Inaugural pitch night

Marist High School held its inaugural pitch night on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, which featured students enrolled in Innovative Design for Entrepreneurial Applications (IDEA). This course was new to the Marist curriculum this year, and was taught in a brand new entrepreneurial center at the school by Dan Gorsky ’79, a former McDonald’s senior vice-president.

Senior students enrolled in this course created and fully developed their own product or service. Student teams worked through the process of ideation, market research, and business plan development. They learned about marketing, accounting, and human resources, as well as the legal aspects of running a business. This is a hands-on course created to allow students to imagine, design, construct, market, and refine their own business ventures.

Students pitched their companies to a crowd of about 250, including the IDEA executive board, a group made up of successful businessmen and women from a variety of industries. Potential companies included items for pet care, food storage, sports gear, and more. “The variety of products and services reflected the students’ personalities well,” Gorsky said. “They were challenged to innovate upon an existing product or solve a problem which students identified. They definitely stepped up and impressed not only me, but everyone involved.”

DSCF0110 DSCF0106 DSCF0103The three funded teams were: CANDOO-Kenny Condon, Kyle Gambla, Connor Mish, John Carroll, Patrick Sweeney; DRIVE US-Keara Arundel, Meg Pieczynski, Jordan Blameuser, Jack Dombrowski; HOLD-Jake Weisenfluh, Amelia Olivi, Chris Scanlan, Ryan Wirtz, Kevin Burns


After all ten teams presented, the IDEA executive board deliberated backstage. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, three teams received some level of funding. The first place team, named Candoo, received $10,000 to develop a web application that will connect students on college campuses who are seeking services or recommendations. For example, a student who needs his iPad fixed could find a fellow student on campus who knows how to do it. In second place with a $6,000 funding award, was Drive Us, another web application that will offer a network for high school students and parents to coordinate rides to school and related activities. In third place, with a $4,000 funding award, was a team that created Hold, a uniquely designed and manufactured phone and wallet product. Over the next six months, the funded teams will continue to develop their companies, and work with Marist to oversee their finances. All three teams are committed to seeing their ideas come to fruition even as they move on to college.

Prize money came from donations to the Marist business curriculum initiative, which also includes finance students investing real money in the stock market, a stock market ticker in the cafeteria, and a move toward hands-on business learning in innovative space at the school. “We want our students to have real world learning experiences so they have every advantage entering college and the work world,” Principal Larry Tucker ’79 explained. “For us that means providing strong curriculum, dynamic space, and current technology. These kids are the leaders for the 21st century, and we want to make sure they have the necessary tools.”

The pitch night event was a culmination of a yearlong journey for both students and teacher. Gorsky transitioned from the business world to teaching at a high school.  “It was obviously a big change,” Gorsky explained. “But the business content was a natural fit, and the kids were great. We were pioneers together in this program, and I couldn’t be more proud.” Throughout the year, students worked with mentors who represented a variety of industries, and also welcomed several guest speakers to class, including former president of McDonald’s U.S.  Jan Fields and Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants CEO and founder Tim McEnery ’94. 

Enrollment for the course this year was 48 students, but will nearly double for the 2015-2016 school year. “We’re going to continue to grow not only this class, but other opportunities like this for our students in a number of departments,” Tucker said. “It’s an exciting time at Marist.” Tucker unveiled a vision for Marist education at a faculty meeting earlier in the year that focuses on progressive learning, and the tools, space, and methodology needed to improve on the school’s already rich curriculum. 


IDEA Mentors:  Tony Belmonte, Russ Doll, Tom Ellis ‘87, Matt Hunt ‘94, Laura Maniatis, Frank Muschetto, Jim Nelson ‘78, Mike Randolph ‘76, Theresa Roche, Pat Schuler, Denise Stillman

IDEA Executive Board:  Gerald Beeson ‘90, Genine Dawczak, Brian Dolan ‘75, Jennifer Fortner, Maura Havenga, Jim Henneberry, Joe Kelly, Jim McErlean ‘79, Jim Philpott ‘79, Nick Wozniak ‘03.

Thank you for your time and guidance!


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