Volunteer Spotlight: Kim Wall, Georgia United Credit Union

Kim Wall, bottom right, with her team at the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett

Kim Wall, bottom right, with her team at the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett

What motivates you to volunteer? 

Georgia United Credit Union encourages community service and volunteerism as a priority for all team members. We receive several paid days off to support community programs like Junior Achievement, and our own Georgia United service projects.

Personally, I love volunteering and sharing my life experiences with the next generation, and seeing how much our team members enjoy working with the middle schoolers. As corporate volunteers, we also represent Georgia United as a positive and responsible business partner with our school systems.

Why JA of Georgia?

Junior Achievement is a great fit for credit unions because we are committed to improving financial literacy for students (and adults!) 

We understand solid money management practices and love to share real-life scenarios to facilitate those “ah-ha” moments.

What’s your best ah-ha moment or memory with JA of Georgia?

Our first-time JA volunteers usually seem a little nervous to work with middle schoolers but once the students receive their lifestyle simulations (“What, I have two kids?!”) and start the budgeting exercises (“How am I going to PAY for all these expenses?!”), things get “REAL” in a hurry!

Students are always surprised at how much things cost (taxes, insurance, etc.) and I suspect quite a few candid family dinner conversations about money take place AFTER a visit to JA. Don’t you?

Volunteer Spotlight: Tobias Bell, Sage Software

What motivates you to volunteer? As adults, we view the issues of our society every day. To volunteer with the kids Georgia is my way of molding a better future. If I can impact our youth in a positive way, they will then use those ideals to be a great contribution to society.  

Why JA of Georgia? As an Atlanta native, being able to impact my city directly by encouraging its residents has always been a dream of mine. The image of Georgia is viewed on a national scale and JA is a huge contributor to the prestige of the state of Georgia. 

What’s your best ah-ha moment or memory with JA of Georgia? Working in JA BizTown’s Bank of America I had a young man that seemed to have no drive, no ambitions as far as his future. Just so happens he was made CEO. This young man displayed one the best illustrations of leadership I’ve seen at JA. He managed, directed his peers, he didn’t even go shopping because he wanted to make sure his business was running sufficiently. Afterwards I spoke with him and he stated he wanted to become an entrepreneur -  just showing these kids a direction can impact their lives tremendously.

Cottrell's continue to fuel tomorrow's generation

In 1987 Mike Cottrell bought his father’s small manufacturing business with a goal to become the best company in his industry and give back every step of the way. Today, Cottrell Incorporated is the leader in manufacturing automobile haulers in North America, and Mike and Lynn Cottrell are devoted members of north Georgia’s communities.

Cottrell grew up in Pennsylvania during a time when manufacturing fueled the economy. “Of course I knew about manufacturing, but it was not until I got involved with Junior Achievement that I discovered the various plants and career opportunities available,” said Cottrell. “It was an eye-opening experience for me and set the course for my future.”

Early on Cottrell set the vision for his company to become the premier manufacturer and employer in the industry. His leadership focused around the belief that in order to grow you must be the best in everything. “When you create the best place to work you attract and retain the top talent, which in turn develops the best product. Yes, I cast the vision, but the people made it happened. They are the ones who brought the vision to life, and for that I am forever thankful.”

I’m a doer, not a talker. I believe that if more people are able to align their passions to their careers there will be more doers in this world.
— Mike Cottrell

Throughout Cottrell’s career he was dedicated to his commitment to give back. As his company grew so did the impact of his investment. From supporting efforts to fuel tourism to community activism, the Cottrells have remained unwavering supporters of north Georgia. “Lynn and I love this community, and are fortunate that Cottrell Inc. has provided us with the ability to support it, especially around education.”

Mike and Lynn Cottrell have been longtime supporters of University of North Georgia. Their transformational gifts have helped spur the growth of the business school and provided scholarships for students in need. In January 2017, it was announced that the Cottrells will continue their legacy of fueling the futures of young people by becoming the lead investors in the first ever JA Discovery Center located outside of metro Atlanta. “I’m a business person and I think one of the keys to being successful is education, and we must provide opportunities for all students.”

The Mike & Lynn Cottrell JA Discovery Center of North Georgia will open August 2018 and serve middle students throughout the region. This will be the third JA Discovery Center in Georgia and will be located on the grounds of the Alliance Academy for Innovation of Cumming and Forsyth. The Center will house JA BizTown and JA Finance Park, immersive simulations where students explore industries and careers, and acquire foundational knowledge for financial well-being.

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“Deciding on your career is a major decision in life. Children deserve the opportunity to be exposed to many opportunities.”

“I’ve spent my entire life in manufacturing and I credit a major component of that to Junior Achievement.  I’ve lived a life I love and I am thrilled by the possibility of inspiring thousands of children to do the same.”

Find out more about the new Mike & Lynn Cottrell JA Discovery Center at North Georgia.

60 Seconds with: Hunter Pierce

How does your role fit into the organization as a whole?

I am honored to serve JA of Georiga by giving students the opportunity to learn from volunteers at the JA Discovery Centers.  These individuals represent grown-ups from all walks of life who are willing to share their stories and experience with students as they participate at the JA Discovery Centers. My role is to steward these individuals, help them see their value, and help them gain the personal and professional development skills that comes from philanthropic giving of time and treasure. So, basically, my role is to invite great people to the JA Discovery Centers to help inspire our future leaders! 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

My inspiration has been fueled by the stories I hear and the students whose lives have been changed by the simulations. The passion that lives in my heart undoubtedly comes out when I am doing recruitment events, or speaking one-on-one with a volunteer. So my biggest challenge is really more of an opportunity: to work with volunteer champions (what we call the point of contacts from an organization) to help them convey that same passion to their colleagues and our students. 

What do you like most about your role?

My two favorite times of the day are the morning and the afternoon of a volunteer day.  In the morning, most volunteers are a combination of excited and unsure about what will come of their day. We like to make them laugh and help set their minds at ease. We are given the unique opportunity to help people build new personal and professional relationships while volunteering.  I enjoy watching people make friends and make connections throughout the Gwinnett community during the morning arrival time.  I also love seeing a show of hands of how many return volunteers we have! In the afternoon, the volunteers share their stories about the day.  The stories are funny, heart war,, life changing, and inspiring.  Every volunteer debrief is a reminder of why we are here! Who says volunteers can’t have those “ah-ha moments” too?! 

What motivates you?

Service! Sharing those one-on-one conversations with volunteers after their day or reading an email that says “thank you for having me…truly changed my life” keeps me going. So many adults walk the earth thinking that they have nothing to give.  Serving others through our talent or treasure can help us find our worth and I am happy when someone finds their individual value in Service.

Advice for the next generation?

If you find a role or a field that you are truly passionate about, you will watch yourself excel professionally and personally.  It’s never too late to begin listening to your heart and becoming a more compassionate and hardworking person…just never forget why you are here and that you can make a difference.

JA Academy: Beyond the classroom walls

JA Academy is empowering today's generation to be more prepared and motivated than ever before. Real-world connectivity is infused into the everyday learning experience and the result is a highly engaging and
relevant learning environment.

Business connectivity through case studies and site visits are two components that give students these
types of opportunities to connect their academics to life beyond the classroom walls. Integrated within
the standard curriculum, the students work through business challenges presented by and in conjunction with advisers from partnering companies.

As the groups of students work to develop a solution to a real issue that the company has faced, they
are exposed to the intricacies of the day-to-day for many employees in the business world. What makes this company who they are? How can we solve this challenge in a manner that reflects those values? What are the implications of our decision? Who do I collaborate with to make this happen?

The site visit serves not only as a culminating experience after weeks of research, discussion and preparation, but also as an opportunity to discover positions, companies and industries they may not have known existed. 

JA Academy at Norcross High School’s first site visit was to WestRock, a Fortune 500 global printing, packaging and recycling company headquartered just three miles from the school. Through the case study, the students discovered that the process of printing something as unassuming as a tissue box involves infinitely more steps, collaboration and decision making than they imagined.


While in the Structural Design department, students built off of what they learned in class to get a complete scope of the challenge. Does the client choose the design of the box? What if they don’t like what you come up with? Let’s back up; what kind of technology and background do you have to have to create these in the first place? What if the material the client wants doesn’t do the job as well as another material may, how do you relay this information to them?


In a span of a few minutes, students fed off of each other’s questions to dive into what actually goes on in these employees’ work days. They went beyond the surface level questions and into the questions that will begin shaping the trajectory of their own aspirations and futures as they discover how their interests can translate into career.


These are the kinds of unassuming moments that can last a lifetime. When we provide authentic experiences students become energized around not only what they could become, but what they can do now to help get them there. That’s where the transformation of education becomes obvious; when students begin connecting their academics to their future possibilities, they are more motivated in the classroom and empowered to go further than they can dream.

JA Fellow starts non-profit to help feed peers

Here at JA, we know that our programs are full of incredible students. We know that we are in a unique position in which we get to help inspire and grow students' passions, and watch them succeed in front of our eyes. But every now and then, we get to share stories that truly blow us away.

Lauren Seroyer is one of those stories. A JA Fellow and rising Junior at Peachtree Ridge High School in Gwinnett County, Seroyer has begun to tackle a problem that many people twice her age never think about: food insecurity. She was inspired by a classmate that confided in her that he didn't have enough food at home. Instead of just feeling bad, she did something about it.

"When I called the local food pantry, I was shocked to find out that they couldn't give their resources to anyone outside of their service area," said Seroyer.

So she decided to start her own. Community Assistance and Resource Effort (CARE) Closets, is a confidential school-based food pantry. The food comes from school clubs and the local community, and is run by  student council members and supporting teachers. The first, at Seroyer's own Peachtree Ridge, began with just with a lunch announcement to the school, and grew from there.

Since March, CARE Closets has gained local and national recognition. In April they were the recipient of the Spark Prize from United Way of Greater Atlanta, providing $25,000 in funding to help reach their goal of being in every high school in Gwinnett County. Then, just a few weeks ago Seroyer was one of two recipients of the Community Choice Youth Award from 365Black, a McDonald's program that recognizes people who are working to make a difference in the African American community. She received the $10,000 award on the national stage, alongside honorees like Toni Braxton and Wendy Raquel Robinson.

"I didn't expect for it to explode like this," said Seroyer. "Everything has been moving so quickly, but it's been so wonderful. I never expected any type of recognition, but I have had so many opportunities, and been able to grow the program larger than I'd ever imagined."

So how does it work? Seroyer has develop a tool kit for schools that spells out how to implement the program. It requires just a student council member and sponsoring teachers to begin, and can start providing food to those in need immediately. Seroyer is confident that Peachtree Ridge - and one day all high schools in the county - will be able to continue the program long after she graduates.

Seroyer is an inspiration to her friends, classmates and adults alike. When asked what her advice to people her age would be, she confidently replied that "No idea is a bad idea. The most common thing my peers say to me is 'I never thought that making a change could begin with just a simple idea.' You can't be afraid to try things, and you can't give up." said Seroyer.

The biggest lesson she's learned is one that we could all use a little more often: Never look down on anyone, because you never know what the person next to you is going through.

The 365Black awards will air on BET on September 1st at 9PM.

Staff Spotlight: Niambi Sampson

Sampson receiving her certification of participation in the EPFP

Sampson receiving her certification of participation in the EPFP

Niambi Sampson is the Vice President of Programs at JA of Georgia, and has been with the organization for eight years. She has held various positions throughout her time, and continues to help achieve our mission of preparing today's students for tomorrow's economy.

Her favorite thing about working for JA of Georgia is working with the districts to make sure all students have access to life changing programs.

"They really are dedicated, passionate people who work tirelessly for their students. So working with them, on behalf of kids, is awesome!" Sampson said.

Sampson recently completed the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), a national professional development program sponsored by the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) that provides potential leaders with the knowledge and networks to advance the core issues of education policy.

According to their website, EPFP is an initiative of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and is co-sponsored by the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia. The program connects potential educational leaders with one another to build the capacity for our state to raise the bar for student learning and achievement.

It addresses the need for an education leadership development program in the state to provide potential leaders with the knowledge and networks to advance the core issues of education policy. It serves as a critical resource for individuals, organizations and the state to increase the knowledge about education policy and linkages between policy and practice. Ultimately EPEP seeks to improve the chances of children and youth to succeed.

"Being in the Education Policy Fellowship Program unveiled the many inputs that affect the output of an excellent education," said Sampson. "It reinforced my foundational belief that schools will never succeed alone. It takes that proverbial village to even scratch the surface of what is needed to educate a child."

100,000 students served at the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center!

What an incredible three years it has been! Our 100,000th student, Edith from Chapel Hill Middle school in DeKalb County, passed through the doors of the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center on Friday, May 20, 2016.

Students from Chapel Hill Middle School were welcomed with cheers and confetti by JA of Georgia volunteers, staff and partners, and the monumental moment was felt by all.

"This is a major milestone for us to be able to create an authentic and experiential opportunity that enriches traditional learning," said Jack Harris, President & CEO of JA of Georgia. "This experience provides students a point of reference for their future, and goes far beyond their time at our facility."

 In addition to inspiring the students, the programming is impacting the way that teachers actually teach. Nine out of ten teachers report that the visit positively impacted the way they approach teaching economic concepts, bringing real-world concepts into the classroom and having more ‘real-world’ discussions around long-term goal setting. What’s more, 97 percent of teachers would recommend the experience to other teachers.

“One student said, ‘I didn't know my parents had to do all this,’” said Winfred Crawford, 7th grade teacher at Chapel Hill Middle School. “Through this statement, he acknowledged an awareness that he did not have prior to his time at JA Finance Park. This is an excellent experience that every child should have.”

This milestone would not have been possible without our invaluable partnerships with the schools systems, business community and all of our volunteers in the Atlanta community. We can't wait to continue impacting students for years to come!

Q&A with JA Fellows Alumni: Orane Douglas

How many years were you in the JA Fellows program?

1 year

What year did you graduate from high school?

2010

What college do you attend, what's your major and expected graduation year?

I graduated from Duke University in 2014 on the pre-medical track with a major in Cultural Anthropology. I am currently obtaining my Masters in Public Health from Emory University in the Health Policy and Management with a certificate in Socio-contextual Determinants of Health with an anticipated graduation date of May 2017.

Favorite sports team or food?

Jamaican, Latin, and Italian food; Duke Blue Devils

What are some of your recent achievements? What is your proudest achievement in life?

I was currently voted to be the Academic and Social co-chair for the Association of Black Public Health students at Emory and was selected as a student ambassador for the admissions board. During my senior year at Duke, I was selected as the 2014 Kappa Man of the Year for my chapter and was also awarded a plaque for the significant contributions I've made during my tenure as President and in other leadership positions.

My  proudest accomplishment is my involvement with Duke's Global Health Institute, where I was granted an opportunity to develop and implement a project to help a community and learn about resources. I was originally accepted into the Student Research Training program in November alongside three other undergraduate students. Together, we worked with community based organizations in Sri Lanka to identify problems of interest and ways we could assist. Working with staff in the institute, we developed a budget, received funding, organized transportation and funding, and a plan of action. We then traveled to Sri Lanka for 8 weeks, where I taught English, math, science, and music classes to the minority Tamil population as well as worked with an organization to empower the people of the communities. Though we were not able to extract the desired data, we were able to develop a nutritional assessment to help the organization we were working with to better serve the interests of the community.

What is the most important thing you took from the JA Fellows program that applies to your life now?

JA Fellows helped me tremendously with the work in Sri Lanka. I learned during the program the rewards and difficulties with working with a team towards a common goal. I also learned how to adjust when things were not going as planned. Additionally, I learned how to better balance between being the CEO of our JA company and performing well in school. I am currently doing my masters full time, while working full time in Cancer Clinical Research, while also running a business. JA was the first time I had been exposed to business operations and the multiple facets of developing and growing a business. I take that experience developing an Annual Report and use it currently in developing revenue and expense reports, which I am also learning in my Masters program. JA Fellows allowed for me to learn skill sets and lessons central to my passions and served as a strong foundation for everything I am currently learning and doing. I am forever grateful to the program for the lessons I learned, the individuals who spent their time investing in me, and mentoring me.

Q&A with JA Fellows Alumni: Khadejah Jackson

How many years were you in the JA Fellows program?

4 years

What year did you graduate from high school?

2015

 What college do you attend and what's your major and expected graduation year?

University of Oregon, Business major, 2019

Favoritefood?

Almost any soul food dish

What are some of your recent achievements? What is your proudest achievement in life?

Invited to join Business Honors Program, 3.9 GPA, and living independently. Proudest achievement thus far is attending college and being able to manage the changes.

What is the most important thing you took from the JA Fellows program that applies to your life now?

As a business major I am required to take a lot of math classes and business related courses, one of which is BA 101 (Business Admin class like a JA 2.0 in terms of running a mock business). All of the skills (understanding different position roles, monitoring numbers, collaborating, etc.) I learned in JA are reoccurring again for me in many of my courses being a business major.

How do you think the JA Fellows program, in conjunction to what you have learned since leaving the program impacted your career readiness?

I came to college more prepared because of JA. In terms of the classroom, I have a general understanding in my business classes. Socially, I gained a better sense of professionalism and how to interact in large gatherings. Additionally, I learned that college is a major networking opportunity for students to expand beyond the classroom and campus for career opportunities. JA has instilled me with confidence and the ability to network with others, and how to ask others for what I want or need. My JA experience was a true indicator of real life and I see that through my ability to be able to pitch an idea, make myself standout in a crowd, and how to engage in conversation with professionals

Is there anything that you would like us to know or highlight about your life journey?

JA also helped me financially by connecting me with scholarship opportunities which came in handy this year.

Q&A with JA Fellows Alum: Jabari Moore

How many years were you in the JA Fellows program?

I was in JA Fellows for 2 years.

What year did you graduate from high school?

I graduated in 2012.

What college do you attend, what's your major and expected graduation year?

I am currently a senior at University of Georgia majoring in Finance. I will be graduating in May.

Favorite food?

My favorite food is macaroni and cheese.

Tell us your story!

JA played an integral role in my success through the various opportunities to network and learn about entrepreneurship. I was originally planning to be a chef, but through my experience with JA, I learned more about other professions and had access to professionals with tangible experience they could share with me.

Through JA I had the opportunity to do a job shadow with a venture capitalist and that changed the outlook of my professional life. Since graduating from high school and entering college, I have carried my interest for venture capital and entrepreneurship intomy studies and work experience. I've interned at a start-up incubator in Atlanta and a start-up and a venture capital fund in Silicon Valley.

JA was integral in sparking the professional interests I currently have. It is so inspiring to see the next generation of innovators participating in JA programs, and I am looking forward to being a part of their journey.

Q&A with JA Fellows Alum: Allison Burns

How many years were you in the JA Fellows program?

I was in the JA Fellows program for two years.

What year did you graduate from high school?

I graduated from high school in 2015.

What college do you attend, and what's your major and expected graduation year?

I am a part of Howard University’s class of 2019 as a political science and Spanish double major.

Favorite food?

My favorite foods are hot wings and burritos from Willy’s!

What are some of your recent achievements? What is your proudest achievement in life?

I currently attend Howard University on the Founder’s Scholarship, which is a full academic scholarship. I was also recently invited to join Howard’s chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. I also worked with a friend to create the Urban Youth Alliance. This program pairs up college students and high school seniors to provide guidance for the applicants through the college application process. Some of my proudest achievements in life include raising money and serving as an international volunteer with the YMCA international teen program. They also include serving as a translator in a hospital in Pereira, Colombia because I took initiative and stepped outside of my comfort zone in an effort to learn about different cultures and give back to the communities.

What is the most important thing you took from the JA Fellows program that applies to your life now?

The most important things that I took from the JA Fellows program that applies to my life now are organization and business skills. Howard is a school in which you have to be organized and have business and networking skills in order to be successful and I feel that JA prepared me well for this environment.

How do you think the JA Fellows program, in conjunction to what you have learned since leaving the program impacted your career readiness?

The JA Fellows program puts you in a business environment very early, preparing you for the real world. Even though I did not want to go to school for business, the lessons that I learned from the process that I went through with JA prepared me well for career opportunities in general. It prepared me for little things, like knowing what’s appropriate to wear to an interview and how to give presentations in front of large groups of people.

Volunteer Spotlight

Today we hear from Kathy Tullos Young of Market Street Services about her first time volunteering at the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center.

As Principal and COO of a premier provider of community, workforce, and economic development strategic planning services, her perspective provides a look into the impact our programs can have on our entire community.

"I had heard great things about the Discovery Center – and after serving as a “Chief Volunteer Officer” alongside seven enthusiastic 6th graders from The Champion School in Stone Mountain Georgia – I can safely say that my expectations were easily met. The experiential program that JA Georgia has put together is impressive, and seamless integration of corporate partners turns what the students might have assumed would be a fun field trip into a realistic venture that is truly empowering and inspiring. The day trip to the Center (which serves 65,000 students a year) caps off an in-class curriculum-based experience led by teachers in the weeks prior to the visit."

Read about her whole experience here.

From our Board: A work-life balance

Our Board Chair, John Dwyer, is the President of Cricket Wireless, as well as a husband and father.

In the article below, he weighs in on how to maintain a fulfilling work-life balance in our 'always on' society.

Be Intentional About Leading an Integrated Life without Borders #OutsideWork

Work-life balance often implies that a border should exist between your office life and personal one. The society we are evolving into doesn’t always reflect that reality. In fact, lifestyle trends are moving us to being more integrated than divided – a collage of life activity that touches one another and creates a meaningful identity.

There’s a company that allows you to travel the world for an entire year, while working remotely alongside a small group of other people. It’s a life without borders in the literal and symbolic sense.

Technology, like laptops, smartphones and Wi-Fi connectivity, has enabled the possibility of building personal and professional relationships while seeing the globe in one seamless experience.

That small group is intentionally choosing to live integrated lives, where borders that separate the office and the life outside of it simply don’t exist. As enticing as it sounds, that’s not something I’m ready to take on right now, because I absolutely love my job. At Cricket, we’re working everyday to transform an industry.

The good news is you don’t have to travel the world to lead the path of an integrated life.

As the president of Cricket, who is also a husband and father of two children, I am conscious of how integrated my life has become, operating a 24/7 business that doesn't sleep. So it's not surprising to me that my work impacts how I spend my time outside of it.

As an example, every month, I have breakfast with Jack Harris, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Georgia. Through my previous role at AT&T, Cricket’s parent company, I was given the privilege of serving as chair of Jack’s board of directors. He is the innovative leader of this ground-breaking nonprofit, which provides thousands of students across the state opportunities to learn the importance of personal financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurial thinking.

Like Cricket, Junior Achievement of Georgia is trying to serve more people and enrich more lives. In order to do that, they have to scale operations, make smart investments, and hire strategically – things we do at Cricket every day.

It is incredibly rewarding to tap into my experiences at work to help Jack and his organization strategically plan for the future. I get to share with him the knowledge and best practices we, as a company, have learned along the way to help realize Junior Achievement’s mission. I believe it is an absolute blessing to work at a company that, not only allows, but also encourages this type of involvement.

It makes me proud that my lives inside and outside work can fuel one another.

As a result, Cricket has made me better at work and more personally fulfilled in life. The same goes for the thousands of employees also inspired by Junior Achievement, who are committed to its growth and success.

For the last two decades, employees representing business units across AT&T’s family of brands have entered into a friendly competition to raise thousands of dollars for Junior Achievement. Last year, it was $315,000 with Cricket employees accounting for 41 percent of the amount. Raising that kind of money often requires commitment outside their normal workday.

A dedication to community and youth empowerment transcends their lives at work and outside of it. Our employees are leading integrated lives, too.

The result is that I get to work alongside like-minded individuals, who afford me the opportunity to build personal and professional relationships in one seamless experience.

I’m intentionally living my own version of an integrated life without borders, which invigorates my work in exciting ways.

My advice is to not be afraid to redefine the concept of work-life balance and lead an integrated life that brings you fulfillment and purpose to, not just one, but all parts of your life holistically.

See the original post here.

Partner Spotlight: Primerica

Primerica.jpg

Our partners are integral to our success at JA of Georgia and they support our organization in every sense of the word. They're support goes much further than just a financial donation. Their employees give their time to volunteer with our students, their leaders help guide our organization in the right direction, and their brands infuse our programs with authenticity.

Primerica is store front sponsor at the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett in JA Finance Park presented by Assurant. Recently their staff volunteered for a day of inspiring students' independence, and they documented the experience on their blog!

Check it out here.

Teaching teens comprehensively about money

By: Jack Harris, President & CEO, JA of Georgia

Are we doing everything we can as a community to ensure today’s students are prepared for the demands of tomorrow’s economy? This question is frequently deliberated by parents, educators, business leaders, and community activists.

With the rapid shifts in technology and connectivity, many of our children will be applying for jobs that do not exist today. Beyond this, only 11 percent of business leaders strongly believe that recent graduates have the skills to meet their current needs.

These intensified demands will not be solely linked to the workplace. The shifts will continue to heighten the complexity of the economic environment and require greater understanding to successfully navigate financial intricacies.

Atlanta currently ranks highest in the nation for income inequality. Even more astounding is that a person born into poverty in Atlanta has less than a 5 percent chance of upward mobility. Clearly, we cannot continue on this trajectory. Our children deserve more than a 5 percent chance to achieve the American Dream.

If a child never has the opportunity to experience a prosperous future, how do we expect them to deem it a possibility? If a student does not understand the relevance of standard curriculum, how do we expect them to stay engaged?

We have to provide meaningful opportunities that engage students in education and equip them to become financially independent, building a better future for themselves and the community.

Across various sectors, groups have taken steps to address these issues, and progress has been made. Yet, overall awareness among the public continues to lack. Envision the possibilities if everybody leaned in.

Imagine a generation where young people, no matter their background, know how to budget, save, and invest; a generation of tenacious individuals armed with the confidence, knowledge and capabilities to take control of their financial futures, their careers, and achieve their dreams.

To achieve this there is no single bullet. Transformational shifts cannot rest solely on the efforts of a school, school district, business or industry. To provide sustainable solutions that reverberate throughout metro Atlanta this must be a collaborative effort among the entire community.

Late August the second Junior Achievement Discovery Center was launched in metro Atlanta. These centers are collective efforts from five school districts, including Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb County Schools, Fulton County Schools, Gwinnett County Public Schools and Marietta City Schools, more than 70 partners, such as Assurant, AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cisco, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, and SunTrust, and 11,000 volunteers. Through these efforts, more than 60 percent of metro Atlanta middle school students are provided opportunities to develop skills for financial and professional success in an unmatched learning environment that is highly relevant, experiential, and authentic.

When students understand how academic lessons apply to the real world, they are more motivated in the classroom and ultimately achieve higher academic success. Since 2013, 65,000 students have experienced the JA Discovery Center, and the results show these programs produce mindful shifts. Ninety percent of students state that they now connect the relevance of education to future opportunities. Months following the simulations nine out of 10 teachers observe a sustained higher level of engagement and effort by their students.

The JA Discovery Centers have become a platform to re-imagine the high school experience. JA and Fulton County Schools recently partnered to launch the Junior Achievement Magnet Business Academy at Banneker High School. This program takes key aspects from the centers and applies them into the daily learning experience. The first class of students have accepted the challenge and are already excelling in their interdisciplinary studies.

True learning comes from doing, and when given the right tools there are no bounds to the potential of our youth. There is no greater cause for our community than the future of our children. I invite you to join JA, school systems and our partners, and become part of the movement to redefine a generation and place all students on a path to success.

Originally published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Feature Friday: Zerubbabel Y.

Today's ‪#‎featurefriday‬ is Zerubbabel Y., a freshman in our JA-MBA program at Banneker High School.

With a name like Zerubbabel, you know he must be an interesting 15 year old! What some people may not know though, is that his dream is to become a video game designer. He is also the tallest person in his house, an accomplishment among 6 siblings, plus his parents.

Zerubbabel is one of more than 120 students that make up the freshman class at the JA-MBA at Banneker High School. Stay tuned to meet more of these driven future-leaders!

Feature Friday: Jabarri Weston

As we kick off a new year, we’re starting a Feature Friday to help our supporters get to know JA better! Each week we’ll feature a student, sponsor, volunteer or staff member that helps shape our organization’s story.

For our first ‪#‎featurefriday‬ we have Jabarri Weston. He is a senior at Chamblee High School who currently serves as President of Gadget Tree, the JA Fellows company at the IHG host site.

Jabarri, shown here with Tyler Mccain, has worked his way up the leadership ladder within JA Fellows, and credits Tyler for helping him do so.

"He saw potential in me that I didn't see in myself and since that time, he has taught me the skills to be a leader. Tyler, a science aficionado, used rules from Isaac Newton, specifically his 2nd Law of Motion (for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction) to make the motto "Fail Harder," because the harder we fail at something, the better we will succeed."

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What a year!

It was a wonderful 2015 at JA of Georgia. Here are a few of the things we accomplished with the help of our volunteers and sponsors:

  • Launch of the JA-MBA, an immersive high school experience that meets traditional common core standards through experiential and interdisciplinary studies. The first freshman class at Banneker High School is made up of 130 students who want a more authentic high school experience; to leave with something greater than a diploma.
  • Opened our second JA Discovery Center, bringing the impact of these centers to 60 % of middle school students state wide. The JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett will serve more than 25,000 middle school students a year, thanks to partnerships with over 100 companies and organizations in the Gwinnett community.
  • Continued our JA High School Leaders program that will serve over 65,000 students this year.
  • JA Fellows is back with driven students and great products.

What's it like to volunteer with us?

A synopsis of volunteer Nathan Horton's experiences as a JA Discovery Center volunteer.

For the second time this year I had the opportunity to volunteer at the new Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Gwinnett. It is a beautiful facility with modern architecture built inside the new Discovery High School in Lawrenceville. Every day, hundreds of middle school kids from across the county attend a simulation at either Biz Town or Finance Park inside the facility for an alternative learning experience where they are immersed into a day in the life of an adult.

This fully immersive experience provides these kids the opportunities to use critical thinking skills and decision making like never before. They are faced with real life adult scenarios and must choose how to market their products and supply & demand pricing models in Biz Town to choosing between purchasing groceries or eating out to meet their personal budgets in Finance Park.

During a typical visit you will hear the kids make comments such as “insurance really costs that much?” and “do I have to buy my spouse a car?” They are blown away by the cost of dining out, vacations, and even clothes when it is coming out of their family budget.


In my first experience at the Junior Achievement Discovery Center in Gwinnett, I was able to mentor a group of 6th graders through running their store, in our case Home Depot. The CEO walked into the store and promptly informed me that she had studied, knew what to do and had this under control. What a relief! She ran her store and encouraged her employees to do their best, and they did. The CEO of our store stepped in and supported her employees as needed throughout the day even giving up a part of her shopping time (the best part of the day) to help make sure everything ran smoothly her store closing reports were correctly completed by the CFO.

It was an amazing experience watching as they make decisions to marketing, product pricing, and even ethical decisions, such as overselling and rainchecks. In the end, the store made a profit, repaid its business loans, wrote checks to all the employees, and everyone went shopping with those checks and got to take home some swag. It was a huge success.

At Finance Park, 8th graders become adults and are randomly assigned specific life scenarios. You may be a single mother with 1 kid, or a married couple with twins. You might be a young single guy working as an IT manager making $110K per year or a married couple working as an administrative assistant earning less than $30K. Regardless of your scenario, you have the same tasks to complete. You need to create a budget for your family.

You begin by learning what your net monthly income is, after the government takes taxes from your check. This alone was a shock to many of the kids. Once those conversation are complete, they kids then decide what percentage of their income to save. They learn to pay themselves first and create a retirement account and emergency fund before diving into expenses. Finally, with the money that is left, they create a conceptual budget, allocating the amounts they believe they will need to secure housing, transportation, food, clothing, insurance (required to buy health, home or renters, and auto if they buy a car), and about 20 other items including home and auto repair, entertainment, dining out, vacation, philanthropy and more.

While they created their budgets the conversation within the groups was amazing. You could see light bulbs going on in their heads. I heard “Wow, cable cost how much? We won’t have that” and “We can’t go on vacation this year”. I also heard, “My wife can ride the bus… I can’t afford luxury cars for both of us.” I encouraged him to put some money aside for an attorney.

After they create their budgets, the kids get to go shopping. The leave their groups and venture out into the center and to the other stores. They visit the car dealer and get a car, they visit the grocery and get food. They go buy insurance. It was here that many realized they couldn’t eat out every day, as they were forced to choose between food, insurance, and vehicles. They began to realize many of the hard decisions their parents made every day. It was awesome to be a part of the experience.

I could tell stories for hours about the conversations, the kids, the comments, the smiles and all the things that happened during the day at Junior Achievement Discovery Center. I may have learned a lot too. I was most amazed at the preparation the kids had done, the attention they paid, and their willingness to figure everything out. There were over 200 kids at JA Discover Center on the day I was there and there wasn’t a single behavioral issue. The staff a Junior Achievement is superb, the center is great, the kids are wonderful, and overall the entire experience is outstanding. I encourage everyone who can, to volunteer and see it for themselves. These kids will blow your mind.