Coleen Agner, HSHT state director, at left, and Allison Chase, Able Trust president and CEO, at right, stand with the Gulf County team, from left, Caytlin Myers, Brianna Hysmith and Aden Hortin. [ The Able Trust ]
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Wewa seniors win state championship for entrepreneurship

Three Wewahitchka High School seniors, representing Gulf County, have taken home a state championship in a contest where the best plan for entrepreneurship rises to the top.

As members of the Gulf County High School High Tech program, Aden Hortin, Brianna Hysmith, and Caytlin Myers emerged victorious among the four finalists in the 2024 Project Venture entrepreneurship competition April 9 at the Marriott Jacksonville Downtown.

The Gulf County trio finished ahead of runners-up Broward County North, while the teams representing Duval County West and Leon County finished in third and fourth place. Respectively. Gulf County HSHT received a $1,000 prize for their win.

To compete in Project Venture, HSHT students develop and execute a comprehensive business plan and 30-second video commercial for a mobile company, product, or service they would like to create.

Gulf County HSHT’s business concept, Teen Mobile, aims to meet the needs of primarily elderly technology users by connecting the right teen technician to arrive and assist each individual user. 

The Gulf County program, which is partnered with CareerSource Florida Gulf Coast, was one of four HSHT teams to advance to the finals from a preliminary field of 24 entrants, the most in Project Venture history. The high number and quality of teams who submitted business plans resulted in four finalists being chosen rather than the usual three.

“This year’s field of Project Venture entrants was highly competitive, and these four teams gave some of the best final presentations we’ve seen,” said The Able Trust President and CEO Allison Chase. “The students spoke confidently, knowledgeably and thoughtfully about their business plans, and expertly fielded tough questions from our judges and audience members.”

Project Venture is a competition for high school students with disabilities to showcase entrepreneurial skills, including project management, group collaboration, written communication, problem solving, and presentation skills.

During the second phase of the competition, in a high-pressure Shark Tank-like experience, the students gave an in-person pitch of their project to a panel of five judges, each including a slide show, the commercial and a Q & A session with the judges and audience members.

Each of the finalists’ presentations were prepared with the support of an executive coach. Gulf County’s team met with professionals from Wewahitchka’s Centennial Bank, including Carolyn Husband, to fine-tune their delivery and audio-visual components of their business concept’s pitch, and to prepare to face questions from the panel of judges and audience members.

“The students clearly learned important skills through their participation in the competition and from the expertise of the four terrific executive coaches,” said Chase.

“I am extremely proud of these talented, hardworking young people and look forward to hearing about their future successes.”

Chase said the Wewa’s team “business development materials were creative, they had a very professional presentation, and they did a great job answering questions from our panel of judges.

“I’m sure their family and community are very proud of their efforts,” she said.

“Winning this competition feels incredible. We were able to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones to present a project that can really make a difference,” said team member Caytlin Myers. “We learned so many valuable skills, including working together for a common goal and supporting each other’s strengths.”

Seated are Lianna Sagins HSHT club director, left, and Kodi Linton assistant club director, right, with standing, from left, Teacher Liaison Andrea Morgan, Brianna Hysmith, Aden Hortin and Caytlin Myers. [ The Able Trust ]

Lianna Sagins, the CareerSource Gulf Coast director of workforce services for Gulf and Franklin County, commended the students for the achievement.

“The creativity, talent, and ingenuity of these students never ceases to amaze me. They approached this project with a fresh perspective to solving a real-world issue,” said Sagins, who works closely with Wewa teacher Andrea Morgan in coordinating the program. “Their hard work and experience gained with Project Venture, as well as coordinating local job fairs for Gulf County students, will undoubtedly lead to great things in their futures. It has been inspiring to see their self-confidence grow with each new project throughout the year.”

The teens honed their project management and communication skills at Job Fair & Career Expos recently held at Port St. Joe High School and Wewahitchka High School.

The High School High Tech group conceptualized, organized, and hosted the student- focused events. The events featured more than 30 educators, recruiters, businesses, and resources together to highlight job opportunities, educational paths, internships, and volunteer opportunities in the Gulf County area.

“We are incredibly grateful to The Able Trust and the entire community – businesses, mentors, educators – who have come together to support these youth,” said Kim Bodine, executive director of CareerSource Gulf Coast. “ Together we are building a future where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. This investment creates a bright future for these teens and our entire community.”

The Able Trust was established by the Florida legislature in 1990 to support the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Florida’s youth with disabilities through High School High Tech, a comprehensive career and postsecondary exploration program for high school youth.

High School High Tech, Futures in Focus and the Project Venture competition are designed to help strengthen soft skills that are vital to the workforce and increase the high school graduation rate and postsecondary enrollment of students with disabilities.

To view the promotional commercials, visit . To see a recap of the Project Venture finals and meet the judges, visit

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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