Fifth graders win UNLV scholarships in “Shark Tank”-style entrepreneurial competition – $275,000 raised for Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada

DSC-06459 Feel At Home Team Tent -Josh Line Photography sm
The Feel At Home team introduces the Swimming With The Big Fish judges
and audience Pictured (from left) are Kevin Esteban, Emanuel Macia, Daniella Olguin-Ramos, Giselle Salgado and Hanna Castaneda, all fifth graders at Fay Herron Elementary School.
— Josh Line Photography

LAS VEGAS — Fifth graders from Fay Herron Elementary School wowed and wowed judges and more than 600 local business professionals during a Shark Tank-style competition and UNLV scholarship luncheon. Presented by PNC Bank, the recent event was Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada’s (JASN) Swimming With The Big Fish which was organized by the Las Vegas Raiders and was held at Allegiant Stadium.

First prize was awarded to the Feel At Home Tent team of Emanuel Macia, Daniella Olguin-Ramos, Giselle Salgado, Hanna Castaneda Diaz and Kevin Esteban, who will split the winner’s $9,000 UNLV scholarship. The product was developed to make camping easier and more comfortable for families and was based on the team’s camping experience. The tent comes with self-erecting poles, pillows, blankets, and air/heat. Additional compartments, such as a designated children’s space, can be purchased to add to the main tent.

The Heavenly Detangler team came in second for its brush and comb combination that helps untangle hair. Rosario Rodríguez, Naomi Rivadeneyra, Yailyn Cruz Gómez and Brittany Gutiérrez Díaz will share the $4,000 UNLV scholarship.

Third place went to Sip and Chew, a leak-proof sippy cup that’s safe for kids to chew on and comes in five colorful designs. Teammates Severiano Patron, Juan Pérez, Jorge Álvarez, Chanelle Díaz García and Zoey Macias developed the cup because they all have younger siblings and noticed that they are always chewing things. They will split the $2,000 UNLV scholarship award.

Junior Achievement staff, Fay Herron teachers and volunteers from the business community guided nearly 100 fifth grade students through Junior Achievement’s six-week “It’s My Business” entrepreneurship program to create a business from scratch. Students were separated into 26 teams based on areas of interest and developed their ideas for a community-friendly business and accompanying business and marketing plans. Three finalist teams featured on Swimming With The Big Fish.

The judges for the finals of the competition were Sandra Douglass Morgan, president of the Las Vegas Raiders; Terry Shiery, president of the Nevada State Bank; and Dr. Keith E. Whitfield, President of UNLV. After the presentations, they asked the teams questions about the marketing, distribution, promotion, and design of their products, praising the efforts of the students and the merits of each product and plan.

UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D., said, “I was blown away by the incredible talent, innovation and poise displayed by the competition winners and all students who participated. At UNLV, experiential learning is central to our mission of student success, and these scholarship recipients will no doubt contribute to that mission as future UNLV Rebels.”

“At Junior Achievement, our goal is to provide financial literacy, workforce development and entrepreneurial skills – skills our children need to grow into successful young adults,” said Michelle Jackson, President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada. “Swimming With The Big Fish helps us show the business community how we are helping students develop critical thinking skills, and our It’s My Business program and what these fifth graders from Fay Herron demonstrated was a great representation of this”.

Jackson added that the event has become JASN’s largest fundraiser with $275,262 raised for the non-profit organization. “Swimming with the Big Fish” has truly seen incredible growth in what we have accomplished in the last three years, increasing our fundraising results by a staggering 979% from when it came out of 2020 to this year. This achievement is due to the incredible and unwavering support of our community and their commitment to our youth,” he said.

The event also recognized Michael Crome, CFO of the Los Vegas Raiders and JA alumnus. He is receiving Junior Achievement USA’s prestigious Gold Leadership Award for his outstanding volunteer, advocacy and fundraising efforts for JASN. Crome is one of 11 honorees out of more than 151,000 volunteers in JA chapters across the country. He will be honored with the other Gold Leadership recipients at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in June.

Jan Jones Blackhurst, Executive Director of the UNLV Black Fire Leadership Initiative, Board of Directors of Caesars Entertainment, and Resident Executive Director of the UNLV International Gaming Institute, delivered the keynote address. She shared how learning the value of money and hard work helped her achieve goals and succeed in her career.

Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA, spoke about examples of the organization’s national and global impact on youth and communities, including JA Worldwide’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for the second year in a row and how The local chapter is doing well. . “Michelle Jackson is doing a remarkable job leading Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada to become one of the top JA chapters in the country.”

Za’Korey Christian, a 2020 high school graduate and JASN alumnus, shared how Junior Achievement changes lives. “Junior Achievement changes the trajectory of students’ lives and helps put them on the right track to make better decisions about money. Junior Achievement taught me in a language I could understand, starting with the basics of the difference between needs and wants.” She said her lessons are helping him launch her own fashion business.

Swimming With The Big Fish was created as a meaningful and entertaining way to engage the business community with JASN, as business professionals are vital to the success of its financial education programs by sharing their expertise, volunteering, partnering, and sponsoring. JASN works with schools to provide K-12 students with the necessary curriculum covering financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and workforce development that schools do not always have the resources to offer and many students do not learn. at home. The lessons help many students become financially secure adults, breaking the cycle of generational and situational poverty.

“The Swimming With The Big Fish Luncheon is just one way Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada empowers students in our community,” said Denette Suddeth, PNC Regional President for Nevada. “We are impressed and inspired by these innovative young entrepreneurs. At PNC, our continued support of Junior Achievement programming aligns with our values ​​as a leading national bank. We are committed to the success of Nevada and helping everyone move forward financially.”

Junior Achievement also hopes to increase graduation rates by giving students a business idea and a path to follow after high school. According to research, 91% of students who attended a JA program reported that it “motivated them to learn.” This indicates that once students experience Junior Achievement, they more clearly understand how learning and doing well in the classroom has a direct impact on “real life” and real money.

Sponsors of Swimming With The Big Fish included the Gene Haas Foundation, Las Vegas Raiders and Allegiant Stadium, PNC Bank, Findlay Automotive Group, RSM, Penta Cares Foundation, City National Bank, Fontainebleau Las Vegas, Lexus of Las Vegas, Southwest Airlines, The Venetian Las Vegas, CSAA, DC Building Group, Cristo Rey St. Viator College Preparatory High School, and Dennis and Carol Troesh. UNLV was the sponsor of scholarships for students.

About Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada

Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada, Inc. was founded locally in 1996. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing financial education to K-12 students, with a curriculum that ranges from managing a budget to economic principles, skills labor and credit. Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada reaches more than 20,000 students annually in the Las Vegas area with the help of 285 companies and 6,800 business role models. For more information, visit and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

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