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 | YouTube: | Twitter: @AIGinsurance | LinkedIn:

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 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.


“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?


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?


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

University of Oregon, Business major, 2019


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.