‘The Chicken Guys’ Take Top Prize in JA Contest

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The winning innovative pizza variety in this year’s Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley JA Innovation Challenge is a chicken quesadilla pizza, created by a team of students from Girard Intermediate School.

Offering “a quesadilla with a twist,” fifth graders Santino Serrano, Henry Durkin, Dylan Sforza and Orion Strainer comprised the winning group – The Chicken Guys. The limited edition pizza pie will be available to the public during a community day at Pizza Joe’s, 621 N. State St., from noon to 2 p.m. on June 27.

“A chicken quesadilla is one of the most popular foods in America,” the students said during their pitch. The chicken quesadilla pizza takes it “to the next level.”

The Chicken Guys will be on hand to pass out samples of their pizza and encourage people to buy a full-size pizza from a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Trumbull County Educational Service Center Junior Achievement Scholarship Fund for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

The chicken quesadilla pizza will also be available for purchase at the Girard Pizza Joe’s through July 3.

“The Junior Achievement Pizza Challenge was a blast for my students! It was a great way to engage my students in group work, learn new vocabulary, and challenge them through real-world application,” said Ashley Fitch, the students’ teacher. “This activity brought excitement and laughter to my classroom in a year that was filled with uncertainty,” she said.

The JA Innovation Challenge tasked fifth-through seventh-grade students in Junior Achievement’s four-county service area to develop a pitch for a new pizza variety for Pizza Joe’s. Students worked in teams to engage in entrepreneurial thinking.

This year’s event was virtual. Junior Achievement registered 118 students from six schools for the program curriculum, said JA President Michele Merkel, of which 15 teams (53 students) submitted a video pitch to Pizza Joe’s.

Katie Seminara-DeToro, chief marketing officer for Classico Foods/Pizza Joe’s corporate, commended JA for offering the event amid restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pitches from the students were well constructed and we had a difficult time narrowing down a winner. Each year the students have more confidence and develop more creative concepts,” she said.

Seminara-DeToro served on the judges panel, which comprised Joe “Pizza Joe” Seminara and Jerry Dugan of Pizza Joe’s, Jim Ritter and Bill Burgess from Kent State University Trumbull, and Junior Achievement board members Jonathan Fauvie of Mercy Health, Maureen Drummond of TRu Consulting, and Caitlyn Kurish of the Associated School Employees Credit Union.

Pictured: The Chicken Guys are fifth-graders Santino Serrano, Henry Durkin, Dylan Sforza and Orion Strainer from Girard Intermediate School.