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Student wins national business recognition Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 24 2011 12:00 PM

And then there were three.

In August, Luis Venegas, Jesus Montijo and Giomieco Sahagun, all 17-year-old seniors from Sweetwater High School, swept an entrepreneur-based business competition at The Jacob Center in San Diego.

Each student won an iPad and round a trip ticket to Miami to compete against 12 students across the country in a national business competition earlier this week.

After presenting their products and services to a panel of judges Tuesday, Luis won third place and a $1,000 scholarship, which can be applied to whatever college he chooses.

"The experience of coming to Miami feels good because I actually won," Luis said. "I would have never had this experience - I learned a lot about business and not to be hesitant in life."

Luis is looking forward to ultimately showing his service to the Los Angeles Metropolitan board.

The trio landed in Miami Saturday, participated in workshops Sunday and competed Tuesday morning.

The opportunity stemmed from the inaugural BizFest Entrepreneurship program for San Diego area high school students to compete against each other by writing up a business plan for a product or service and presenting it to a panel of six judges.

The students beat out 30 others by writing a profitable business plan.

Sweetwater High School principal Dr. Roman Del Rosario said he was proud that the top three who placed were from his high school.

"It shows our students ... are able to demonstrate they are well prepared and highly skilled to compete," he said.

Luis' idea was called Trans-Fi and focused on providing wi-fi on public transportation.

"I came up with the idea because when I was younger I had to take the city bus a lot because my mom didn't have a car and I would get bored," he said.

During the event, students were mentored by successful business leaders such as National City Chamber of Commerce CEO Jacqueline Reynoso and chairman for the San Diego BizFest committee Roberto Vargas.

Luis said he never thought he'd have the opportunity to experience something like this.

"People from National City don't really get this kind of opportunity..." he said. "It shows that just because we live in what people call 'the ghetto,' we're not going to be overlooked."

Vargas said he first saw the program in Denver two and a half years ago and wanted to bring it to San Diego.

"It's more than just a competition," he said. "The intent behind it is not just the contest but so they (students) are exposed to the business world."

Jesus also plays varsity football for Sweetwater as a linebacker and fullback and wants to get into the sports industry at the University of Southern California.

He developed a product that incorporates the similarities of an air bag into a neck pad.

"Upon a certain amount of force it deploys upon impact," Jesus said. "I thought a lot about rules in the NFL regarding neck injuries and thought that protecting the player is better than taking out the nature of game."

Jesus said the opportunity made him realize how much potential he has.

"It's opened up a lot of doors for me and I met people I would have never met by doing this..."

Giomieco came up with the idea of "Your Time," which is a creative environment like Starbucks where students without laptops or computers could study with free Wi-Fi, similar to an Internet cafe.

"I got the idea because right now a lot of students are dropping out," he said. "...I gained new perspective and met a lot of different people."

The Jacob's center for neighborhood intervention, donated the space for the event and The San Diego Future Foundation donated 33 laptops for he students to use.

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