Sage Foundation Nominates Jack Harris as a Charity Pioneer

In an effort to showcase leaders across the globe that work each day to make the world a better place, Sage Foundation has created Charity Pioneers. The chosen pioneers have been selected for the causes they promote, including entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion, education, and well-being.

JA of Georgia's President and CEO Jack Harris has been nominated to the Charity Pioneer’s list for his outstanding leadership in transforming education. 

“I’m honored to have been chosen as one of Sage Foundation’s Charity Pioneers,” said Jack Harris, President and CEO, JA of Georgia. “The mission of the Sage Foundation, to help more people reach their true potential, aligns closely with the work we’re doing at JA of Georgia, and makes their investment and insight so valuable to our organization.”

Jack Harris, President and CEO, JA of Georgia

Nominations for Charity Pioneers are open online until September 21st, 2018. Nominees have the chance to be featured on the list of Charity Pioneers and also win $5,000 of Enterprise Fund funding in the upcoming prize draw.

To find out more, and to see other nominee's inspiring stories visit Sage.

Why volunteer with JA of Georgia?

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"I enjoy this opportunity to give back to the students in our city, and to develop their financial literacy and core business skills, which are needed to succeed in today's ever-changing world."

Ben Ansell, Senior Consultant, Deloitte 

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"My students see the value in the program, and realize their ability to serve our community without writing a check."

Leigh Keever, Professor, Chattahoochee Technical College

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"I volunteer with JA of Georgia because it changes lives, plain and simple.

Patrick Ready, Senior Consultant, Deloitte

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"Volunteering with JA of Georgia allows me to share my experiences with students in hopes of fostering their limitless potential."

Muriam Nagess, Volunteer Coordinator, Gwinnett County Government 

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"I see so much potential in every student that I work with, and I believe that everyone can do great things."

Bobby Nguyen, Junior, Georgia Gwinnett College

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"While most adults deal with money every day, financial education is not something that is offered to most of our children. This is an opportunity for me to serve my community by helping young people learn skills that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives. 

Crystal Grier, Administrative Assistant, Wells Fargo

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"I believe this program provides an unmatched experience for students and future leaders. Over the years I have been able to share and gain so much knowledge."

Fred Brooks, Project Manager, Hewlett Packard Enterprise 

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"I enjoy helping children learn and prepare for their future. The most enjoyable part is seeing how excited and engaged the students are during their time at JA. That excitement and genuine interest they have while at JA keeps me coming back for more.

Dave Reese, Indirect Lending Officer, BrandAuto Finance President, BrandBank

Volunteer Appreciation Week

Volunteers are integral to our success at JA of Georgia. As we kickoff a week of celebrating and recognizing their impact on our organization, let's start with the basics. Where do our volunteers come from and how many of them are there?

Volunteers at JA of Georgia

As you can see, not only do we work with an incredible amount of volunteers, but we also work with a diversity of sources.

Volunteers who spend a day, and often numerous days throughout the year, with students at a JA Discovery Center are more than your average ‘feel-good’ volunteer. They coach groups of students through the simulations, but they don’t stop at just helping them check off their to-do lists. They give advice, help foster innovative thinking, and emphasize the importance of communication, collaboration and goal setting.

Throughout all of that, they share their own experiences. Things that worked for them, things that didn’t. Lessons they learned through their successes as well as failures, and wisdom they’ve received that has stood the test of time. It’s this personal connection that helps bring the experience to life for the students. They have the opportunity to hear from an adult other than a parent or teacher, often times about careers and situations they may have never
considered before now.

Over the next few days, we'll share stories and insights from our volunteers that demonstrate just how important, and rewarding, their impact is. 

Five Years of Discovery

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The first ever JA Discovery Center in Georgia opened in 2013. As the fifth anniversary nears and the opening of the third location is on the horizon, the long-term impact on student engagement and aspirations is evident. The success of these immersive facilities lies at the convergence of driven business and community partners, passionate education leaders, engaged volunteers and a model built around expertise in experiential learning. The uniquely collaborative design of JA Discovery Centers provide a student experience that’s more relevant, authentic and experiential than ever before.

COMMUNITY PARTNERS
With partners across virtually all sectors and industries, students are exposed to things they may have never known existed. From specific positions at companies, to entire industries, students get a hands-on look at the myriad of possibilities that exist in their own communities and across the globe.

Along with the real-world exposure comes the authentic brand experiences and application of learning through brands they recognize within JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. The next time they are at Chick-fil-A, they’ll remember that there’s an entire corporate organization behind every chicken sandwich served, or that texting their friends on their AT&T phone doesn’t come for free, and that budgeting is necessary to maintain that luxury. These connections reinforce the lessons learned and help students retain the knowledge as they return to the classroom.

EDUCATORS
Partnerships with the education community are at the very foundation of the impact of the JA BizTown and JA Finance Park experience. By working hand-in-hand with school system leaders, we are able to ensure consistency from the delivery of the in-class curriculum to the experience on-site. It allows for a constant cycle of feedback from educators on how we can make the experience better suited to their students, and ensures prolonged impact in the way students think about education and prepare for their futures.

Another encouraging trend beyond the student outcomes is the effect that the experience has on educators. After seeing the connections and ah-ha moments in their students, teachers often state that they are motivated to incorporate more real-world connectivity and authenticity into their own teaching. They are driven to engage their students in day-to-day learning, and help them to understand how and why their lessons matter in life beyond
the classroom walls.

VOLUNTEERS
Volunteers who spend a day, and often numerous days throughout the year, with students at a JA Discovery Center are more than your average ‘feel-good’ volunteer. They coach groups of students through the simulations, but they don’t stop at just helping them check off their to-do lists. They give advice, help foster innovative thinking, and emphasize the importance of communication, collaboration and goal setting.

Throughout all of that, they share their own experiences. Things that worked for them, things that didn’t. Lessons they learned through their successes as well as failures, and wisdom they’ve received that has stood the test of time. It’s this personal connection that helps bring the experience to life for the students. They have the opportunity to hear from an adult other than a parent or teacher, often times about careers and situations they may have never
considered before now.

As we prepare for the opening of the third JA Discovery Center, and more in coming years, we plan to stay intently focused on what continually drives us: to inspire and empower students with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to thrive; to build better futures for themselves and their community.

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More than hopes and dreams: JA Academy

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Daniel’s growth while in the JA Academy has been monumental. To go from a student who didn’t go out of his way to avoid trouble, to a student who is respected by his peers and sitting at the top of his class is no small feat.

As the oldest child, his determination to change the narrative for his family pushed him to get his head in the game and commit to becoming successful. The comradery and culture of JA Academy has helped to open his eyes to the opportunities that exist beyond the classroom walls, and has given him the skills and support to actual act on those opportunities.

Daniel’s sense of pride in the person he is becoming, and the responsibility he has to lead the way for his family and peers is an inspiration to us all.

Hear more of his story here.

Just the beginning: JA Academy

JA Academy Students

Octavious’s story is marked by triumphs and tribulations that make up many students’ lives – but his journey is far from over.

JA Academy ignited a hunger for learning and success in Octavious that he hadn’t previously experienced. His classes and teachers were engaging with him, and he began to see the value of education and creating a path for himself.

In the midst of this forward progress, life outside of school became a bigger challenge than he imagined, and balancing the two began to put his future in question.

Hear more about how JA Academy helped keep Octavious on track, and support him through it all:

Rising above expectations : JA Academy

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Apollo’s motivation to join JA Academy was fueled by the influence of his grandfather – a successful businessman who created a sustainable platform for himself and his family members to thrive.

But when Apollo shared his interest of attending Banneker High School, the reactions he got were far from motivating or encouraging.

Apollo’s willingness to try something new and different exemplifies his entrepreneurial spirit and drive to succeed. After taking that risk, he found that the hesitations his friends and family had about Banneker, and the JA Academy in particular, were overpowered by the culture of success that he became a part of.

Hear Apollo and his classmates’ stories below.

Thankful: conscious of benefit received; expressive of thanks

We are so thankful for all of our partners, volunteers, teachers and students. During this season when gratefulness is top of mind, we’d like to take a moment to spotlight one of these segments in particular: teachers.

It goes without saying that we couldn’t impact as many students as deeply as we do without teachers. For students visiting the JA Discovery Centers, teachers bring the classroom curriculum to life to prepare the students. At JA Academies, teachers evolve from someone who delivers a history lesson, to some students’ role models, mentors and biggest cheerleaders.

At the 2017 JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame we had the pleasure of hearing from the lead teacher at Banneker High School, our inaugural JA Academy. Ms. LaToya Morgan embodies what it means to be passionate about your work. Every student of hers knows without question that she is rooting for their success, even in moments of tough love. It was truly an honor hear to her get the opportunity to boast about her students and all they’ve accomplished in such a short time. Check out a snippet of her speech below:

“My students attend a Title 1 public high school. Every single one of them live at or below the poverty line. According to every piece of research, they are the pinnacle of disengagement in education. Yet, our kids are showing up to school, leaning into their education, lifting each other up and learning at accelerated rates.

The students leaped nearly three grade levels in reading and math, and outperform their peers on all 9th grade state test, and get this they surpassed students just like them from schools throughout Fulton County.  

 To say JA Academy is transforming students is an understatement.

Bottom line, these kids prove poverty can no longer be a blanket excuse for poor performance in our schools.

When we as a community step up to bring innovation to education, every child has the potential to excel farther than the limitations dictated to them by society.

Our students have been exposed to possibilities many of them could never have imagined. Because of this they have a greater respect for their education- and they are working tirelessly to fuel the futures for themselves and their communities. 

JA Academy does not just make school different it elevates every individual involved.

My students look at the world and the role they can play differently. They’re not just dreamers. They know how to work hard, set goals and put forth the effort to reach the finish line.

They are defying every stereotype and invisible barrier that has been placed on them their entire lives.  Today, they are leaders in our schools, tomorrow they will be leaders of our communities. They are the ones breaking the cycle and rewriting the narrative about today’s generation.  They are the ones proving to their little brothers and sisters that there is more than one option for their futures.

I work hard because my students are my life’s work, but they are the real heroes. They are resilient, determined, driven and inspire me to be a better person and teacher every day. Because of them I know the work we are doing today will impact generations to come.”

Teachers like Ms. Morgan make our work at JA a no brainer. If we can provide passionate and driven teachers like her the space and resources they need to make learning different, who says we can’t transform the entire high school education experience?

Frank Blake and Dan. T Cathy to Join JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame

Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia and Atlanta Business Chronicle (ABC) are pleased to announce Frank Blake, Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Home Depot, and Dan T. Cathy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Chick-fil-A Inc., will be inducted into the JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame on Saturday, February 24, 2018. They will join the list of 91 influential Atlantans recognized for their significant contributions to Atlanta’s civic and economic vibrancy.

Since 1989, the JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame, a black-tie gala to benefit JA of Georgia, has been held to honor dynamic business and civic leaders who have shaped Atlanta into the robust city it is today.

Frank Blake, 2018 JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Honoree

Frank Blake’s tenure at The Home Depot began in 2002, and shortly thereafter he found himself, like many other leaders, guiding a large company through the worst recession in decades. He dedicated hours and capital back to the basics of any business: his employees and the products they sold. These ended up being the investments that helped bring The Home Depot out of the recession at an even better position than before it. Prior to being Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Home Depot during those tumultuous years, Blake served extensively in the public sector. Blake obtained his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and his jurisprudence degree from Columbia University School of Law, then spent time as the general counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the deputy counsel to Vice President George Bush, and law clerk to Justice Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, Blake is involved with many companies and organizations, including the Georgia Aquarium, Proctor & Gamble, Macy’s, Grady Hospital and Agnes Scott College.

Dan T. Cathy, 2018 JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Honoree

As CEO of one of the nation's largest family owned businesses, Dan Cathy represents the next generation of leadership for Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chicken restaurant chain founded by his father, S. Truett Cathy. Dan has been defining his role in “customer service” for more than 40 years – even before officially joining Chick-fil-A in 1970. Eager to incorporate his own skills and talents into the business, Dan has taken an unconventional, yet personally and professionally rewarding approach to leadership. Under his leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically with explorations into international expansion. At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda enjoy time with their two adult sons and three grandchildren. As a musician, pilot, avid runner, road cyclist and motorcyclist, Dan is always looking for the next opportunity to share a “REMARK”able experience with friends, family, and customers.

The JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame will feature a cocktail reception, silent auction, seated dinner and Laureate Induction Ceremony. This year’s gala will be held at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead. Proceeds from the event will benefit JA of Georgia and their efforts to empower the next generation with the knowledge, capacity and motivation to thrive; to build a better future for themselves and their community. 

And the winner is...

  Jack Harris, President & CEO of JA Georgia, accepts Charles R. Hook award at 2017 JA Global Leadership Conference.

Jack Harris, President & CEO of JA Georgia, accepts Charles R. Hook award at 2017 JA Global Leadership Conference.

Last month JA of Georgia hosted colleagues from around the world for the Global Leadership Conference. It was a phenomenal week filled with inspiration, networking and strategy.  

The final evening celebrated numerous awards and winners, including the Charles R. Hook award.  The award is given annually to the JA USA President whose professionalism and performance best represents the core values and ideals of Junior Achievement. 

For our organization, no one embodies this more than Jack. For the past 13 years, he has led us through good times and tough ones alike, all while keeping his focus on the bigger picture front and center, and executing it in humblest of ways. Our organization is now at an incredibly important inflection point, with the opportunity to truly transform education, and change the trajectory of students’ lives, due in large part to Jack’s vision and steadfast leadership.

His ability to bring together key players in the business communities and school systems to fully embrace and commit to our programs is invaluable. His knowledge of issues the education system is facing, coupled with his true passion to break down those barriers for students, makes him an unending source of inspiration for us. We often wonder (to ourselves and out loud), how does he do it?

Under his leadership, the team at JA of Georgia has hit many major millstones over the last few years: a highly successful capital campaign, the opening of two JA Discovery Centers, an expanded student impact in terms of reach and depth of experience, and the launch of the innovative JA Academy.

Here are a few that happened in the 2016-2017 school year alone:

  • Breaking ground on the third Capstone Center, which will result in JA BizTown and JA Finance Park serving nearly one in every three middle school students in Georgia.
  • Opening of a second JA Academy, which is proving to significantly elevate outcomes in high school students' engagement and academic achievements.
  • Preparing for the opening of two additional JA Academies this upcoming school year, and four to five the following.
  • Expanding the number of corporate partners and integration with each, which resulted in a 12% increase in volunteer engagement and revenue reaching $10 million, a 32% increase over the past two years.  

The summation of these efforts led to outstanding growth and substantial impact on the lives of students throughout Georgia. More than 175,000 students engaged with JA, totaling 2.5 million contact hours, an increase of 50% over the past two years. Focused on serving the greatest need in today's education model, middle school and high school represent the majority of the 2 million + hours, making up 65% of total outreach.

Quite a list in such a short time!

In true Jack fashion, he asked for our full JA of Georgia team to join him on stage; to accept that momentous honor alongside him. Thankfully, we didn’t break the stage.

To Jack: thank you for never settling for the status quo; for pushing our organization, from the brand-new hires, to the people who’ve been by your side from the start, to realizing that we’ve barely scratched the surface of our potential to transform education; for your unending passion and inspiration.

 

Global Leadership Conference: A week as #OneJA

Do you ever find yourself caught up in the day-to-day, seemingly small tasks that somehow all come together to make up your job description? Same. Sometimes when you’re doing great, big things, that big vision gets lost in the small, sometimes annoying, albeit important, tiny things.

Want to know what can snap you out of the in-the-weeds mindset, and remind you that your work goes far beyond the little things? Spending a week with more than 300 of your colleagues from around the world who have stories to share that go far beyond what you could’ve ever imagined.

JA Worldwide, the organization that connects JA USA local offices to the rest of the globe, has offices in more than 100 countries, and when combined with JA USA, served more than 10,000,000 students last year.

A snippet of this group were the colleagues that made up this year’s Global Leadership Conference, hosted by yours truly, JA of Georgia. For a week, we heard from industry leaders, local staff members, and our own leadership teams. We shared stories of success, and best practices for everyone to bring back to their corner of the globe. We came together as #OneJA, with one mission in mind:

To empower youth to believe that they are the builders of their futures.

After three days of insightful workshops and networking, we had the culminating Awards Night to honor distinguished leaders throughout our network. Below are the winners of these prestigious awards.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is a recognition of a chief executive of a member country who has contributed significantly to the growth and impact of JA programs at national level.

 Nina Kuznetsova, Executive Director of JA Russia

Nina Kuznetsova, Executive Director of JA Russia

The Soraya Salti Award was created in memory of the visionary leader who started INJAZ Al-Arab in the Middle East, which now reaches students across the region in 14 countries. It recognizes innovative JA visionaries who move JA forward in a positive way, bringing systematic change to a country or a region. 

 Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA Europe. Not pictured: Co-winner Majid Khalid Al-shammiri, CEO of INJAZ Yemen

Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA Europe. Not pictured: Co-winner Majid Khalid Al-shammiri, CEO of INJAZ Yemen

The JA Collaboration Award recognizes member countries, U.S. Areas and Regional Operating Centers that champion collaborative projects between and among themselves to encourage worldwide cooperation that promotes efforts around fundraising, operational efficiency and program reach.

 JA Bulgaria, JA Greece, JA Latvia, JA Norway, & JA Romania

JA Bulgaria, JA Greece, JA Latvia, JA Norway, & JA Romania

The JA Alumni Engagement Award recognizes member countries, U.S. Areas and Regional Operating Centers that have developed robust alumni strategies including tracking, communication and engagement projects.

 Co-winners: JA Nigeria and INJAZ Al-Arab

Co-winners: JA Nigeria and INJAZ Al-Arab

The Karl Flemke Award recognizes the accomplishments of a JA Area President for their outstanding achievements, all while being in the position for four years or less.

 Megan Sturges, JA of Greater Kansas City

Megan Sturges, JA of Greater Kansas City

The Charles R. Hook Award  is given annually to the JA Area President whose professionalism and performance best represents the core values and ideals of Junior Achievement. 

 Jack Harris, JA of Georgia

Jack Harris, JA of Georgia

What a phenomenal week, topped off with Jack taking home a top honor (more on that next week).

To all our colleagues around the nation and world: thank you for joining us in our hometown for a week of collaborative efforts (and some fun), that will no doubt lead to improved practices and inspired thinking from all.

AIG and Junior Achievement Prepare Local Students for Their Futures

Atlanta, GA — Students will learn important entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness skills, thanks to a generous grant from AIG that will be implemented throughout the school year, impacting more than 700 students in JA BizTown and JA Finance Park.

JA BizTown provides students the opportunity to experience their futures firsthand by allowing students to interact within a simulated economy and take on the challenge of fueling a business. The students not only discover the intricacies of being a professional and member of the community, but also the abundance of opportunities available within their city.

At JA Finance Park, students participate in an immersive simulation that enables them to develop skills to successfully navigate today’s complex economic environment and discover how decisions today can impact tomorrow.

“One of JA of Georgia’s main goals is to empower young people to own their economic success by helping them understand the benefits of saving, budgeting and investing,” said Juan McGruder, Senior Vice President & CDO, JA of Georgia. “We’re thankful to AIG for providing the resources necessary through this partnership to help our young people grow up to be successful adults.”

This is the fourth year AIG has gifted funds to support Junior Achievement programs to help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to make smart academic and economic choices. This year’s grant will serve schools in 22 locations across the U.S. and world. As part of the partnership, AIG employees will engage as volunteers in JA BizTown and JA Finance Park, coaching students through their choices and sharing their own experiences. 

 AIG Volunteer talks with students in JA BizTown at the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center

AIG Volunteer talks with students in JA BizTown at the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center

“Junior Achievement is a natural partner for AIG, as we value programming that teaches young people how to make investments and take opportunities to improve their lives, such as saving for college or starting a business,” said Robin Wisely, Commercial Insurance IT.

Junior Achievement’s programs are in direct correlation with AIG’s commitment to supporting financial education and workforce readiness.

About AIG

AIG is a leading global insurance organization serving customers in more than 100 countries and jurisdictions. AIG companies serve commercial, institutional, and individual customers through one of the most extensive worldwide property-casualty networks of any insurer. In addition, AIG companies are leading providers of life insurance and retirement services in the United States. AIG common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Additional information about AIG can be found at www.aig.com | YouTube: www.youtube.com/aig | Twitter: @AIGinsurance | LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/aig

AIG is the marketing name for the worldwide property-casualty, life and retirement, and general insurance operations of American International Group, Inc. For additional information, please visit our website at www.aig.com. All products and services are written or provided by subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group, Inc. Products or services may not be available in all countries, and coverage is subject to actual policy language. Non-insurance products and services may be provided by independent third parties. Certain property-casualty coverages may be provided by a surplus lines insurer. Surplus lines insurers do not generally participate in state guaranty funds, and insureds are therefore not protected by such funds.

 

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."