In Spring Branch ISD, students have opportunities to develop skills that will help them achieve T-2-4, where every SBISD graduate attains a technical certificate, military training or a two-year or four-year degree.
At Memorial High School (MHS), students are engaging in one of those great opportunities through the Junior Achievement Company Program. The program prepared young people for their future by building community connections and supporting the development of vital business management skills.
Students meet weekly after school with Tania Daniel, Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas Senior Director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives. Daniel focuses on preparing kids to be future successful business owners.
Eight Mustangs recently participated in Ignite the Spark!, a Microsoft Innovation Challenge where participants find a solution to a tech problem and provide a one minute presentation to pitch it to the “sharks.”
The competition allows students to develop brainstorming and pitching skills while giving them first-hand entrepreneurial experience. It also provides the winning teams with seed money to help jump-start their business.
The students were prompted to develop a new piece of software or hardware intended to help students stay current on their school work in a post-pandemic world. The MHS group pitched a system where students use augmented reality to enhance their learning experience.
“It’s hard to teach entrepreneurship in the classroom,” said Daniel. “During our after-school sessions we learn the strategies, but competitions like these put all they have learned into action and allow them to gain knowledge from hands-on experience.”
This year, more than 300 students from over 28 schools across the Houston-area participated in the competition. The MHS group won third place and $100 to start their business.
Initiatives like these strengthen SBISD’s Core Characteristics. Engaging in such competitions help students become Resourceful Problem-Solvers, who think critically and creatively and apply knowledge to find and solve problems.
The next step was the Junior Achievement EnTEENpreneur Conference at Rice University, sponsored by the Rice Jones Graduate School of Business, Enbridge and the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The MHS group competed against more than 320 students within 31 teams. With more time to prepare for this competition, they researched a core problem, found solutions using a product or service and created a presentation with their findings.
“We wanted to solve a problem near and dear to our hearts and settled on combating sexual assault,” said Ivan Ting, CEO of the MHS group. “After doing research, we were disturbed by the high numbers of sexual assault cases in our area and knew that this was something that desperately needed to change. The solution we came up with was creating PITCH, a product that gives individuals an easy way to alert nearby people and law enforcement when they feel threatened.”
The group’s company is Drop Shop. They hope to create and sell PITCH, a personal alarm system with a siren, flashing light, and a GPS, all in a keychain that individuals can take everywhere they go.
The MHS group won first place and $1,000 in seed money that they hope to use to “make Harris County a safer place for everyone.”
“We are so proud of them! This is a brilliant group that is passionate about this initiative,” added Daniel. “It is important for students to engage in activities like this. Employers are seeing that today’s workforce lacks an innovation mindset and Junior Achievement helps students develop the skills they need to compete in the global workforce.”
The next competition will be held in February at the Trade Fair in Memorial City Mall. During the competition, the team will sell their product to shoppers and be graded by judges. Their goal is to make it to the National Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., where the top 15 teams in the United States will compete against each other.
Ivan notes that this experience has greatly influenced his post-graduation plans. While he is still interested in humanities and social sciences, he is now considering pursuing business.
“Junior Achievement has played a great role in my future career,” said Ivan. “Being part of this organization has taught me much about finance, marketing, sales and a variety of other aspects of running a business. I encourage anyone interested in business to get involved with Junior Achievement.”
The Junior Achievement Company Program is currently only available at MHS. However, it hopes to expand to other schools across SBISD.