JA Titan Business Challenge Returns As In-Person Event

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Western Reserve High School students Hunter Allen, Jacob Grindley and Gavin Beninston gathered around their computer, discussing which research and development decisions would best increase company revenue while keeping their customers satisfied.

The students were three of 41 students that filled the computer labs at the Williamson College of Business Administration at Youngstown State University on March 9, going head to head as CEOs of competing phone companies.

The students made their business decisions as part of this year’s Junior Achievement of Eastern Ohio JA Titan Business Challenge.

The event, now in its 14th year, included 14 teams from seven high schools competing for scholarships and consolation prizes, while offering students networking opportunities and a better understanding of the business world.

Students represented schools from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. Participating teams came from Lordstown High School, East Liverpool Junior/Senior High School, Bloomfield Middle/High School, Western Reserve High School, David Anderson Junior/Senior High School, Mineral Ridge High School and Southington High School.

The event was sponsored by the YSU Williamson College of Business Administration, FactSet, UPS and The Taco Bell Foundation.

Students on the first-place team each won $500. Second-place team members won $250 apiece, while the third-place team members won $125 apiece. Winners included Lordstown Team Six, Mineral Ridge High School Team Two and Lisbon David Anderson Junior/Senior High School Team Two.

Michele Merkel, president of Junior Achievement of Eastern Ohio, said the teams each start with a budget – $1 million for the finals – to guide their fictitious company through the competition.

Michele Merkel, president of Junior Achievement of Eastern Ohio, addresses students at the award presentations.

Merkel said she was excited to return to an in-person event. The competition was online the past few years because of the pandemic.

Each team was assigned a local business mentor to help advise its members and talk about their real-world experiences.

“We use that as a networking event,” she said. “The students do an icebreaker in the morning to build that team building relationship.”

Time was allotted for students to work with their mentors and question them about their experiences.

Nina Alachniewicz, JAEO intern of programs and special events, began working with JA in August. Previously, she said the JA Titan program involved “Holo-Generations” – small 3D holographic generators.

“They got a new program,” she said. “Now the teams are the CEOs of a cellphone company. They make decisions regarding profit, research and development, cooperate on social responsibility and marketing.”

The competitors face off against each other to learn budgeting, marketing and other skills.

“In our competitions, we do teams of two to three students,” Alachniewicz said. “That team will work all together as one CEO. The companies compete against each other.”

The Williamson College of Business Administration offered a $1,000 scholarship to students who competed in the competition and will be attending the WCBA in the fall. 

“In any line of work, the importance of team is much more important than you think it is,” said Western Reserve High School senior Gavin Beninston. “After doing a lot of these simulations, I really saw that.”

Pictured at top: Mike Kurish, rear, president and CEO of Associated School Employees Credit Union, advises Lordstown High School students Emily Behon, Madison Kihm and Emma Urchek.