our students, but their resilience and growth throughout their JA Company Program experience,” McCleese said after the event. “We have a strong network of teachers and business mentors who help shape teams, but it is truly the students themselves that take responsibility for their own professional and personal development as they navigate real-life business situations and HR challenges. We could not be prouder of them!”

Of the 13 competing teams, Battery Drop, Emocean, OPEER, Ripple and Tough Talks went on to submit for the 2023 JA National Student Leadership Summit. Follow us at @jancohio on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio on LinkedIn for as-it-happens developments!

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