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Ossining Students Dive Into 'Shark Tank' At Summer Academy

Anne M. Dorner Middle School students pitch products. Photo Credit: Contributed
A panel made up of local business leaders and school officials listens to the children's presentations at the Ossining High School last month. Photo Credit: Contributed
Budding entrepreneurs promote their products, which included convertible shoes and a closet-organizing app. Photo Credit: Contributed

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Budding entrepreneurs braved a child-sized version of ABC’s “Shark Tank” recently at Ossining’s Anne M. Dorner Middle School’s Extended School Year Academy.

At the program held in the Ossining High School library, students pitched products ranging from convertible and air-conditioned shoes, to musical hats and toothbrushes, to a flying bicycle and an app that helps you organize your clothes.

Rating their presentations were panelists from the local business community and school district.

“Have your feet ever hurt so much at work because you were wearing heels?” students Keila Alvarez and Jhenifer Zhirzhan Arevalo asked the panelists. “Now, just for $150 you can buy your own Switcher.”

The panelists were impressed with the idea of shoes that could convert from heels to flats and vice versa.

“I think it’s a very healthy idea,” said Susan Riordan, a local architect.

More than just fun and games, the pitches were the culmination of intensive summer work in language arts and math, the school district said. The 97 students attended school four days a week for three hours each day. Participants for whom English is a second language got an extra hour of instruction each day, said Stephen Hancock, the middle school’s assistant principal.

Students had to come up with not only a cost analysis of retail and wholesale prices, but had to figure out expenses, worker salaries, a factory blueprint, a marketing plan, and other important details.

“They were able to create presentations that were authentic learning for them as well as relating to the real world,” said teacher Lisa Margolis.

Student Henry Ascencio pitched a “Beats-Mic” that, he said, would allow users to practice rap and hip hop lyrics and compete against others around the world

Ascensio said he got a lot out of the program, adding that he learned “perseverance, courage and that I should always face my fears with my peers.”

Arevalo said she was happy to have something interesting to do over the summer.

“In my house, I was so bored that it was fun being here,” she said. “The teachers taught me a lot of stuff that I didn’t know before.”

In addition to Riordan, the other panelists were Harry Campbell, president of Biofeedback Resources; Alita Zuber, Ossining’s assistant superintendent for business; John Stylianou, manager of TD Bank; and John Girolamo, director of public relations for the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Johnny G DJ Entertainment.

Finally, students pitched an app called “I-Closet,” which, they said, keeps an inventory of your clothes and helps you put together outfits based on particular events or venues.

Users wouldn’t have to pay a stylist to help them dress, “or waste time digging in your closet,” the students said.

“Hopefully some of you will put these ideas into practice and become millionaires and buy me a Ferrari,” Girolamo said with a laugh.

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