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High school entrepreneurs square off for top prize

The next generation of entrepreneurs converges on the Northeastern campus this week to take part in the 2009 North American Junior Achievement (JA) Student Company of the Year Competition. Teams of U.S. and Canadian high school students will showcase their companies to a panel of judges who will determine the competition’s highest-performing team.

In all, 20 five-member teams—four of which come from the Boston area—have been chosen for this year’s three-day competition, which begins on Thursday, July 16. Each team started its own company from the ground up by raising capital, creating a business plan and marketing its products.

On Friday, July 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the teams will conduct a trade fair in the Curry Student Center and pitch their companies to the local and national business leaders serving as this year’s judges. Each team will be assessed according to its company’s annual report, a four-minute oral presentation, the trade-booth display and a final interview with the judges.

One of the teams competing this year has forged a Northeastern connection. Through the JA Academy after-school program, a team of metropolitan Boston high school students has been spending one afternoon a week at the university, soaking up mentorship and diversity-training activities provided by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity and the College of Business Administration.

That team’s company, Pin Pals, made and sold buttons to raise awareness of a variety of global issues, including the economy, water safety and immigration. The team is donating a portion of their profits to PlayPumps International, an organization that improves the lives of children and families by providing easy access to clean drinking water, enhancing public health and giving play equipment to millions across Africa.

John Friar, executive professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the College of Business Administration, will serve on the judging panel. Donnie Perkins, dean and director of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, serves on the board of JA of Eastern Massachusetts and helped bring this event to campus.

The winning team will be announced on Saturday, July 18at an awards dinner held at Northeastern’s Curry Student Center.

JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to using experiential programs to educate young people about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

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