Jerome High School students made pitches to Donatos executives last week, complete with market analysis and commercials.

Jerome High School students made pitches to Donatos executives last week, complete with market analysis and commercials.

The presentations were the culmination of three months of work for a new program at the high school that gives students real-world experience in marketing and advertising.

And it's all done in the students' spare time.

Jerome High School teacher Randy Boyce said he took the idea of the marketing/advertising campaign team project that serves as an extra curricular activity to Donatos after being inspired by the TV show "The Apprentice."

"I was watching too much TV," Boyce said.

"I modeled it after the Donald Trump show, but told the kids they couldn't fire anyone."

Donatos spokesman Tom Santor said the company has done similar programs with other schools before.

"We've done this with Ohio State (University), but Randy had contacted us with the idea to put together a team competition," he said.

"We're all about how can we help the community and schools. We're obviously a brand they're familiar with."

With a partnership cemented with Donatos and students eager to be involved, Boyce said the program was launched in January.

Students visited the Gahanna-based Donatos headquarters for a tour, taste test and crash course in marketing.

Santor has also visited the students every other week to offer marketing guidance.

"The goal is to give students real-world marketing experience," Santor said, noting that students have learned to think critically about a marketing campaign, how to partner for promotions and launch incentives.

"We tried to ground this in what we do all the time."

Students were divided into teams of eight and worked to analyze market trends and come up with marketing plans, incentives for customers and a commercial.

Jerome broadcast teacher Carrie McJunkin also advised the program as students put together commercials.

Junior Bianca Hillier said the program gave her hands-on experience in the field she is hoping to enter some day.

"I learned more from this than on any other school project," she said.

"I definitely want to major in broadcast journalism. I learned about video editing."

Hillier also led the second team that produced a commercial that took viewers into the Donatos kitchen with a rap.

"It was not what I thought it would be," she said of the program. "I was really impressed with the involvement Donatos had.

"We met with Tom Santor and he took his time with us. He gave us insight."

Junior Jordan Gatterdam said the project gave him a look into the world of graphics.

"I took on a lot of the graphic aspects and worked with (teammate) Hunter (Anderson) on Photoshop," he said.

"It got so intricate. We made animal adventure cards for (a partnership) with the zoo and Donatos."

Maddie Irelan said she'd never taken a marketing class before the program and got involved because of the broadcast element.

"I'd never thought about taking a marketing class," she said, "but I learned all about marketing and how customers view companies in certain ways."

Because the program was an extracurricular activity, students had to work around busy schedules to get everything done.

"This was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Gatterdam said, adding time constraints and working with different personalities was sometimes challenging.

"But in the end it all turned out amazingly."

While the program was in its first year at Jerome High School, Boyce said he's hoping to take it to other schools in the future.

Teachers and students from Coffman and Scioto high schools were on hand for the presentations last week.

Boyce said he envisions a program that puts a team from each school in the competition.

"I told myself at the start of this that if this went well I'd do it again," he said.