Junior Achievement Guam is kicking off a new year of its Company Program with a virtual ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 25.

That doesn't mean it's too late to join the competition, said Pinki Lujan, executive director for JA Guam. She said the program is looking for high school students – particularly freshmen – who want to learn how to start and run a business. Students have until Oct. 15 to register for the program.

So far, JA Guam's 2021-2022 year has teams from the Guam Community College DECA Marketing Program as well as Tiyan, Southern, John F. Kennedy, Simon Sanchez and Okkodo high schools.

Teams will be partnered with local companies, including United, The Guam Daily Post, Bank of Guam, Bank of Hawaii, Title Guaranty of Guam, GTA, Community First Credit Union and Graphic Center.

"JA Company Program empowers high school students to fill a need or solve a problem in their community, and teaches them practical skills required to conceptualize, capitalize and manage their own business venture," Lujan said.

Students can expect to commit about two to three hours a week for the program, Lujan said, and then there are the events that are held.

"(It's an) approximately 60-hour commitment for the entire program," she said, adding that some of the more competitive teams put in longer hours, so this is a rough estimate.

The program ends February 2022.

At the end of the day, the students learn useful skills, like building a budget, working with a team and budgeting.

'A huge learning experience'

Lujan said even before the pandemic, the program was offering a blended learning environment, with a mix of in-person and virtual meetings.

"Last year, we successfully ran the entire program virtually – most teams did not meet in person until the awards ceremony," Lujan said. "The pandemic allowed teams to become creative in how to produce their products and the advisors were instrumental with ensuring that their ideas became a reality."

In a December 2020 JA Guam podcast, Lujan commended the students for facing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They're faced with so many challenges, from producing the products to selling the products, even having to get the products from point A to point B and into the customer's hands for some teams has been quite a challenge," she said.

And yet, the teams were exceeding some of their own goals, including one team that sold out early, and another that was in its third production run.

"The creativity, the ability to overcome this COVID-19 pandemic and not being able to meet in person, has been really a remarkable experience and you can really see the teams and students grow not just individually but as a team, as a company – it's such a huge learning experience," she said, noting how some of the challenges are very similar to what many businesses throughout the community were facing at the time.

"One of the things we realized ... is this program ... is an asset now more than ever, so we're super excited about next year and all the different programs we'll be presenting. So keep an eye on JA Guam because it's going to be phenomenal year next year."

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