JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Central Maryland

JA is Really Newsworthy!

5 Minutes with JA's New Team Members

Our newest JA employees are full steam ahead as the 2018-19 school year rages on, so what better time to catch up with a few new faces at JA.  

Meet our Special Events Manager Paige McFeely
Paige McFeely is already feeling at home at JA. Her new workspace is bright and cheery just like her personality. Prior to joining us, Paige was a second grade teacher at North Glen Elementary in Anne Arundel County where she worked closely with community partners to organize fundraisers and community events. Now, she gets to take her love of events and passion for empowering the next generation into a newly created role at JA.

As the Special Events Manager, she will lead, plan and execute all JA-hosted fundraising events in this newly created position. From managing timelines to creating event program content, she will be working closely with event attendees and corporate sponsors.

“My favorite part of events is watching them come to fruition,” said McFeely.

This crafty woodworker is a natural DIY prodigy. Just wait until you see what she has in store for JA Office Warriors – her first official JA event!

“I started to pick up woodworking in middle school. My dad makes furniture, so I guess you could say I inherited it,” said McFeely.

We think she inherited her love for JA, too! Paige’s first introduction to the organization was through her mother, a former JA Regional Manager serving students in York, PA.

Meet our JA BizTown Manager Brittany Riggins
Another new face to JA will soon become a popular one with our volunteers, educators and students! Brittany Riggins is charged with managing and supervising our elementary capstone program JA BizTown. She will lead and direct volunteers, students, educators, and staff during the simulation as well as recruit schools for participation and create the annual program calendar for visiting schools.

Previously, Brittany was an assistant guide and program director at Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School and over the summer served as a supervisor and science specialist for a summer camp experience at Jewish Community Center. 

There is no doubt that Brittany has always had a passion for helping kids. It’s something she knew at a very young age.

“I wanted to make a difference by connecting with each and every one of my students on an individual level. At an early age I worked for my grandmother who owns her own daycare and my vision was to take it over, but as I reached college teaching seemed more logical,” added Riggins. “In my first year of teaching, one of my kids had hearing loss, so I taught myself sign language and redesigned my classroom to help her learn to sign. It was in that moment I realized I had made a difference beyond anything I had ever done before. Children feed my soul, they are the reason why I push myself harder.”

While Brittany may have coined herself as a “techie,” her JA colleagues concur. She’s regularly chatting about the latest and greatest new tech gadgets.

“I love wireless earbuds, wireless charger ports, chrome books, and I’m obsessed with Fitbit and all of their products!” said Riggins.

So where does this love for technology come from?

“My grandfather is a huge “techie” and I somehow grew up learning how to build computers. He could fix anything, but then it would break weeks or months later and he’d blame it on the software,” said Riggins.

JA Rising Women Program Extends in Howard County

The Women's Giving Circle of Howard County granted $60,000 to our JA Rising Women program to give local female students the opportunity to start their own companies under the mentorship of volunteers from the business community.

The Women’s Giving Circle is made up of philanthropists dedicated to creating opportunities that address the needs of women and girls in the Howard County area.

"We are thrilled to continue our wonderful partnership with JA of Central Maryland on the JA Rising Women program,” said Barb Van Winkle, head chairwoman of the Women’s Giving Circle. “It's exciting to be able to fund another 3 years of this exceptional entrepreneurship program for girls that has yielded clear results and has exceeded our expectations across the board. This funding partnership has been possible because of the support of our many donors, and in particular, the strong, meaningful leadership of WGC donors Bach and Bob Jeffrey. We are looking forward to three more years of this strong funding partnership, together!”

The $60K donation will be distributed to Rising Women program over the next three years. $25K of the total grant will be coming from Bob and Bach Jeffrey, both heavily involved in JA of Central Maryland and the Women’s Giving Circle.

“Having participated in JA myself as a student, I know firsthand the long-term benefits of practical, hands-on business education exposure at an early age. Bach and I are grateful to make it our priority to give the same opportunity back,” said Bob Jeffrey. “We’ve seen two Howard County Rising Women programs advance to the JA National Student Leadership Summit and are honored to help fuel this momentum. Every student should have a chance to introduce their innovations on such a large stage.”

JA Rising Women has launched seven new student-run companies which have earned more than $3,000. These profits have been donated back into the community, benefitting local organizations such as the Howard County Food Bank, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Special Olympics, and the Linus Project.

“We are incredibly honored and thankful for this generous donation from the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County and our long-time friends, the Jeffrey family,” said Jennifer Bodensiek, President and CEO of Junior Achievement. “With this continued support we can strengthen our Rising Women program and empower the next generation of women business leaders to inspire, innovate and excel.”

The JA Rising Women program provides real-world experiences to help build entrepreneurial and business mindsets in young women.

The fall cohort begins October 3 hosted by Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE). To learn more about becoming a program mentor, contact Nick Anderson at nanderson@jamaryland.org.

Coffee with the CEO Delivers Future Leaders

There’s nothing better than a good cup of coffee and great conversation – and JA’s Associate Leadership Council’s 2nd annual Coffee with the CEO event delivered both!

This special event held at Price Modern featured not one, but four CEO’s! The panel of Accelerent’s top CEO’s included Bill Cole of Cole Roofing, Bill Heiser of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Kelly Mitchell of ImpactHR, and Mark Stevens of Snowden Lane Wealth Management moderated by Dave Hartman of Hartman Executive Advisors.

Panelists provided first-hand accounts of client relationships, lessons learned from past failures, and painted an in-depth picture on the art of relationship building. A consistent message of authenticity, transparency, and generosity were echoed by all.

“Give and it’ll give back to you. When I learned to give first, then the floodgates opened,” said Stevens.

This informative, engaging and relevant conversation gave attendees a realistic approach to navigating leadership in today's society with outside-of-the-box thinking to put into action across industries.

The conversation sparked lively questions and further networking for all including a special tour of Price Modern’s space to see the newest trends sweeping across offices.

Special thanks to Accelerent, the panelists, and our gracious host for bringing everyone together to foster future success in Baltimore business.

Illuminating a Brighter Pathway

In just three days, 60 high school girls and more than 120 professional mentors made JA Her Path to Promise, presented by Chesapeake Human Resources Association (CHRA), an unforgettable and powerful experience -- tripling in size since last year! 


Held at Towson University, this intensive summer program connected high school girls from The Y in Central Maryland and Girls Empowerment Mission (GEM) to new opportunities--including exposure to college campuses, career opportunities, female mentors, and hands-on activities--to begin the process of preparing for a successful life after graduation from high school.

The young women participated in various sessions and activities about professional business wear, confidence building, leadership skills, and college applications. One of the most memorable experiences included the mock interviews, where students had a chance to practice their interviewing skills and receive beneficial feedback to put into use. 

“My favorite part of JA Her Path to Promise was the mock interviews because it showed us what it would be like when we really step into an interview," said Zoie, a JA Her Path to Promise student participant.

Students enjoyed an inspiring networking luncheon sponsored by Tenable, which included three leading ladies in their industries: Dr. Deb Moriarty, Vice President for Student Affairs, Towson University; Jill Shapiro, Senior Director of Global Government Affairs, Tenable; and Britta Vander Linden, Director of Partnerships and Program Development, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation. They provided words of wisdom to our participants about finding their path within their passions.

JA Her Path to Promise ended on a high note, where students heard an expert HR panel including Jennifer Ghazzouli, Vice President and Managing Director of Talent Acquisition, One Main Financial; Mark Hornberger, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer, CPI New Options Group; Ashley Graham, Human Resources Generalist PANDORA; and Phaedra Stewart, Vice President of Human Resources, Lifebridge Health. They provided invaluable insight to stand out as a job candidate. Then, students put their knowledge and experience to the test at a career fair to meet and discuss future opportunities with local companies such as EZ Shield, Starbucks, Morgan Stanley, Whiting Turner and others.

“I know that the intent was to inspire the girls as they embark on their future, but I left feeling extremely inspired myself. They are a fantastic group of determined, motivated, smart young women and I have no doubt that they will achieve amazing things,” said Graham.

“JA Her Path to Promise does a great job helping girls find out about available career opportunities and some that I didn't even knew existed. I learned that if I put forth effort and determination, I can achieve my career goals,” said Irishia, a JA Her Path to Promise student. “The mock interviews boosted my confidence and strengthened my skills for interviews in my future.”

Click here for additional photos from JA Her Path to Promise. 

Click here to see Towson University's coverage of the event.

Howard County Students Dive into the Uncharted Waters of Business

When Chesapeake Charms CEO Barathi Aravindan joined JA Rising Women in 2017, she thought it would be “just another program” that her mother encouraged her to attend. Now, it’s something that has changed her career trajectory. 

"After participating in JA Rising Women, I realized business was the field for me. I discovered something that finally utilized my skills and interested me,” said Aravindan, who is headed to University of Maryland this fall to major in finance and participate in the entrepreneurship and innovation honors program.

Aravindan and her 16 colleagues – fellow Howard County high school students – found a fashionable way to save the Chesapeake Bay through their business venture, Chesapeake Charms. The young entrepreneurs designed charm bracelets featuring three species native to the Chesapeake Bay, including the loggerhead sea turtle, Eastern Oyster, and blue crab, which sold out in less than two weeks from launch. After reaching their sales goals, the company donated $1,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Chesapeake Charms was selected as one of 14 teams to compete at JA National Student Leadership Summit (NSLS) in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate their business acumen, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking on a national stage, while showcasing their companies to members of Congress and business leaders.

“The NSLS competition is rough, but everyone is open to learning new ideas. The biggest impact for me was the FedEx seminar, where I realized how global connectivity is important for a successful business and it inspired new ideas of bringing Chesapeake Charms, at the very least, nationwide,” said Marketing Director Ashley Chen. “I also learned how the business world really does need more women.”

As the only all-women student company represented at NSLS, Chen’s thoughts were echoed by her peers, who enjoyed aspects such as networking, educational workshops, and competitive events. For Erin Duncan, chief financial officer, the experience was unforgettable, even though Chesapeake Charms did not win.

“NSLS gave me a chance to experience networking as a real businesswoman. Overall it was a fun business experience that most high schoolers never get the chance to experience,” added Duncan. “We also participated in multiple workshops with C-suite mentors on what it means to be an entrepreneur in your innovation, social responsibility, and global impact. I expect the lessons I learned from JA Rising Women and NSLS to lead me into a strong business-guided future.”

With a year full of new experiences, JA entrepreneurs received an authentic look at the business world, but it’s impact is even greater. Kathy Tran, vice president of sales, felt her JA experience “played a large role” in her personal growth, particularly building her leadership skills.

“JA Rising Women not only taught me about the business world and what it means to be an entrepreneur, but it also taught me to be more confident,” added Aravindan. “I hope to start my own business in the future that will give back to the community that has already given me so much.”

While Aravindan prepares for her freshman year of college this summer, her colleagues have other plans including studying for SAT’s, internships, jobs, and returning to JA Rising Women next fall.

To learn more about JA entrepreneurial programs such as JA Rising Women, contact Nick Anderson at nanderson@jamaryland.org.

Beyond the Classroom

“From high school until now, Junior Achievement has played a pivotal role in my educational success, and now I get to give back,” said Shawna Thomas, JA BizTown Program Coordinator.

The JA alumna participated in JA High School Heroes, a program that gives students the opportunity to become role models by teaching and inspiring elementary students through JA curriculum, which focuses on financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship.

Shawna participated in her junior and senior years at New Town High in Baltimore County. Through the program, she strengthened her public speaking and presentation skills, gained exposure and work experience teaching in the classroom, and collaborated with her classmates while developing leadership skills.

Graduating this May at Stevenson University (SU), Shawna is using many of the skills she gained from JA not only in her academics, but also in her work as a leader outside of her classes. She serves as secretary of SU’s Black Student Union, the president of the English Club, and a former speaker at SU’s open houses with the English Department.

“JA allowed me to channel leadership skills that I did not know I possessed,” added Thomas. “I felt more confident in my abilities to speak to people other than my peers. I’ve also improved my communication, leadership, and problem solving skills and use it in college.”

Now, these skills are also benefitting Shawna in her JA BizTown role, where she empowers students beyond the classroom. Shawna ensures JA BizTown runs as smoothly as possible by assisting eager fifth graders as they run the simulated city for the day. In JA BizTown, students gain an understanding of personal finance, job responsibilities, teamwork and collaboration, and how they fit into a real-world environment. She is helping students thrive in this unforgettable experience.

“It is an honor to be able to work with such an amazing group of individuals to plant and cultivate seeds in children’s lives,” said Thomas.

Hannah Humphries is a program intern at Junior Achievement. She is an English major at Stevenson University who will graduate with her BA in May 2018. Her primary focus within her major is creative writing. She loves semi-colons, but hates exclamation points, though she makes some exceptions when writing about JA.

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