Students tread water in ‘Shark Tank’

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Janson Reason, A.J. Nowaczyk and Logan Hall had a hard sell.

The trio had to convince a panel that buying into a company that produced the ornamental “Stoner Rock” was a good investment.

They were participants in the annual “Shark Tank” presentations this week at Wilson Early College Academy on the campus of Wilson Community College.

“I was very confident, which is great. I think that is part of what sold us,” Janson said. “I wasn’t very shaky, and I wasn’t scared.”

Logan said he was happy his team’s product got picked up by the sharks, who bought in a 20 percent share for $200,000.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I expected to be and just went up there with confidence and was ready,” Logan said. “We prepared quite a bit, and we have kind of known this idea from day one.”

The students were part of a public speaking and debate class for freshmen and sophomores taught by Kimberly Wright.

Wright said the “Shark Tank” television show is something all of the students are familiar with.

“It’s a format that allows them to speak in a non-threatening environment,” Wright said. “I recognized that it was also fun because they get to have some say into their product. It’s cross-curricular, and it requires a lot of research.”

Wright has been using the format as an education tool since 2014. Students get to see the good and bad performances of students from past years as they prepare for their own presentations.

“When I get these students in January, we start out with things that are simple, like tongue twisters. I put them in teams and it’s really competitive,” Wright said. “We go into a debate and we go into a mock court trial based on a fairy tale, so it’s very cute.”

She works with students to improve their eye contact, body positioning, volume, poise and other quirky things to get worked out before the event.

“We focused on the art of persuasion because in the class,” Wright said.

Preparation is the key, Wright said.

“I have really been reinforcing the fact that you have to practice and stay focused,” Wright said. “When they are relaxed, it comes out.”

“It requires them to do all of the things that a good public speaker would do — research, collaborations, writing, rewriting, group work — everything to get their presentation up to snuff so that they can actually go out and sell their product,” said Principal Nelson Johnston. “It ties everything together.”

Sharks included retired Wilson County Schools teacher Hilda Bridgers, WCC Police Chief Aubrey Pearson, BB&T senior Secrecy Act specialist Terrence Jones and WECA school counselor Ashley Lamm.

“Even if it’s just a play, almost, it’s a very big deal. It makes you anxious,” Janson said.

“You talk and you have to get used to that and have to be able to speak in front of them even though you are scared you might not get a deal.”

“I know it’s not real, but it really puts you under the pressure and it makes you feel very anxious. With public speaking a major thing is being nervous and knowing how to deal with pressure,” Logan said.

“It’s very fun and interactive and it really does push your boundaries.”