Press Releases

Six local school systems partner to bring relevant, authentic and experiential learning to middle school students

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Mike and Lynn Cottrell JA Discovery Center at North Georgia to Impact 15,000 Local Students

Atlanta, GA – The Mike and Lynn Cottrell JA Discovery Center at North Georgia is well underway and will begin serving students in Fall 2018.

It will be the third JA Discovery Center in Georgia, and will serve middle school students in the northern region of the state. The facility will be located on the new high school campus of the Alliance Academy for Innovation of Cumming – Forsyth, also opening in Fall 2018. The inclusion of the facility on this innovative campus will provide students continued exposure to their future possibilities.

“We are thrilled to be able to expand the impact of this relevant, authentic and experiential learning to more students across the state,” said Jack Harris, President and CEO, Junior Achievement of Georgia. “This facility creates an opportunity for us to enhance existing partnerships, and ignite new ones in a community that is engaged in deepening their students’ education experience,” said Harris.

The first hybrid facility in the state will combine both JA BizTown and JA Finance Park, experiential simulations that have impacted more than 160,000 middle school students in the last three years.

“Our students will have a chance to explore career opportunities that perhaps they have never considered before, and to learn entrepreneurial skills that will be very beneficial as they consider their career pathways and post-secondary areas of interest,” said Dr. Jeff Bearden, Superintendent, Forsyth County Schools. “In my 30 years in public education, I have never experienced a program and a curriculum that addresses financial literacy better than the JA Discovery Center concept.  We are so fortunate to afford our students this opportunity,” said Bearden.

Middle school students from Calhoun City Schools, Dawson County Schools, Forsyth County Schools, Gainesville City Schools, Hall County Schools and Lumpkin County Schools will all participate in in-class curriculum in preparation for their immersive experiences in JA BizTown and JA Finance Park.

JA BizTown creates an unmatched experience where students are able to interact within a simulated economy and take on the challenge of fueling a business. Here, students not only discover the intricacies of being a professional and member of the community, but also realize the abundance of opportunities available within their city.

JA Finance Park provides students the rare opportunity to experience their personal financial futures first-hand. 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.

Will Schofield, Superintendent, Hall County Schools, shared similar excitement for the impact this facility will have on his students, and expressed how “fortunate the district is to have an opportunity like this for our middle school students.” 

The launch of this engaging facility would not be possible without the support of Mike and Lynn Cottrell, as well as partnerships with participating school systems, and investment from the following partners who will have storefronts in the new facility: ADP, Andean Chevrolet, Associated Credit Union, City of Cumming, Delta Air Lines, Elavon, Engineered Floors, Georgia Power, Georgia State University, Georgia United Credit Union, MarketSource, North Georgia Community Foundation, Northside Hospital, Publix Super Markets Charities, RaceTrac, United Way of Hall County, United Way of Forsyth County and Zaxby’s.

Local leaders recognized for contributions to Atlanta business community

More than 700 guests were in attendance to honor Frank Blake and Dan T. Cathy as they were inducted into the Junior Achievement Atlanta Business Hall of Fame.

ATLANTA (February 24, 2018) – Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia inducted Frank Blake, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Home Depot, and Dan T. Cathy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Chick-fil-A, Inc., into the JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame on Sat., Feb. 24, 2018 at the InterContinental Hotel Buckhead. More than 700 guests were in attendance to honor Blake and Cathy as they joined the ranks of 91 influential Atlantans who hold a spot in the hall of fame for their significant contributions to Atlanta’s civic and economic vibrancy.

Blake and Cathy were welcomed by members of the JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Laureate Society and Co-Chairs of this year’s Laureate Host Committee, Paul Bowers, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Georgia Power and Hala Moddelmog, President and Chief Executive Officer, Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Since 1989, the JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame has been held to honor dynamic business and civic leaders who have shaped Atlanta into the vibrant city it is today. This year’s event was marked by poignant introductions and passionate speeches from students at the JA Academy at Banneker High School, that exemplified the compelling momentum that is currently underway at JA of Georgia.

“As a leader and role model for those around him and the next generation, Mr. Blake had some great advice to give,” said Courteciya Price, Junior, JA Academy Student, while introducing Blake. “When thinking about your career and future, try to land somewhere where the following things converge: what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, what you love, and what will people pay you for.”

Frank Blake’s professional career didn’t begin in home improvement, or anything of the sort. But after being named Chairman and CEO of The Home Depot in 2007, his unrelenting focus on their core values during the trying time of the recession helped guide the company out of the economic downturn and into an even better position than before it. Since his retirement from The Home Depot, Blake continues to play a critical role in advancing the economic landscape of Atlanta and the quality of life for those who call the city home. Blake is currently board chairman of two other Atlanta mainstays: Delta Air Lines and Grady Hospital. Frank Blake may be a transplant of Atlanta, but he now calls Atlanta home and we are a stronger city because of it.

“As a future leader, I often look up to current entrepreneurs and marketplace leaders and admire their bold, innovative, and ambitious leadership, all while still holding fast to their morals,” said Logan Crump, Junior, JA Academy Student, while introducing Cathy. “Mr. Dan Cathy is one such individual.”

Dan T. Cathy’s position as Chairman and CEO of Chick-fil-A, Inc. came after a lifetime, literally, of working at the company. Decades of watching and learning from his father, S. Truett Cathy, helped to cultivate his own personal drive and entrepreneurial mindset – a characteristic he classifies as one of the most essential elements in keeping the private sector a robust environment. Giving back to the community – or stewardship – is what Dan says gives purpose and significance to the work that Chick-fil-A does. His passion for supporting and lifting up communities trickles down throughout the entire business model, making the impact that much greater. Cathy’s unconventional approach to leadership proves that when you are true to yourself and maintain steadfast focus on the mission, a good business model can flourish; and in the case of Chick-fil-A, become one of the nation’s largest family owned businesses.

The keynote speakers of the evening highlighted their own personal transformation as Juniors in the JA Academy at Banneker High School. The three young men, Apollo Gunn, Octavious Taylor and Daniel Abladey, shared their stories, and reminded everyone in the room to never doubt the capabilities of a driven, empowered and passionate individual.

“The only expectations we have not achieved yet are our own,” said Apollo Gunn, Junior, JA Academy at Banneker High School.  “We are all aspiring for a future that is beyond what we once imagined. Before JA Academy I had hope. Now, I would say I have a path to success and friends and mentors who will continue to hold me accountable until I achieve my dreams.”

Photographed from Left to Right: Logan Crump, Junior, JA Academy at Banneker High School, Dan T. Cathy, JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Laureate, and Chairman and CEO, Chick-fil-A, Inc., Courteciya Price, Junior, JA Academy at Banneker High School, and Frank Blake, JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Laureate, and former Chairman and CEO, The Home Depot.

Photographed from Left to Right: Logan Crump, Junior, JA Academy at Banneker High School, Dan T. Cathy, JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Laureate, and Chairman and CEO, Chick-fil-A, Inc., Courteciya Price, Junior, JA Academy at Banneker High School, and Frank Blake, JA Atlanta Business Hall of Fame Laureate, and former Chairman and CEO, The Home Depot.

Photographed from Left to Right: JA Academy at Banneker High School Juniors: Apollo Gunn, Daniel Albadey, and Octavious Taylor, Jack Harris, President and CEO, JA of Georgia.

Photographed from Left to Right: JA Academy at Banneker High School Juniors: Apollo Gunn, Daniel Albadey, and Octavious Taylor, Jack Harris, President and CEO, JA of Georgia.

JA of Georgia names Juan A. McGruder SVP & Chief Development Officer

Experienced leader joins at a time of significant expansion

Atlanta, GA —  Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia announces Juan A. McGruder as Senior Vice President & Chief Development Officer, a new position.  McGruder comes to JA from Georgia Tech, where he has served most recently as Director of Development for the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

“Juan’s experience as a highly effective leader and his reputation for relationship-building made him an ideal candidate to lead JA’s development efforts across Georgia,” noted Jack Harris, President and CEO of JA of Georgia.  “We have experienced significant expansion in recent years, and we are confident Juan’s innovative approach to development will help us continue on this trajectory and deepen our engagement with current partners.”

Empowering students nationally since 1919 and locally since 1949, JA of Georgia creates more effective pipelines to economic opportunity through the development and integration of public-private partnership models that bring innovation to public education. Today, JA of Georgia is widely known for its capstone learning models, JA BizTown®, JA Finance Park® and JA Academy™, all of which enrich the student experience to make it more relevant, experiential and authentically connected to life beyond the classroom walls.    

“I am beyond thrilled,” said McGruder.  “This is a pivotal time for Junior Achievement and the thousands of students it serves, and I feel blessed to have been asked to help expand JA’s influence and impact in its quest to empower today’s students.”

“Georgia Tech provided me unparalleled opportunities for over a dozen years,” continued McGruder, “and I loved being part of a top tier university during the most successful and transformative fundraising campaign in its history.  Junior Achievement’s commitment to ‘Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s economy’ is a natural and very exciting extension of that work.”

In announcing Juan’s departure from Georgia Tech, Ivan Allen College Dean Jacqueline Royster noted his considerable accomplishments, adding “[Juan’s] leadership in civic and professional organizations such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Midtown Atlanta Rotary Club, and even as a recent faculty member at LaGrange College’s Master’s program in Philanthropy and Development has simply attracted attention beyond our campus borders.  He has made a difference here, and he will be missed.”

In discussing the appointment, Harris cited the new SVP’s strengths in resource development and outreach.  “Juan McGruder’s background stretches across every major funding stream:  corporate strategic partnerships, major gifts/individuals, comprehensive capital campaigns, annual funds, foundations, and events.  He understands the art and the science of development, and he will bring sophistication, strategy and planning into our organization from day one.”

A Texas native, Juan received his BA in Political Science/Pre Law and his MA in Counseling & Human Development from Clark College/Clark Atlanta University.  He subsequently earned his Master of Education (Ed.M.) in Administration, Planning, & Social Policy from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Education and Human Development from Vanderbilt University.  He is also a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).  Among many professional involvements, Juan is president of the Greater Atlanta chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and president-designate of Rotary Club of Midtown Atlanta.  He and his wife Henraya McGruder, an epidemiologist at the CDC, reside in Smyrna with their two children, Alex and Hailey.

Juan McGruder’s LinkedIn profile can be accessed here.  For further information on JA of Georgia, visit georgia.ja.org.

JA of Georgia was advised throughout the search process by BoardWalk Consulting, an Atlanta-based firm committed to “finding leaders that matter for missions that matter.”®