JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Central Illinois

JA is Really Newsworthy!

UPS Brings JA to Franklin Primary School

Thanks to a grant from the UPS Foundation, 164 children were able to experience Junior Achievement programs at Franklin Primary School in Peoria over the last school year!  JA Our Region® was one of the grant funded programs.  Franklin fourth grade students learned about entrepreneurship and how entrepreneurs use resources to produce goods and services in a region.  JA Volunteer Mary Schmidt, Global Aftermarket, Marketing, & Brand, Caterpillar, loves how the children enjoy the games and other hands-on activities in JA Our Region!  “For me, the part that really seems to get the lightbulbs going and excitement building is when we talk about innovation and entrepreneurs.  Kids are all about the games and also very competitive.  They really enjoy the hotdog stand game and the ability to discuss the concepts in the game and how a business owner that we mentioned in the first week would have similar challenges,” she commented.

Junior Achievement receives $10,000 Bayer Fund grant for Experiential Career Exploration

Employees from the Bayer Mason City Site recommended Junior Achievement of Central Illinois to receive a $10,000 grant from Bayer Fund. Funds from the grant will be used to provide a hands-on curriculum and career expo experience for eighth graders. In partnership with local schools, students will examine personal skills and interests as they relate to careers, identify careers of specific interest, and be introduced to local employers through GP CareerSpark in partnership with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

“Junior Achievement is so thankful of Bayer’s investment in our future workforce,” said Mary Pille, President at Junior Achievement of Central Illinois. “Through this project, 8th graders will have a hands-on experience that equips them with the tools and knowledge to make the most of their education as they prepare for their future careers.”

This will be the second year Junior Achievement has received a Bayer Fund grant to support career exploration and this partnership will continue that impact.

“We are focused on improving lives in the communities where we operate.  The Bayer Fund allows us to partner with organizations in the community to achieve that mission.  Supporting education opportunities within our local area allows us to educate students on the career opportunities that are available here in their own community,” said Anna Jahnsen, Site Lead at Mason City & Stonington, IL. “We’re happy to support Junior Achievement with this Bayer Fund grant and look forward to participating in the Career Spark event, where we will be volunteering our time and sharing with students the work that we do here at Bayer to produce high quality seed for farmers.”

In 2019, Bayer Fund awarded more than $1.4 million through this program to nonprofit organizations in rural communities to help address essential needs in Food & Nutrition, STEM Education, and Community Development. Nonprofit organizations across the U.S. have received more than $7 million through this program over the last five years.

Junior Achievement of Central Illinois Integration with AssureSign

                Junior Achievement of Central Illinois is dependent on community volunteers to serve as mentors, providing inspiration and preparing kids to succeed. During the 2018-19 school year, our student impact has reached nearly 18,000 students delivered by over 600 volunteers. In an effort to continue expanding our volunteer base to meet the ever-growing demands for Junior Achievement programming in our local communities, JA of Central Illinois is partnering with AssureSign to provide streamlined documentation management and best practices which will allow us to continue providing efficient and effective responses to our volunteers.

                In compliance with Junior Achievement’s existing volunteer conduct standards, volunteers are required to provide written consent of their agreement to the JA terms and conditions prior to their involvement in the classroom. As the program grows, paperwork and manual process tracking has become increasingly difficult and storage space is limited. As our student impact expands, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our best practices and make our systems scalable. As we look for sustainable processes and efficient document retention practices, AssureSign enables the ability to create and execute a secure and seamless electronic signature experience. With eSignature, the portal can now satisfy the end to end process, thereby allocating more time and funding to serving our community and providing more learning opportunities for our Central Illinois students, making this change a worthwhile investment.

Breaking Records and Building Dreams

Give yourself a pat on the back. The central Illinois community successfully completed yet another record-breaking year!  Last school year, 17,937 students were impacted in 835 classrooms throughout 8 counties. The growing number of JA graduates in our region who are now empowered with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful is only possible because of you and the ways you support our mission. While this has been a milestone year, we know there is plenty of work ahead of us as students step back into the classroom this fall. If you haven't volunteered with Junior Achievement before, or have spent some time away, this is your chance to help impact more students than ever as a classroom volunteer. If you're wondering whether volunteering with JA is for you, we would love to connect and show you why so many come back to volunteer year after year.

Volunteers Weigh In

It’s been an exciting year for Junior Achievement: during our 2018-2019 program year, we have been able to reach 17,500 students (and counting!). Here are what some of our volunteers had to say about their experiences in the classroom:

 “So much time is spent on reading, writing, etc., but not why it's important that they learn these things. JA lets them know about careers and money management and what to do with their education to be successful in life.” –Laura Fell

“I first received JA training when I was an eighth grader. The curriculum was called Project Business and we had to buy and sell stocks with a given allotment of play money. This was well before middle class families had access to the stock market and it fostered a lifetime love of stocks and investing. It planted the seed in my mind to consider business as a career, and ended up getting an MBA and law degree and having a good career in accounting and law. I enjoy giving back to JA on a regular basis.” –David Pisani

"Each year, I learn new things about the challenges the youth face and the school faces. This is helpful to me as I am always interested in how I can be of assistance.  I have been doing this for 5 years and do not plan to stop! This is a blessing to my life every time I get to share with the students.  When I worked in State Farm Bank, I highly encouraged peers to getting involved." - Chemberly Cummings

"JA is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever been involved with. During my most recent volunteering session, I saw one child in particular go from someone who refused to participate to someone who seemed to really enjoy and get a lot of the program in only a few short week. It's awesome to see young mind gets excited about their future!" - Collin Masters

"I was actually a student of Junior Achievement in Jr. High School 40 years ago! I appreciate the program as it prepares students for business as well as managing their personal finances. The games and interaction are what I feel the students enjoy the most! At times, they are having so much fun, they don't realize they are actually learning the skills they will use for their future!" - Laurie Lange

‘Celebrate JA – Morton’ - Huge Success!

by Heather Sexton

Morton High School student, Connor Kottabi, speaking to guests about Junior Achievement

The annual Celebrate JA – Morton event was a huge success, again!  Our hosts, Kirk & Kristen Schick generously opened their home to more than 50 guests to advocate the vital need for JA programs in Morton classrooms while raising funds for local JA students.

On June 13th, attendees enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres, complimentary wine from Tres Rojas Winery and beautiful weather while learning about past and future JA initiatives and the benefits of JA programming from knowledgeable speakers during a short program.

A major highlight of the evening was listening to comments delivered by Morton High School student, Connor Kottabi.  Connor talked about his experience with JA and why he thinks it is important for all students to have JA programs to ensure they have the skills necessary to have successful careers and become responsible adults.

Connor’s comments, coupled with our other wonderful speakers’ remarks, proved extremely powerful and the impact was reflected through the outpour of support from guests – an astounding $18,000 was raised!

The Schick’s have hosted this event two years in a row, raising more than $25,000 and providing JA programs to more than 35 Morton classrooms.   Thank you to Kirk & Kristen and our Celebrate JA – Morton supporters for their incredible generosity!

Winners of Wall Street: The JA Stock Market Challenge

Racing the clock and battling the market, students competed in the 2nd Annual Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge to be held for high school students in central Illinois. Over the course of two days, this unique event gave teens and adults alike the chance to experience a live simulation of Wall Street Stock Exchange in Bloomington and East Peoria. After a morning of lessons to familiarize students with the market and principals of responsible investing, teams of four from Bloomington High School and Normal Community High School competed in the high-tech stock exchange simulation. Each team started the afternoon with one million trading dollars to invest in 26 fictitious stocks but it was Walter Haggins, Casper Trainor, and Evan Turnbull from Bloomington High School who ended the simulation with the highest return on investment.

 The evening sponsor event in Bloomington and in East Peoria the next day gave adults the same stock market simulation experience while raising money for local Junior Achievement programs. The winners from State Farm, State Farm Bank, and Enercon Engineering fought hard to rise to the top as competition was fierce!

Generous sponsors and participants raised $33,000 which will reach over 1,000 students through hands-on experiential programs. The event was made possible by State Farm Bank, Chase Bank, Commerce Bank, Eaton Corporation, and Illinois National Bank.

More than A Third of Teens Don’t Believe they will be Financially Independent from Parents by Age 30

New Survey by Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank Highlights Teens' Top Financial Goals and Concerns

A new national survey by Junior Achievement USA (JA) and Citizens Bank shows that more than 30 percent of teens do not believe they will be financially independent of their parents by the age of 30.

While the survey found that 74 percent of respondents believe they will own a car by the time they are 30, the numbers around other key financial milestones are much lower, with 60 percent believing they will own a home, 44 percent believing they will begin saving for retirement and 43 percent believing they will have paid off student loans. The survey of 1,000 US teens ages 13-18, who are not currently enrolled in college was conducted by Wakefield Research. A summary of the full survey can be found here.

"These survey findings show a disconcerting lack of confidence among teens when it comes to achieving financial goals," said Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. "With a strong economy, you would think teens would be more optimistic. It just demonstrates the importance of working with young people to help them better understand financial concepts and gain confidence in their ability to manage their financial futures."

The survey also found that most teens' top financial goal for the future is getting a full-time job (62%). Other financial goals included graduating from a 4-year college (59%), no longer having to rely on parents or caregivers for money (53%) and saving enough money for a big trip or vacation (41%). In terms of teen top financial concerns for the future, those included paying for college (47%), not being able to afford to live on their own (45%), paying taxes (43%) and finding a fulfilling, well-paying job (40%).

"It's clear that more has to be done to help prepare students for the future — whether it is through helping them navigate paying for college or educating them on how to manage their money by establishing savings and checking accounts," said Brendan Coughlin, President of Consumer Deposits and Lending at Citizens Bank. "We are helping to equip our young people with the tools necessary so they can start on sound footing and make smart financial decisions." 

Other findings include:

  • Most teens (64%) turn to their parents or caregivers for financial advice, followed by family members (38%), friends (30%) and online resources, such as articles and social media (27%)
  • Most teens making money  have some sort of bank account (61%), while the rest save their money unbanked, such as in a shoebox, piggybank or other method.
  • Among those currently in school, more female respondents (40%) than males (34%) believed they would make less than $35,000 in their first full-time job after high school.
  • More teens (22%) earned money in 2019 by working independently, compared to 2018 (16%). Most teens depend on gifts for spending money (64%), while many receive allowances for doing chores (32%). 



The JA Teens & Personal Finance Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. teens ages 13-18, who are not currently enrolled in college between, March 1st and March 8th, 2019, using an email invitation and an online survey.

About Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

Citizens Financial Group, Inc. is one of the nation's oldest and largest financial institutions, with $160.5 billion in assets as of December 31, 2018. Headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, Citizens offers a broad range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, large corporations and institutions. Citizens helps its customers reach their potential by listening to them and by understanding their needs in order to offer tailored advice, ideas and solutions. In Consumer Banking, Citizens provides an integrated experience that includes mobile and online banking, a 24/7 customer contact center and the convenience of approximately 2,900 ATMs and approximately 1,100 branches in 11 states in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. Consumer Banking products and services include a full range of banking, lending, savings, wealth management and small business offerings. In Commercial Banking, Citizens offers corporate, institutional and not-for-profit clients a full range of wholesale banking products and services, including lending and deposits, capital markets, treasury services, foreign exchange and interest rate products, and asset finance. More information is available at www.citizensbank.com or visit us on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook.


About Junior Achievement USA® (JA)

Celebrating its centennial in 2019, Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers, and provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Today, JA reaches more than 4.8 million students per year in 107 markets across the United States, with an additional 5.2 million students served by operations in 100 other countries worldwide. Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide. Visit www.ja.org for more information.

New Board Member Announcement

Junior Achievement of Central Illinois is proud to announce the addition of 4 new members to the Board of Directors. Read the article from the Peoria Journal Star at the link below to find out more.

Junior Achievement of Central Illinois elects new board members- Peoria Journal Star


Junior Achievement Turns 100 in 2019

Junior Achievement (JA) is celebrating its centennial in 2019. The organization was founded in 1919 in Springfield, Massachusetts by business leaders Horace Moses, founder of Strathmore Paper Company, and Theodore Vail, Chairman of AT&T, and with the support of Murray Crane, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. The original purpose of JA was to help teens moving from rural America to the industrial cities gain the skills they would need to be successful adults.

For its first 25 years, JA operated primarily in the Northeastern United States and in a few cities in the Midwest. That began to change after World War II as the organization undertook a national expansion. JA of Central Illinois was founded in 1946. By 1969, JA marked its 50th Anniversary by offering JA programs in all 50 States.

For more than 50 years, the only program available from Junior Achievement was JA Company. This was an after-school program where teens started a business with the guidance of JA Advisors, who were volunteers from the local business community. The teen-run businesses would sell stock, produce a product or service, and, after several months, liquidate and ideally provide shareholders with a return on their investment. At its high point, the JA Company Program reached nearly 300,000 teens a year and the National Junior Achievement Conference (NAJAC), an annual conference at Indiana University, drew more than 2,000 attendees yearly.

In the 1970s Junior Achievement started to offer programs in classrooms during school hours with the introduction of Project Business, a program that introduced middle school students to business concepts, and Business Basics, a program that helped elementary school students gain an understanding of business and money. By the 1980s, JA was bringing Personal Computers (PCs) into high school classrooms for its Applied Economics program. JA was reaching 1 million students a year by the end of the decade.

Though JA’s first international operations started in Canada in the 1950s and the United Kingdom in the 1960s, the organization’s global footprint grew exponentially in the 1990s with expansion in the former Soviet Union, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. At the same time, in the United States JA launched Junior Achievement programs for all grades, K through 12.

Today, Junior Achievement offers programs in more than 100 communities across the U.S., reaching nearly 5 million students with the support of nearly a quarter-million volunteers, primarily from the business community. Globally, JA reaches more than 10 million students worldwide with programs in over 100 countries.

To help mark the JA Centennial, there are several national events planned in 2019. These include Junior Achievement representatives ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, the release of an hour-long PBS documentary, the launch of a national awareness campaign and a “Junior Achievement Day” celebration at the Eastern States Exposition – aka “The Big E” – in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Junior Achievement was founded. 

AppsCo expands to Manual Academy for the upcoming school year

Junior Achievement serves as an educational partner to AppsCo, a program that is expanding to Manual Academy this school year. Read the article from the Peoria Journal Star at the link below to find out more.

AppsCo expands to Manual Academy for the upcoming school year - Peoria Journal Star

JA Gems August 2018

Click here to read the August edition of JA Gems enewsletter

July JA Gems

Click here to read the July edition of JA Gems enewsletter

June 2018 JA Gems

Click here to read the June edition of JA Gems enewsletter

May 2018 JA Gems

Click here to read the May edition of JA Gems

JA Gems April 2018

Find the April edition of JA Gems Monthly Newsletter Here

Includes information about Financial Literacy Month, Stock Market Challenge, volunteering, and more!

STEM Career Fair

Students Need Your Help!

Many children could benefit from Junior Achievement (JA) this spring, and they need you to serve as their mentor!  JA volunteers come from all walks of life, sharing a message of hope and opportunity with every young person they reach.  Junior Achievement serves students in kindergarten through high school, focusing on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness in an age-appropriate way.  Getting started is easy.  All you need is your enthusiasm, life experience, and a willingness to teach children about how you took chances and shot for the stars.  Junior Achievement provides the training, curriculum and a classroom ready to meet you.


Junior Achievement volunteers often say they get as much from the experience as the students, if not more!  The 25 schools in need of Junior Achievement volunteers this spring are listed below.  No obligation new volunteer webinars are being offered Thursday, March 15, 10:00 am – 10:45 am and Wednesday, March 21, 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm.  To sign up for a webinar, contact sienna.beard@ja.org


For more information about volunteering, visit centralillinois.ja.org, contact rachel.tan@ja.org or call 309-682-1800. 




Calvary Christian


Charter Oak Primary School


Chester East Lincoln Elementary School


Dirksen Primary School


Franklin Primary School


Glen Oak Community Learning Center


Goodfield Elementary School


Harrison Community Learning Center


Hines Primary School


Kellar Primary School


L E Starke Primary School


Limestone Community High School


Lincoln K-8 School


Lindbergh Middle School


Monroe Elementary School


Peoria Heights Grade School

Peoria Heights

Peoria High School


Ridgeview Elementary School


Roosevelt Magnet School


St Philomena School


St. Vincent de Paul School


Thomas Jefferson Primary School


Whittier Primary School


Wilder-Waite Elementary School


Willow School



Staffing Update: Welcome Heather

We are pleased to announce that Heather Sexton is the newest addition to the JA of Central Illinois team as our Development Manager. She brings a strong set of skills that will allow her to continue to cultivate relationships within the communities served by Junior Achievement of Central Illinois.

Heather brings more than 14 years of diverse cultivation and development experience ranging from higher education, community development, agricultural education, legislative and political relations. She most recently served as an Executive in Career Development with Learning for Life (LFL) - an affiliate company of the Boy Scouts of America. During her tenure, she furthered the LFL mission by creating immersive career opportunities for youth ages 10 to 20 years of age. Prior to her time there, she held various positions in political advocacy and development with Illinois Farm Bureau and Lincoln College.

Heather attended Lincoln College and University of Illinois and is a central Illinois native. Calling Lincoln her hometown, she lived in Atlanta, IL for ten years before relocating to Peoria in 2015 with her husband Jake and children – Lexi, Trey, and Grant. We are happy to have Heather on our team and invite you to join us in welcoming her to the Junior Achievement family

January is JA Alumni Month

Were you involved with Junior Achievement as a kid? If you were, you were one of 100 million young people who have experienced JA since the organization’s founding in 1919.

Whether you started a business as part of the original JA Company Program, learned about possible careers through JA Job Shadow, made decisions as a “grownup” in JA Finance Park or JA BizTown, or had a JA volunteer come to your classroom to teach you about business, careers and how money works, Junior Achievement hopefully had a positive impact on your life.

Each year, JA reaches nearly 5 million students across the United States. Locally, Junior Achievement of Central Illinois implements programs for approximately 15,000 students each year. But there is more that can be done. Junior Achievement’s programs are needed now more than ever before. 

If you’ve ever thought about reconnecting with Junior Achievement, becoming a JA volunteer is one way to do it. JA makes volunteering fulfilling, with flexible scheduling options. Our curriculum provides everything you need to make participation in JA valuable and engaging for students.

For as little as an hour a week, you can make a difference in the lives of young people in our community. Your Junior Achievement experience will leave you feeling proud, energized and hopeful about a better future for our young people.

Come back to Junior Achievement and help us bring the real world to a new generation of students. Your support helps bring the JA experience to more schools and students in our community, opening students’ minds and making a positive impact on their lives.  Connect with Junior Achievement of Central Illinois today through our easy online form or by contacting Angie Houck at angie.houck@ja.org.

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Press Releases

JA Press Releases




  • "Junior Achievement has given me a sense of what adults go through with budget issues."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Junior Achievement reinforced concepts for me to remember later in life."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "I thought the experience was amazing. The presentation was unlike anything I've seen."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "I liked how the Junior Achievement volunteer explained his job to us."

    -Junior Achievement Student

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