Innovative high school model brings real world connectivity into the daily academic experience to engage students in education and empower them to own their future success

 Atlanta, GA—  Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia today announced an expansion of their partnership to include JA Academy, a model to redesign high school education to make it more relevant, experiential and authentically connected to life beyond the classroom walls.

The partnership between APS and JA began nearly a decade ago. In 2013 the two organizations extended their partnerships with the launch of the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center, which houses JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. Since 2013 every 6th and 7th grade student in APS has participated in these 360-degree learning experiences that combine in-class curriculum with real-world project based application. JA Academy will provide APS students the opportunity to expand upon the learning from middle school in a fully immersive model that incorporates real world connectivity and cross-curricular learning as core components of the daily high school experience.

JA Academy will enroll its first class of 150 APS students at B.E.S.T. Academy High School at Benjamin S. Carson, located near Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, beginning August 2017. Enrollment is open to all rising ninth and tenth grade students, who reside within the APS attendance zones, and the school will continue to grow as students matriculate to the next grade level.

JA Academy operates as a school-within-a-school with the overall goal to drive better outcomes for all students by developing a framework that can be replicated into the broader school, and eventually scaled throughout the school system. 

“We truly believe to create more pipelines to economic opportunity and to lift an entire generation, we have to work in partnership with our school systems to reimagine public education,” said Jack Harris, President and CEO of JA of Georgia.  “We are honored to partner with Dr. Carstarphen and APS, and together deliver a solution that brings innovation to education, elevates the quality of our curriculum and educators, and ultimately empowers all students with the skills, competency and motivation to thrive in today’s complex economic environment.”

JA Academy is designed to provide four years of rigorous standards-based education that integrates business connectivity directly into the education process. The framework creates an interdisciplinary learning environment that engages students through dynamic real-life case studies, which provide exposure to a myriad of industries and careers, and creates purposeful connections between academic concepts and real-world application.  The curriculum also gives students hands-on experience through work based learning, collaboration with mentors, and engagement with post-secondary institutions.

JA Academy at B.E.S.T. will be the third school and school system since 2015 to integrate this model, and JA expects to expand to two additional systems by 2019.

“The attitudinal and academic growth among our first year JA Academy students cannot be overlooked. This framework is not only revitalizing curriculum, but also heightens the level of professional development and support for the teachers, which is undoubtedly a key factor for success,” noted Harris.  “JA is proud to work with Atlanta Public Schools as we continue to build the model and be a part of APS’ efforts to continue to construct a district of high performing schools.”

“We are grateful to everyone who makes our partnership with Junior Achievement of Georgia possible,” said APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen.  “The JA Academy is an example of our mission in action that focuses on collaboration to ensure that every APS student will graduate ready for college and career. A program of this caliber will expose our students to all the business world has to offer them.”

For further information on JA Academy, visit


Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 98 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies. For more information, visit


Grant to help implement Junior Achievement programs at JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center

Atlanta, GA — Local students were able to experience their futures fist-hand, thanks to a generous grant from American International Group, Inc. (AIG) that was implanted through Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia at the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center.

Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, 44 AIG volunteers served 784 students from middle schools across metro Atlanta as they participated in JA BizTown® and JA Finance Park®

“I enjoyed the level of engagement from the kids,” said Kevin Chaney, an AIG volunteer. “They were prepared before they came and that made the day much more exciting for everyone. I enjoyed getting to briefly know the kids, it’s great to see how smart they are and how much they want to learn more.”

Volunteers helped to fuel ambitions and inspire independence in the students by bringing an unparalleled authenticity to the simulations. They provided guidance as the students navigated their way through their days, helping students to run their business in JA BizTown and to effectively budget in JA Finance Park. Their real-life examples from their experiences as adults helped students to connect their education to their future possibilities, and provided a fresh point of reference for success.   

This is the third year AIG has gifted funds to support JA programs to help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to make smart academic and economic choices. Totaling $400,000, this year’s grant will serve schools in 20 global locations, including: Amarillo, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas; Greensboro, N.C.; Houston; Los Angeles; Neptune, N.J.; New York, Oakdale, Minn.; Stevens Point, Wis.; Dublin, Ireland; Madrid, Spain; Jakarta, Indonesia; Muntinlupa City, Philippines; Bogota, Colombia; and Toronto, Ontario.   

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

About AIG

American International Group, Inc. (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.


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

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.”®


ATLANTA, GA- Allstate announced today the continuation of its partnership with Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia, and its efforts to provide a dynamic learning experience designed to enhance students’ financial literacy and build skills for personal and professional success. Allstate has an interactive storefront in JA BizTown presented by Cisco, one of two simulations located within the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett.

JA BizTown provides students the opportunity to experience their futures first hand. Here 6th grade students 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.

The experience begins in the classroom with JA provided curriculum that culminates with a day at JA BizTown. The simulation creates an opportunity where students are able to participate in an interactive economy and take on the role of employee and consumer. During the visit to JA BizTown, students receive job assignments and work in teams at their assigned business. By the end of the simulation each student completes a day’s work, develops a personal budget, and makes purchasing decisions.

 The interactive simulation provides sixth grade students the opportunity to not only learn about finances and careers, but allows them to transform into adults for the day, becoming the sole decision maker and taking ownership of their professional success.

“Thanks to partnerships with Gwinnett County Public Schools and the local business community, we are able to give students an authentic and relevant experience that leaves a lasting and measurable impact,” said Jack Harris, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Georgia. “Together we are shaping the next generation into individuals who are equipped to lead our community and play an integral role in our economy.”

The JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett opened in August 2015 and will serve more than 25,000 middle school students a year from Gwinnett County Public Schools. It is the second JA Discovery Center in the state, bringing the immersive facilities’ annual impact to more than 60 percent of metro Atlanta middle school students.