NORTH CANTON  Hoover High School business students recently won top spots in three competitions at the 2016 Junior Achievement (JA) NextGen Business Challenge, which featured more than 200 students from eight high schools..

The event, held at R.G. Drage Career Technical Center in Massillon, includeed three competitions: JA Be Entrepreneurial – Pitch It!, JA Titan and JA Company. Hoover students competed against nine teams from three schools in the JA Company competition and against 26 teams from six schools in the Titan competition.

Mike Grady, an instructor in the business program, said Hoover students won the top three spots in the Company and Titan competitions.

The three companies the Hoover students ran this past year were called, Buckeye Lazer, Chameleon and Script It!. In the Company competition, Buckeye Lazer, led by senior Morgen Staggers, took first place and won a $750 company bonus; Chameleon, led by Grant Weinland, took second place with $500; and Script It!, led by Preston Vukovich, took third place with a $250 company bonus.

"In all, Hoover students earned $4,200 in cash and scholarships in the JA competitions," Grady said. "Plus, two of the companies - Buckeye Lazer and Script It! - have been chosen out of 15 student companies from around the U.S. to represent North Canton and North Canton City Schools in a competition at the National Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in mid June," he said.

In the Titan competition, the first place team included seniors Sam Bucher, Alex Blondheim and Brendan Snyder, who each got $500 scholarships. Second-place team members included Matt Canton and Gage Stanley, who each got $200 scholarships. The third-place team of Nathan Robinson, Andrew Fink and David Forrest each got $100 scholarships.

In the Company competition, judges based the winning choices on four items: A television commercial produced by the students; an annual report generated by the students; a trade show setup by the students; and a presentation in front of 200 people.

The Titan competition is a computer simulation where participants make decisions on marketing, margins and market growth among others. Students compete for two hours online with the simulator. Criteria for winning are based on the profits generated by each company run by the teams of students.

"Our students worked incredibly hard this year and, as a teacher, I love to see the passion and the drive they exhibit," Grady said. "Add to that, the students recognized what they were learning all year was important. It wasn’t always easy to make real business decisions in real time.

"It was amazing to watch the students develop incredible leadership skills working with their peers and the customers. Their grades are based on setting sales goals and how close they come to meeting them. Some of the students love the sales part and others are more uncomfortable with that part of the program. I’m happy our students took the top three spots in both competitions," Grady added.

Staggers is planning to attend John Carroll University for finance, accounting, management or sales. She said the prize money goes to the company members after each company gets liquidated.

"We rank each member’s position and then divide the amount left from the liquidation and each member gets a certain percentage," Staggers said. "One of the biggest advantages to me of being in the program and in the competition this year is that it has shown me that I’m college ready."

Senior Gabe Friel said he’s planning to work an internship at Freshmark this summer before going to Grove City College (Pa.) with a major in business management. He enjoyed the competition for a number of reasons.

"It was fun going out and competing with other companies and applying the real world knowledge of running a business that we’ve been learning all year," Friel said. "The competition showed me that you get back what you give. Success really came down to working as a team."

Weinland is planning to major in accounting with a minor in entrepreneurship at Ohio State University this fall. He said taking the business program and preparing for the competition taught him to be prepared for the unexpected.

"We worked as a team the entire time," he said. "We took turns talking to people in the booth and walking around. It helped us get used to answering questions and talking about our companies."

Grady said the companies from all of the schools did a great job. He said the JA sponsors the business program, the competition and most of the cost of the trip to Washington, D.C., except for transportation costs.

He believes this is the first time Hoover has had students attend this event. The class has setup an online fundraising campaign to help raise money for the trip at www.jaonline.org/nc2dc.

"The JA sponsors the competition and it’s 100 percent based on real world business functions and is 100 percent student lead," Grady said "They do fundraising to provide the students with lunch and to bring in business speakers."

Junior Achievement has been supporting youth entrepreneurship education to help students learn key skills to transform their big ideas into real, working small businesses to provide a practice field to gain 21st century skills. JA is recognized by the Ohio Department of Education as a student leadership organization to support Career Technical programs. Without any additional fees, students are eligible to develop leadership roles and compete in one of three events at the JA NextGen Entrepreneurs’ Challenge.