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West Virginians FORGE Ahead Pitch Competition

WVU Teams up with Local Businesses to Host First Annual Forge Ahead K-12 Pitch Competition

As our nation adjusted to the new normal of COVID-19, summer activities looked a little different for West Virginia University; including the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. However, as a center committed to serving our state’s youth, the Encova Center found a way to inspire entrepreneurship through a virtual competition.

The Encova Center teamed up with both WVU’s Chambers College and Extension Service to create a competition open to all West Virginia Students in grades K-12. Students had the opportunity to submit an innovative idea that focused on improving their community, our state or society as a whole.

“During this difficult time, we were looking for ways to stay active with the community. Partnering with Forge Business Solutions was the perfect way for us to do that while engaging young minds from across the state,” said Tara St. Clair, Program Lead at Encova Center. “I was blown away by the ideas and even more impressed by the creative videos they produced.”

The Forge Ahead Pitch competition was sponsored by Forge Business Solutions, as well as WV News, The State Journal and Inneraction Media.

“It is essential to our future that we empower students of all backgrounds and perspectives to embrace entrepreneurship in local communities and unleash innovative solutions that will benefit West Virginia,” said Frank Vitale, President and CEO of Forge Business Solutions. “For this reason, we could not be more proud to partner with WVU and the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, as we Forge Ahead!"

Students competed in two rounds. In round one, contestants submitted a 90-second video explaining their business idea and why it would be successful. The top videos in each category – elementary, middle and high school – competed in the final round of the competition on Wednesday, August 5, by submitting an additional 3-minute video, as well as answering live Q&A with judges. 

Students throughout the state had compelling ideas, many of which were elementary-age students, such as a 4th grader from Morgantown, WV.

“I was thinking about the safety of my friends when we get back into school and I knew a comfortable mask could help, so I came up with the idea of a cool feeling, comfortable mask, and named it  Hygeia Comfi Maska,” said Ana Galvez, 4th grader from Saint Francis. “I applied to the competition because I thought this could be an opportunity to show my idea and help bring all of us together again.” 

Not only were students able to put their for-profit and not-for-profit ideas to the test, but they also earned cash prizes.

This year’s winners are:

Elementary School

  1. Hygeia Comfi Maska- Ana Galvez Tolia, Saint Francis: $500
  2. Know Your Town Treasure Hunt- Archie Collignon, Suncrest: $250
  3. Foster Care Alternative For West Virginia- Camila Garcia, Saint Francis: $100
  4. History Hike app- Konrad & Milan Medan, Mountainview elementary: $50

Middle School

  1. Squirrel Away- Savannah Grose, South Charleston Middle & COVID Kits- Samantha Zizzi, South Middle: $500
  2. Kids Baking Competition- Addy Zizzi, South Middle: $250
  3. Daniel’s Pet Care- Daniel Yearego, Bridgeport Middle: $100

High School

  1. *Students Connect- Lauren Shen, Morgantown High: $500

*People’s Choice: Know Your Town Treasure Hunt: $100 (from Elementary division)

“We are looking forward to continuing this partnership and growing the competition for next year,” said St. Clair, Program Lead at Encova Center.

Learn more about the  Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship or email Tara St. Clair at

Hosted by 


WVU Extension

Sponsored by