‘The Chicken Guys’ Take Top Prize in JA Innovation Challenge

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

Offering “a quesadilla with a twist,” 5th 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 video, which you can watch above. 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 them to buy a full-size pizza with 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 from June 27 to 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.

“We truly had a blast! This was a great activity to end the year. I am so happy my students were a part of this innovative experience.“

The Chicken Guys are 5th graders Santino Serrano, Henry Durkin, Dylan Sforza and Orion Strainer from Girard Intermediate School.

The JA Innovation Challenge challenged 5th-7th 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 practice entrepreneurial thinking, and to experience the creativity and sense of accomplishment that comes from solving a real-world problem: developing a new flavor of pizza, targeted for a market of their peers.

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

All activities were student self-guided with materials accessible online, with lessons provided in a digital student activity book with fillable PDF activity sheets. Judging ran from May 17 to 19.

Katie Seminara-DeToro, chief marketing officer for Classi-co Foods/Pizza Joe’s corporate, commended Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley for still offering the event amid restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The program’s digital version offered the same quality content and learning opportunities for students and educators, and we were proud that the spirit of the competition inspired such great ideas,” Seminara-DeToro said in a press release. “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.

“We are looking forward to our event on June 27 at Girard Pizza Joe’s and the Chicken Guys getting the chance to sell their winning chicken quesadilla pizza to the Girard community and hopefully customers in surrounding communities as well.”

Seminara-DeToro was a member of the judges panel, which included 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.

In addition to having its innovative pizza put into production and sold at Pizza Joe’s, each member of The Chicken Guys will receive a T-shirt and free pizza coupon. Second and third-place teams also receive a T-shirt and free pizza coupon.