JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Central Illinois

JA is Really Newsworthy!

A New Chapter In Career Exploration Is About To Unfold

When GP CareerSpark was first launched in partnership with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council in 2017, we could not have imagined the ways this effort would grow. This school year, over 3,000 students have been impacted through GP CareerSpark & JA Inspire. This virtual career expo focuses on career exploration and is made possible through the many volunteers who work to represent in-demand careers in their industries.
A new chapter unfolds this spring as high school students will not only participate in career exploration but will also be introduced to local employers and job opportunities through CareerSpark - You're Hired! This curriculum and expo updated for a high school audience features employer booths and even allows students to browse employment opportunities. You can view a list of the approximately 30 exhibitors participating below. Among these exhibitors, you'll find our supporters such as Caterpillar, Accenture, PNC, Union Pacific, Bayer, RLI, and Peoria County ROE who allow us to provide this life-changing experience at no cost to students or their families.
CareerSpark - You're Hired will be open to 9-12 grade students February 2- June 5. Educators and administrators can register their students to participate by contacting angie.houck@ja.org
Employers can contact sally.eastman@ja.org regarding exhibitor booth availability
Current CareerSpark - You're Hired Exhibitors
Carlson Exteriors
Children's Home
City of Bloomington
Federal Warehouse Company
Heritage Operations Group
Hoerr Nursery
Illinois Air National Guard
Illinois Central College - Admissions
Illinois Manufacturers Association
Morton Industries
OSF HealthCare
Peoria County ROE
Peoria Park District
Prairie Home Alliance
River City Construction
State Farm
Tazewell ROE #53
Union Pacific
Wildlife Prairie Park




A grant made to Junior Achievement will provide financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship education for K-12 classrooms in central Illinois.

    [Peoria, IL] – Junior Achievement of Central Illinois is pleased to announce it has received a $7,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Central Illinois to support financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work/career readiness programs for K-12 students in the greater Peoria area during the 2021-22 school year.

These resources will be used to implement in-person and digital programs to help students understand how to manage money, how businesses work, and how to prepare for a self-sustaining career. Programs will be delivered by trained community volunteers who serve as role models and help students understand the skills and education needed for jobs in their communities.

“Time is running out as many young people graduate school and find themselves unprepared to make positive financial and career decisions. The need for Junior Achievement’s educational experiences continues to grow as we empower students to manage money effectively, plan for emergencies, and understand how important it is to plan for their careers,” said Mary Pille, President of Junior Achievement of Central Illinois.  “While there is still much work to be done, our organization is fortunate to be part of a tremendously giving community whose members understand and support the urgent and persistent needs of our young people,” added Pille.

About Junior Achievement of Central Illinois

Since 1946 Junior Achievement has been an integral part of the education and business communities in Central Illinois and impacts 16,000 young people each year. Junior Achievement recruits and trains community volunteers and teachers to deliver hands-on, age-appropriate learning experiences to K-12 students. All experiences are designed to show students the path to success, increase their self-confidence, and help them develop the skills needed to chart a successful future. For more information, visit centralillinois.ja.org.


Are "Free Gifts" Really Free?

Perhaps when you started your first job after high school or college, you remember getting lots of credit card offers in the mail.  Or, maybe there were companies enticing you in person on your college campus by offering free items for filling out their credit card applications!  “Free” stuff and “free” money can be very attractive to young people who may not understand how credit works (and non-young people, of course!). 

What if there were a learning experience young people could have early in their educational journey to help them begin to understand the difference between debit and credit while also aligning with their classroom teacher’s learning goals and objectives?  We’d like you to know that such a learning experience exists right here in central Illinois, and JA needs volunteer mentors like you to help young people understand these practical financial literacy concepts through the JA Economics for Success learning experience!

While serving as a JA Economics for Success volunteer mentor, you will not only be helping young people learn how to avoid the perils of credit card debt but will also be helping them learn how to apply their skills, interests, and values to a career path; how to differentiate between gross and net income; how to get and keep a strong credit score; and to recognize the importance of taking financial responsibility for financial decisions.  And, you will get to do this by doing fun, engaging, hands-on activities with the students, such as playing the Be a Success game!

For more information or to sign up to be a JA Economics for Success volunteer mentor, contact angie.houck@ja.org or destinee.wilson@ja.org. We have teachers and students ready and waiting to meet you during the spring 2021 semester!

Welcome New Board Members to Junior Achievement

Junior Achievement of Central Illinois is pleased to announce the election of three new members to the Governing Board of Directors. New board members include Betsy Larson, Chair of the JA Young Professionals Board & Talent Manager at River City Construction, Bill Martin, Learning Manager at Claims Training with State Farm, and Andrew Ngui, Director, Office of Innovation and Startups at Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

“It takes countless dedicated volunteers and community leaders to make our educational experiences possible each year. From this group, we are excited to welcome Betsy, Bill, and Andrew as governing board members,” said Mary Pille, President of Junior Achievement of Central Illinois, “These individuals bring a wealth of experience and expertise and will be tremendous assets to our organization as we work to move our mission forward and inspire the next generation to own their economic success.”

The Junior Achievement of Central Illinois board is comprised of individuals from a variety of businesses and organizations throughout central Illinois. The board works diligently to guide the organization and serve as advocates of the mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.

Wells Fargo awards JA of Central Illinois with $10,000 grant

JA of Central Illinois is proud to announce the long-standing partnership with Wells Fargo will continue this school year!

Thanks to the recently awarded $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo, hundreds of central Illinois students will become inspired and equipped to be financially responsible, workforce ready, and entrepreneurially-minded.

This invaluable partnership ensures that students continue to learn how to pursue career paths, demonstrate stellar employability skills, and create and manage a realistic budget – all critical tools necessary for them to achieve lifelong goals such as choosing a career, supporting a family, and preparing for retirement.

JA BizTown Adventures come to life in McLean County


Junior Achievement of Central Illinois was proud to partner with District 87 in bringing JA BizTown Adventures™ to our area for the first time this summer! The program is an online experience that helps younger students explore business ownership and various job and career roles after participating in classroom curriculum with the mentorship of volunteers. Students gain an understanding of various aspects of running a business as they take on the roles of chief executive officer, chief financial officer, marketing director, sales manager, and consumer via five online, self-guided adventures.

Corey Schieler, a JA Volunteer from State Farm shared with us, “I was blown away by their business ideas…the students each had product prototypes and made PowerPoint presentations with their business plans, their financial and marketing strategies and most importantly were able to answer my questions with thoughtful and often hilarious answers!”

The program showed high engagement from students, expecially when given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity. Overall JA BizTown Adventures proved to be a great first experience back in the classroom for vaious students as a result of the pandemic. Our educators, volunteers, and staff are all looking forward to seeing more experiences such as this unfold as students return to school this fall!



Students Learning to Build Wealth

Students from Bloomington High School and Normal Community High School showcased their talents as future stockbrokers during the JA Stock Market Challenge. McLean County teenagers took part in the Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge over the course of 2 weeks, with a virtual celebration to announce the winners on April 29. Over 300 students participated in the educational program this school year and over 200 students were enrolled to compete for the title of top investor during the contest.

The competition was part of the new pilot program from Junior Achievement, JA Take Stock in Your Future™. Students completed a minimum of five in-class lessons prior to the competition. They learned basic knowledge about the stock market and the importance of saving and investing. They also prepared for their futures by planning smart goals. This curriculum gave students the basic knowledge to be successful as investors in the market. Cruise from Bloomington High School noted, “I had a lot of friends who were into stocks but I never really got into it but honestly when I started this I liked it a lot and I wished I had gotten into it before. My background was not much, but I learned a lot and really got into it.”

Each student received $25,000 in fictitious cash to invest in real companies for the virtual competition. Students monitored current events through news outlets and decided if they wanted to buy, sell or trade their stocks on a real-time basis. Organizers tallied the results after the final trading time period was completed. They judged students on their return on investment (ROI), which was symbolized as a percentage based on their initial $25,000 treasure of stocks.

This year, all three top winners were from Normal Community High School

3rd Place: Noah Cleveland with a final portfolio balance of $48,662.55

2nd Place: is Nathan Donahue with a final portfolio balance of $53,655.45

1st Place: Jake Fish with a final portfolio balance of 72,512.66

Special thanks to our partners for bringing this program to central Illinois! This includes Accenture, CEFCU, RSM, Blooming Tree Wealth Management, Bridgestone, Commerce Bank, Eaton Corporation, INB, and State Farm. 

A NIGHT OF INSPIRATION: Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame Re-Imagined

Because of our supporters, 11,073 students will receive life-changing financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship skills. We cannot fully describe how thankful we are to have companies and individuals investing in the futures of our Junior Achievement (JA) students.

In order to meet the needs of the thousands of students JA serves, the JA Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame serves as a platform for a fundraising campaign driven by a committee of JA board members, JA staff, and local community leaders. This campaign allows us to serve the majority of our JA students year after year so, we cannot do, what we do, without this community’s level of generosity.

As the education landscape continues to change, one thing remains: children of all ages and backgrounds need to be prepared to enter the workforce, manage their personal finances and think with the creative spirit of an entrepreneur. JA has been working hard to provide adaptable programming to our schools and students over the past year. We knew, when students went virtual, we needed to go virtual too.

The success of our community depends on how prepared today’s students are to thrive in both - work and life. By empowering today’s students, you are ensuring a robust and sustainable future for Central Illinois. With our supporters, volunteers, teachers - we can do our part to ensure students continue receiving our JA education experience whether it be at home or in the classroom. Thank you for helping us impact 11,073 students in 506 classrooms!

EVENT RECAP: The March 9th Re-Imagined Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame allowed students, parents, school systems, and the business community to convene for an all-inclusive, high-impact virtual event experience. This year’s VIRTUAL Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame induction looked much different compared to previous events, but one thing that stayed the same was the HUGE success this celebration continues to see every year! 

Our co-hosts, Amber Krycka (WEEK-TV 25 anchor) and Bruna Tavares (JA Alum/Univ of Illinois Chicago student) delivered an engaging presentation to viewers resulting in an outstanding, memorable evening featuring the success stories of our laureates - Sister Judith Ann Duvall, Steve Jackson, Doug Oberhelman and our Teacher and Volunteer of the Year - Katie McKown and Troy Schmick. Through their acceptance remarks and inspirational videos, it was clearly proven that each honoree clearly possesses the skills and demonstrates the leadership, values and ethics that we seek to cultivate in today's youth.

For those who have viewed the online event from home, thank you for taking the time to share in the celebration and recognition of our 2021 Teacher and our Volunteer of the Year - as well as - the induction of three deserving laureates into the JA Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame.  If you have not had the chance, I highly recommend watching the virtual event to capture these moments yourself.  Here is a link to the recording, feel free to make comments to share feedback. http://bit.ly/2021HOF. Make sure you watch it through the end to catch the incredibly generous surprises that take place.  You won’t regret it!

Congratulations to our 2021 Honorees

Sister Judith Ann Duvall, Major Superior, OSF HealthCare

Steve Jackson, Owner, Prairie Home Alliance

Doug Oberhelman, Retired CEO & Executive Chairman, Caterpillar Inc.

JA Regional Teacher of the Year Katie McKown, Hickory Grove Elementary School, Dunlap District #323

JA Regional Volunteer of the Year Troy Schmick, Treasury Capital Risk Manager, Caterpillar Inc.

“Junior Achievement teaches students that their opportunities are infinite.”

Bruna Tavares, JA Alum/University of Illinois Chicago student

Entrepreneurs in the Making

This month we’re checking in with our very own group of entrepreneurs-in-the-making who are gaining real-life experience in navigating the startup process. In our February issue, you heard about the new collaborative entrepreneurship experience for high school aged students, Central Illinois Young Entrepreneurs. The diverse group of students has spent several weeks finding their footing and draws determination from their interest in business.

Henry, an aspiring entrepreneur sees this as a path to greater impact in his community. He explained, “I was always interested in becoming a business owner because I want to become a high-value man by working on a product or service that can produce steady income while developing connections with other business owners and becoming an asset to my community.”

Other students, like Rena, highlighted the opportunity to hone their talents. “I wanted to be a part of this group to gain leadership and communication skills as they are very important and can help me in the future.”

Now several weeks into their journey, students have chosen their product and made their first business pitch to their mentors, including Rebecca Shulman, Director of Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum. “This collaboration emerged directly out of conversations we were having with our diversity committee, thinking about how to engage kids with peers they might not normally encounter,” explained Rebecca. “Because of COVID and the switch to digital education, it is actually easier for us to gather a group of teens from around the region, who might not otherwise encounter each other, to collaborate and learn from and about each other.”

Working as a team, students are creating and managing their own business through JA Company Program®. Stay tuned for more updates as they put their business plan into action this spring.

Why We Need to Talk to Teens About the Stock Market (and how you can help)

Many of us closely followed the news surrounding WallStreetBets and GameStop in the last several weeks. Young people, who have received little to no education about the stock market, are also fascinated. In fact, we’ve spotted several young adults on Reddit announcing they just invested for the first time, asking other users for advice.

While the interest from young people in the stock market is exciting, as educators and parents, it’s troubling that they are soliciting advice from individuals who may not have an interest in their success. For years, Junior Achievement and our volunteers have delivered fundamental lessons in investing to high school students through the JA Stock Market Challenge. This year, we're impacting students through our all-new immersive curriculum and an interactive game-based app that gives them the opportunity to practice researching and trading real stocks with “virtual” dollars.


High school students in McLean County will learn how the stock market works and explore responsible financial habits through the all-new classroom program, JA Take Stock in Your Future®.

This new curriculum is immersive with five core lessons and 11 optional extensions to engage students in forming a deeper understanding to build financial wealth. One of the four core lessons, a real-time online stock simulation, helps students gain confidence as they invest fictitious dollars in real stocks for an authentic learning experience.

Students will put their newly acquired knowledge to the test as they compete alongside students across McLean County in the all new JA Stock Market Challenge! Competitors will use fictitious cash to invest in over 10,000 stocks with real-time market data. They will be encouraged to research daily market news within the simulation and make informed decisions on which stocks to invest in.

Join us Thursday, April 29 as we recognize our students’ hard work and honor the JA McLean Teacher of the Year & Volunteer of the Year during our online celebration.


We have already received several requests from educators for this new program, and with young people so interested in the topic right now, we have the opportunity to bring this program to many more students. Your contribution will ensure we can provide them with foundational lessons in the stock market and financial literacy delivered by individuals who are invested in their long-term success. Please make your contribution today.

Meet the JA Regional Teacher of the Year: Katie McKown

Katie McKown

Hickory Grove Elementary School, Dunlap CSD #323

Katie McKown is a fourth grade teacher at Hickory Grove Elementary School in Dunlap.  She has been teaching for 16 years, spending her entire career in fourth grade in Dunlap.  She is currently teaching a class of 29 full-time remote learners, and is enjoying this new challenge.  


Although this school year has been a bit different with remote teaching/learning, her class traditionally centers around a “McKown Town” theme.  She has a classroom economy, in which students can earn “McKown Cash.”  Students each have their own wallets, and can earn cash for good behavior, extra effort, showing kindness, etc.  Cash can be spent on a variety of experiences, one of the favorites being the opportunity to sit at Mayor McKown’s desk for the day.  In McKown Town, every student has a classroom job to keep the town running smoothly, and they take great ownership of this responsibility.    


McKown graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, with a degree in Psychology.  She was a member of the SIUE softball team, and earned All-American honors. She was recently inducted into SIUE’s Hall of Fame in 2018 for her softball accomplishments. McKown also earned her teaching degree from Illinois State University.  Additionally, she has two master’s degrees, one in Curriculum & Instruction, and the second in Administration.  


McKown is married with three children ages 9, 7, and 3, and resides in Edwards. 


Learn more about the Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame and Register to Attend

Meet the JA Regional Volunteer of the Year: Troy Schmick

Troy Schmick

Treasury Capital Risk Manager, Caterpillar Inc.

Troy started his Junior Achievement journey in 2010 and has taught grades ranging from Kindergarten to Senior in High School.  He has become focused over the years on the High School age group (9th-12th) at Peoria Central H.S.  There Troy has formed a partnership with his teacher, Holly Duke-Kupferschmidt, where they deliver a breadth of J.A. programs covering economics, personal finance, and career development. “I greatly admire and appreciate working with Holly for her passion of bringing J.A. into the classroom, her ability to connect with the students, and her skills in managing the classroom.  She clearly cares about her students’ future.” 

As to why Junior Achievement, Troy responds “I like to provide the students a ‘glimpse’ of what their lives can be like – the jobs available, the work performed, the community where we all help each other become better”.   Troy, his wife Lila, and their four children, ages 11 to 24, live in Dunlap.  His family has lived in another country, hosted exchange students, and travelled the world thanks to a challenging and rewarding career at Caterpillar.  Troy gives credit to his employer, Caterpillar, for allowing him the time to pursue such a worthwhile initiative as Junior Achievement.

Learn more about the Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame and Register to Attend

Meet the Laureates: Doug Oberhelman

Doug Oberhelman

Retired CEO & Executive Chairman, Caterpillar Inc.

Doug Oberhelman served as chairman of the board of directors and as chief executive officer (CEO) of Caterpillar Inc. beginning in 2010.  After a 41-year career with Caterpillar, he retired as CEO on December 31, 2016 and as executive chairman on March 31, 2017.

During his tenure as chairman and CEO, Oberhelman led Caterpillar through accelerated business cycles, implementing cost-efficiencies and Lean manufacturing to simplify and improve global manufacturing and operations. He also led the company to renew its focus on customers, and reinforced its dedication to quality, sustainability and innovations critical to the success of Caterpillar employees, customers and dealers.

Oberhelman joined the Caterpillar treasury department in 1975 and worked in or led a wide variety of businesses across the company. He was elected a Caterpillar vice president and chief financial officer (CFO) in 1995; and from 2002 to 2010 was a group president with responsibility for many of Caterpillar’s core businesses. Over the course of his career at Caterpillar he lived in North America, South America and Asia, and travelled extensively throughout the world.  

Oberhelman serves on the board of directors of Exxon Mobil Corporation, Peter Kiewit Sons’, Inc., and Bombardier Inc.  He is former chair of both the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers. He serves as vice president of the Wetlands America Trust, is a director on the boards of the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation and Intersect Illinois.  He is also chairman of the board of trustees for the Easter Seals Foundation of Central Illinois.  He previously served on the boards of Eli Lilly and Company and Ameren Corporation. 

Doug is married to his wife Diane Oberhelman who is the Chairwoman of Cullinan Properties Ltd. and one of Peoria’s most successful, leading developers. Diane is the Founding Partner of Cullinan Properties, based in Peoria, Illinois, with offices in Chicago and St. Louis. Diane founded Cullinan Properties in 1988 after being in the real estate business since 1981. She is also a JA laureate who was inducted into the Junior Achievement Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame in 2006. For years, Doug and Diane have lived on a cozy, rustic farm with horses, chickens and beautiful alfalfa field that is located on the outer edges of Peoria county. They have four grown children: Kathleen Cullinan Brill, Maureen Cullinan Bennett, Alison Cullinan Unkovich, and Allen Cullinan. They also have eleven grandchildren.

Welcome Aboard Chris DuBois

Each volunteer brings a unique and valuable set of skills to our organization. This, of course, includes our board members who oversee the strategic operation of Junior Achievement. We are thrilled to welcome Chris Dubois to our board. When Chris visualizes the impact of JA, he sees not only the individual student, but the long-term goal of our mission, stating, “Education is the most actionable factor in improving a person’s standard of living.  There’s almost nothing else a person can achieve that will have more impact in allowing them to be self-sufficient and grant the capacity to provide for themselves and their family.  This impact is felt for generations to come.”

Chris started volunteering the in classroom 5 years ago and values the opportunity provided to members of the board to learn more about how JA prioritizes the needs of students and the community. In addition to being a classroom volunteer and driving force in peer-to-peer fundraising for JA, he represents Komatsu - a long-time partner of JA’s work in the Peoria area. Chris works at Komatsu as Peoria HR Manager and remarks, “Komatsu’ s expertise is making mega equipment and not in education.  Through JA we can leverage the people and dollars we invest in the community through a platform with experts in education programs.  Those resources are focused right in our own schools and communities.”

Meet the Laureates 2021: Steve Jackson

Steve Jackson

Steve Jackson was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. He had two great parents, Jim and Anne Jackson, three older brothers, and a younger sister. After 12 years of Catholic grade school and high school, Steve attended Butler University on a baseball scholarship. He graduated on May 20, 1979, married his high school sweetheart, Maggie Niehus, on May 28, they moved to Chicago on May 30, and Steve began his career going to work for the Dow Chemical Company.

Steve and Maggie are the proud parents of three devoted sons, Steve, Joe, and Chris. Steve and Chris work in the business with their dad, and Joe is an assistant general manager at a golf club in New Jersey. Joe is the father to Steve and Maggie's only grandchild, seventeen year old, Nicholas. This fact is about to change as Chris' wife, Madisen, is due to deliver their second grandson any day now.

Steve left Dow in the fall of 1982 to go to work as the general manager of Lumberyard Suppliers, Inc. in Champaign, IL. LS is a wholesale buildings products distributor. He was promoted to VP of Sales for LS in the spring of 1986, and he, Maggie, and their two sons moved to the Peoria area.

In 1992, Steve left LS to team up with Mike O'Reilly, the owner of Peoria Siding and Window at that time. The goal was to grow the size of that company and to expand their home improvement offerings throughout central Illinois. Ten years later through growth and acquisition, they had nearly quadrupled the sales volume of Peoria Siding, and their companies serve homeowners from Iowa to Indiana.

Steve enjoyed some great partnerships with some talented individuals over the years that played key roles in the success and growth of the businesses. These partners were Mike O'Reilly, Scott Spitznagle, Brad Blumenshine, and David Russell. All but David have since retired, and Steve remains grateful to all of them.

Collectively, the Prairie Home Alliance Companies are the largest home improvement company from Chicago to St. Louis.

Learn more about the Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame and Register to Attend

CLA Foundation Collaborates to Serve Central Illinois

Junior Achievement of Central Illinois serves students of all backgrounds, leveraging collaboration to overcome barriers that are presented in serving all populations. Reaching students as early as kindergarten, our partnership with schools is essential to ensuring that students have access to the tools and skills they need for building successful futures. A barrier to many enrichment activities can be the cost to implement such programs. That is why we are so thankful for donors like CLA Foundation, who invest in their community and make it possible for Junior Achievement to provide transformative educational experiences at no cost to the students’ families or schools. Junior Achievement staff and board members are grateful to have recently received a $20,000 operating gift from the CLA Foundation in support of our mission. Kristina Galligan, a member of the JA Board of Directors and employee of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, noted, “The CLA Foundation’s mission is to connect networks, advance work readiness and create career opportunities for our local communities.  JA’s focus on entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy directly aligns with that mission.” In addition to this generous financial support, CLA employees serve as volunteers and provide guidance as board members. We are thankful for the many ways this partner continues to serve students in central Illinois!

Meet the Laureates 2021: Sister Judith Ann Duvall

Sister Judith Ann Duvall

Sister Judith Ann grew up the middle child in a family with three brothers and one sister.  Her mother was a homemaker, and her father served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a car parts salesman and then an insurance salesman.  She grew up in St. Genevieve, Mo., a small community near the Mississippi River, 60 miles south of St. Louis, whose residents were descendants of French and German immigrants.  She attended Catholic Grade school and High School in her home town.  Her parents sacrificed and saved money to enable her to begin taking piano lessons in second grade and purchased a piano from an older woman for $30.00, and so her love for music was nurtured, Bach and Chopin being her favorite composers.  
She was a tomboy by nature, loving nature and the outdoors and engaged in sports of all kinds but was only really good at track and swimming.  In high school she was involved in many activities including Mission Club, Glee Club, editor of the school paper, Church choir and spent her summers giving swimming lessons and lifeguarding at their local pool.
She entered The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Peoria following high school graduation in the fall of 1964, a desire that began all the way back when she was in first grade.  She just couldn’t imagine a life where God was not at the very center.  She professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to God in August 1970.
Sister obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Northern IL University in DeKalb, IL and served as a nursing supervisor at Saint James Hospital in Pontiac, IL and worked in the neonatal center at Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.  She received a master’s degree in Catholic Doctrine from St. John’s University in New York City, N.Y. and finally a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Administration from Bradley University in Peoria.  Those wonderful education experiences supported her well in her various roles in the Religious Community as Vocation Director, Formation Director, Treasurer and finally Major Superior for her Sisters, her current role, as well as serving as on the various Boards of OSF HealthCare that began in 1989 and engaging in designing and implementing a Ministry Development Program to form leaders to serve in Catholic health care that continue to this day.  Her passion is to mentor leaders to be living extensions of their rich heritage to serve the sick and the poor with the greatest care and love.

Young Professionals Take On a Special Project

One of the great advantages of working so closely with the local community we serve is to be able to quickly understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities our educators face throughout the school year. One such opportunity presented itself as we heard feedback from some teachers who anticipated difficulty in planning for real-time virtual volunteer visits while in-person or remote learning environments are still in flux. Turning to the JA Young Professionals Board for help with a very special project, members of the group went to work and are now recording JA volunteer sessions for 3rd and 4th grade classrooms. The recordings will give educators additional control over when and how JA lessons take place, while still giving visibility to local mentors who are able to share their life experiences and inspire students.

Originally born as an idea to fit the needs of educators at Northmoor Primary School where the group had previously launched the JA High School Heroes volunteer program, the recordings will also be available to other schools in the area. “There was no doubt in my mind I wanted to be part of recording the sessions for the 3rd and 4th grade classes,” said Betsy Larson, Employee Experience Specialist at ATS and Chair of the Young Professionals Board, “I immediately thought of the advantage we have to be able to impact so many more kids than one volunteer can traditionally.” The delivery model offers yet another option for educators and volunteers to customize their experience without compromising the impact of JA programs. Betsy added, “As someone who is used to volunteering all school year long, it’s really exciting to me to know I’m still doing my part in a new and effective way!”

Educators and volunteers can learn more and sign up by contacting carol.closen@ja.org or angie.houck@ja.org

Igniting Interest for In Demand Careers

When polled by Chicago-based research group C+R, 20% of teens said they want to be artists, entertainers, athletes, media, and communication workers. The idea isn’t surprising, as young people are immersed in media depicting the glamor and excitement of celebrities fulfilling these careers. While these can be lucrative and fulfilling occupations, just 2% of the workforce is actually employed by the industry. So how do we close this disparity and open students’ eyes to the exciting possibilities surrounding them?

In early December a team of volunteers from Morton Industries helped us in our mission to connect role models with students and spark interest in careers in the world of manufacturing - an industry that employs nearly 10% of the Illinois workforce and encompasses a wide variety of interests and education levels. Steve Stewart, Director of Organizational Development at Morton Industries, explained why a busy employer would take the time to reach out to students not yet in the job market. Steve emphasized, “It’s vital to get the message out about careers in manufacturing - about what it is today with technology and the variety of opportunities people have in the manufacturing industry.” Meeting virtually with students from the Peoria Regional Learning Center, team members from Morton Industries delivered a virtual tour to share information about their career and education paths. “Kids often only hear what their parents or grandparents are doing,” noted Steve, “so it was important to show them what we have available; whether it’s sales, purchasing, HR, accounting, machining, quality, or welding.” Students and educators alike enjoyed the inside look at the business and benefited from additional resources provided the new JA Connect Learning Pathways site. With the help of partners like Morton Industries, we continue to inspire and prepare students as they explore their skills and interests. 

Survey: Majority of U.S. Teens Believe People are Paid Less based on Race, Ethnicity, or Gender

A new survey of 1,004 teens conducted for Junior Achievement by the research company ENGINE Insights shows that a majority (61%) believes that people in our society are paid less based on race, ethnicity, or gender. More than two-thirds (69%) believe people have a harder time getting financial support to start a business based on race, ethnicity, or gender. The survey of 1,004 13- to 17-year-olds was conducted by ENGINE Insights from November 17 to 22, 2020.

Nearly half of survey respondents (45%) felt that “education” is the top way to address a lack of economic opportunity, followed by “changing the laws” (35%), “business reforms” (30%), and “reparations” (23%).

“Addressing economic disparity is top-of-mind for today’s young people,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “As we see in these survey results, one way to help reduce barriers to economic opportunity is through education. We at Junior Achievement are committed to doing this through initiatives like our work with CNBC.”

In response to these concerns, Junior Achievement and Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow., CNBC’s financial wellness and education initiative in partnership with Acorns, hosted a “Summit for a More Equitable and Just Tomorrow” on Tuesday, December 8.

Hosted by CNBC Senior Personal Finance Correspondent Sharon Epperson, this unique interactive event gave teens across America direct access to some of the country’s most knowledgeable experts on economic empowerment, especially as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The panelists offered simple, straightforward strategies to help empower participants to strive toward promoting a more equitable and just tomorrow.

Panelists included:

  • Sahil Bloom, Vice President, Altamont Capital Partners
  • Rianka Dorsainvil, Co-Founder & CEO, 2050 Wealth Partners
  • Yanely Espinal, Director of Educational Outreach, Next Gen Personal Finance
  • Akbar Gbajabiamila, Host, American Ninja Warrior and American Ninja Warrior Junior and member, CNBC Financial Wellness Advisory Council
  • and Special Guest Marc Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League

This Youth CARAVAN survey was conducted by ENGINE INSIGHTS among a sample of 1,004 13-17 year olds. This survey was live on November 17-22, 2020.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls.  All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. It is nationally representative with set quotas based on census data. The 1,004 completes are all who qualified and completed based on the demographic quota requirements. The MoE is +/- 3.1%.

Showing 1 - 20 of 69 results.
Items per Page 20
of 4

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

Get Involved!

Junior Achievement
of Central Illinois

Donate Now    Volunteer    Request a