ANGOLA — There were 40 Angola High School English 12 students who competed in the first ever Hornet version of TV’s Shark Tank last week, March 7-8.

Next year all Angola seniors might be participating.

“It worked out really, really well,” said English teacher Joy Ross. “The kids loved it, the community loved it. They asked if they could come back next year.”

Ross said she got an idea for this project because she wanted to connect her seniors with the real-world activities and experiences.

“I decided that I would have them do business and technical writing and more specifically write proposals, like formal business proposals,” said Ross.

In the process of developing her idea, it occurred to Ross that the students needed people from the community to observe their proposals to make the experience more valid. For that Ross contacted about 16 business people in the community, and they came in and served as a panel similar to TV’s Shark Tank.

All in all, it took students about five weeks to do the research on the feasibility of the business ideas they were developing individually or in pairs, said Ross. Students began by generating ideas, conducting research and writing formal business proposals.

They also considered the logistics, including a projected timeline and the cost involved. The proposals ranged from mental health initiatives to alternative energy sources.

Ross said that the one that sounded great to her was on fast-pass driving certification.

The idea of the project was that certain drivers should be allowed to be certified to drive past the speed limit when the circumstances allow.

That proposal turned out to be all the more fun since when the students were presenting their project police representatives happened to be on the judge panel.

After their business proposals were ready, adding to the authenticity of the experience, the students got to “sell” them to the team of local community leaders who provided feedback and offered suggestions and encouragement, said Ross.

She said that adding more dimensions to the students’ work, they did not only have to write their proposal, but also present them stating their names, without reading, and looking the audience in the eyes.

That enhanced the speaking and listening component of education is usually hard to implement in a classroom, said Ross.

“I wanted to do something where they were actually out in the world,” she said. “They spoke without notes, they had to talk directly to the shark panel, and they couldn’t read from their visual screens.”

The panel of judges invited by Ross included the local decision-makers, such as mayor Richard Hickman, politicians Colleen Everage and Kathy Armstrong, academia represented by MSD Assistant Superintendent Schauna Relue, and business-owners including Tony Isa and Mark Ridenour.

“It was very much like the TV show except that there was no money exchanged,” said Ross. “I tried to get a diverse group of people, not just business people, but people that represented different aspects of the community.”

The teams of sharks particularly appreciated the students’ candor in voicing their concerns on a variety of local issues, as well as the creative solutions the students presented. Along with providing feedback, the panel decided that they could act upon some of the students’ ideas immediately.

For example, responding to the initiative on improving how the mental health component is addressed in the community, the school officials said they had already started to develop an online resource for that.

The students estimated their experience as “ground-breaking,” as senior Jonah Homan put it.

He said that it was “nerve wracking” presenting to someone besides their classmates, and that they got a chance to feel “what’s coming after high school.”

“Our Shark Tank project was a blast!” said senior Gage Hankey. “I loved the challenge of presenting to the sharks while having creative freedom.”

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