Students put to the test

By Kristen Russo


Eleven teams of high school students huddled in clusters around computer screens Friday making decisions that would determine the fate of a company.

They were competing in the Junior Achievement’s Titan Business Challenge at Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration.

In the competition, students ran a virtual company through a computer program called JA Titan 3.0.

In the program, which is available for practice on the JA website, students must make decisions about product pricing, marketing, research and development and company leadership.

Participants included students from American Spirit Academy, Boardman High School, Choffin Career & Technical Center, Poland Seminary High School and Struthers High School.

“This is teaching them the workings of a business and how to make everyday decisions in running a business,” said Michelle Merkel, president of Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley, Inc.

With three students to a team, the teams were divided into three separate games, called industries, with three or four teams competing in each industry.

During the competition, teams adjusted their business strategies to deal with market changes such as recessions or expansions.

Each team was assigned a professional business mentor to assist them in the first two rounds, which included a practice round and a qualifying round.

Scoring was based on a performance index that measured each team’s retained earnings, demand potential, productivity, market share and growth.

In each industry, the two teams with the highest scores in the qualifying round competed in a final round for $1,500 in scholarship money, or $500 for each team member.

Each member of the second- and third-place teams received $100 and $50 savings bonds, respectively.

There was a consolation round for the teams that didn’t make it to the final round; the winning team in that round received $25 gift certificates for each team member.

Keary Iarussi, a senior at Struthers High School and member of the first-place team, said he and his team members had practiced for about a week before the competition.

Iarussi’s team also included Tim Rauschenbach and Adam Ryczaj, both seniors at Struthers High School.

“I think we learned a lot,” Iarussi said. “We all are involved in extracurricular activities, so it was nice to come here and compete and, of course, to win $500 scholarships.”

Shavonte Chester, a senior at Choffin Career & Technical Center, was a member of the team that won the consolation round.

She said her team had been in last place before winning the consolation round.

“[The competition] helped me to understand marketing better,” Chester said.

“This is a good program. I’m glad I did it,” she said.

Teammate Tyra Willingham, also a senior at Choffin, agreed.

“I enjoyed myself. I learned how to market. I learned how to manage my money and how to create a business plan,” Willingham said.

Professional mentors for the event were: Jim Aeppli of JPMorgan Chase, Heather Chunn of YSU University Development, Leslie Crook of ComDoc, BJ Duckworth of Coca-Cola Refreshments, Ken English of Citizens Financial Group and Charter One, Eric Folsom of Compco, Carl Foote of Aflac, Chris Jaskiewicz of Valley Electrical Consolidated, Inc., Derrick McDowell of Wardrobe Brand Clothing, Ed Rumble of Jet Stream International Inc., Colleen Scott of Home Savings and Loan, Kim Stillwagon of Associated School Employees Credit Union and Nayef Zarrour of Drund.

The event was sponsored by the Williamson College of Business Administration, Falcon Foundry and the Home Savings and Loan Charitable Foundation.

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