Liberty Students’ Pizza Creation Wins JA Innovation Challenge

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Pizza, bacon and chicken wing lovers will get a chance Thursday to try the delectable creation by a team of Liberty Middle School seventh-graders. 

Students Mary Ann Woods, Mackenzie Cremeans and Annabella Duffield, who called themselves Team MM&A, are the winners of this year’s Junior Achievement Innovation Challenge in connection with Pizza Joe’s.

The team’s BBQ Bacon Wing Deluxe – with the tagline “It’s the party pizza!” – features crispy bacon, boneless wings, cheese and BBQ sauce on a garlicky crust.

The challenge teaches students essential workforce readiness skills and helps students in grades five through seven from Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties to develop a mindset for 21st-century careers. This is the fifth year for the challenge.

“Students practice their entrepreneurial thinking while experiencing the creativity and sense of accomplishment that comes from solving a real-world problem: developing a new flavor of pizza,” said Michele Merkel, president of Junior Achievement of Eastern Ohio.

Students work in teams of three to five students through the self-guided materials, and after developing their ideas into a new pizza flavor, they develop a video pitch for Katie Seminara-DeToro, Pizza Joe’s chief marketing officer; corporate representatives; and local Pizza Joe’s franchises. The student pitches were judged at Kent State University at Trumbull on May 5.

“We’re always really impressed by the student submissions and their creative flavor combinations,” Merkel said. “We judge the student teams based on their ideas, pitch delivery, advertisements, creative taglines and overall presentation quality.”

On May 19, the winning team members and their classmates got a chance to taste-test various versions of the winning pizza. Students rated the pizzas on appearance, taste and marketability. They chose one they thought would be most popular with potential customers. Students also selected a date for its community debut.

“We are looking forward to our event on Thursday, June 1, at the Gypsy Lane (Liberty) Pizza Joe’s, and team MM&A getting the chance to sell their winning BBQ Bacon Wing Deluxe pizza to the Youngstown community and, hopefully, customers in surrounding communities,” Seminara-DeToro said.

Pictured at top: Liberty Middle School seventh-graders Mary Ann Woods, Mackenzie Cremeans and Annabella Duffield.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.