Achievement unlocked

  • Courtesy photo High school students from three Junior Achievement companies sold their handmade products Friday at Prince Kuhio Plaza.
  • A.J. Care, 16, a student at Keaau High School, arranges jewelry made from sea glass.

  • Sheila Higa, Kailiahi Higa and Nawai Higa check out the eco-friendly wares of Eco-Aloha on Friday. Eco-Aloha is a student-ran company participating in the annual Junior Achievement Trade Fair at Prince Kuhio Plaza. (Photos by STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — While Black Friday shoppers made their way through Prince Kuhio Plaza late Friday morning, some stopped to support local students and budding entrepreneurs.

Perusing the displays located near Macy’s, shoppers could find jewelry, stickers, memory boards and eco-friendly products on sale as part of the annual Junior Achievement Trade Fair.

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Sixty-five students from five East Hawaii high schools were organized into three companies as part of the Junior Achievement Program. Each company was sponsored by a local business and advised by members of Hilo’s business community.

Reyna Gebers, 15 and a student at Hilo High School, was with Ohana Products, a company sponsored by Big Island Toyota that sold homemade Morse code bracelets and sticker packs.

Bracelets were made with silk string and glass beads, she said, and the stickers were purchased from Amazon but packaged together by the students.

“This is my first year and I’ve learned a bunch of new things,” she said of the program. “I’m the assistant vice president of production, so I’ve been helping a lot with the production of everything, just seeing how everything goes and it’s been really good. It’s been a good help for seeing how the job force is.”

Being able to sell things during the trade fair is “really cool because I never thought I would do this,” Gebers said. “I’m a pretty shy person, so I don’t like to go out and talk to people, but this is a really cool experience to have.”

A.J. Care, 16 and a student at Keaau High School, is in his third year doing Junior Achievement.

His company is Aspire, sponsored by the HPM Building Supply and Bank of Hawaii, was selling memory boards and sea glass jewelry.

“… So with the memory boards, we wanted to do something that’s going to be used by the entire family and something that can be used for multiple years and forever, hopefully,” he said.

With the sea glass jewelry, Care said the company “wanted to do (something) a little bit eco-friendly.”

Care said business was a bit slow in the morning, but he was hopeful there would be more sales in the afternoon.

This year, Care said one of the things he learned is how to write a press release.

“I got to understand it better and it made think more about how this works,” he said.

Tacoma Wela, a 15-year-old student at Kamehameha Schools, was with Eco-Aloha, a company sponsored by HFS Federal Credit Union, that sold reusable glass Mason jars etched with the company name and a reusable straw and straw cleaner, as well as reusable wooden chopsticks.

“We’re trying to be eco-friendly, cut down on waste,” she said. “We’re trying to teach both our kupuna and keiki about cutting down waste.”

Wela said the morning started off slow, but business was picking up.

Her favorite part about the Junior Achievement experience is learning.

“Oh, we learned so much,” she said. “We learned about vision statements … mission statements, going out and actually talking to people and pitching our product to people. I think it’s really fun.”

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Junior Achievement teaches students the aspects of operating a business, from selecting a name and product, manufacturing and building products, through liquidation — all in the span of one semester.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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