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Sixteen teams competed for top honors in the fourth annual Junior Achievement Business Plan Challenge that was held last Thursday at Bryant & Stratton College in Orchard Park. The event focuses on challenging high school students through interactive classroom activities to start an entrepreneurial venture.

Students from Alden High School, Hutchinson Central Technical High School, Lancaster High School, Lockport High School and the Science Technology Enrichment Program (STEP) at the University at Buffalo worked with teachers, mentors and JA volunteers from the local business community to create business plans based on their unique product ideas.

Finalists from each school were separated into two groups to pitch their plans to a panel of judges. Participating students explained their plans for producing, distributing and marketing their product. They also addressed social and ethical responsibilities, and explained their personal management style and past business experience. The top team from each room then participated in a “Last Pitch Ditch” final round to determine first place.

Austin Zelasko and Ethan Palizay from Alden High School took top honors with their plan to produce ice packs for coolers of all sizes. Coined “EZ Cooler,” they described it as a reusable, grid-shaped set of foldable ice packs that replaces ice and saves space.

Second place was awarded to Megan Maurer and Matt Gagliardi from Lockport High School for their plan to create a worry-free boarding service for animals that provides attention, care, company and safety called “Animal Kingdom.”

Also placing in the top four teams were Sydney Hetrick and William V. Peters III of Lancaster High School and Katie Kaminski and Alyson Sylvester of Alden High School. Sydney and William’s plan was for a solar-powered phone case called “Sun-Sol” with a retractable power supply cord that fits all smartphones. Katie and Alyson designed a plan for “Warm-o-Wheel,” a long-lasting and reliable heated steering wheel with a quick warm-up and cool-down period.