John Ness, CEO of ODW Logistics, is a long-time JA volunteer, a JA alumnus, and Junior Achievement of Central Ohio’s newest Board Chair. We sat down with John and asked him about his experience with JA as a student, a volunteer, and as a parent.
How & when did you first get involved with JA?
I recall a JA experience my Junior year at Upper Arlington High School. It was a great experience because one of my football coaches taught the class, the topic was very interesting to me and we sold t-shirts for a small profit! Approximately 25 years later, my wife signed me up as a parent volunteer at JA BizTown with my son’s 5th grade class. I’ll never forget that day. Jack’s team was outstanding. The CFO ran payroll like a seasoned accountant and at one point I caught my son with his feet crossed on the chair reading the JA BizTown newspaper! Sure enough his engagement returned when he realized his shop was going to be short of paying back their loan. The team rallied and made $2.00 profit that day. Life lessons were everywhere and my son and I discovered a love for talking about business.
What has been your child(children's) experience with JA?
All four of my children have enjoyed JA BizTown, including my youngest who also attended JA BizTown summer camp. They have all really enjoyed their experience and JA BizTown earns regular top ranking in “favorite memories of 5th grade at Tremont Elementary.” Three out of 4 were shop CEO’s which has created a bit of healthy competition at home. They love it because the experience broadens their minds, challenges them to think about their future, teaches them practical lessons about life and IT’S FUN!
Why are you passionate about JA?
JA’s mission resonates deeply with my values. The mission is to prepare students—all students, to be successful in life. JA engages students from all walks of life and teaches them the value of good decision-making, financial literacy and helps them dream about what they can become. It is a powerful formula. More so, JA connects the education system and the business community together—JA understands that today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce and it is wonderfully positioned to meet the needs of both systems in our economy. The Columbus regional impact of JA is 30,000 students strong and growing. That is powerful and brings scale to make a difference to make our community better. JA’s mission is one that more in our community need to know about. When we tell people, the response is really compelling.
You not only volunteer as an individual, but also with your team at ODW Logistics. Can you talk about that experience?
It is good and important to serve together with your team at work. Serving others eliminates titles and roles, and creates new work groups that have shared experiences. The [JA BizTown] day is long and can be exhausting, but it is a ton of fun and brings lots of smiles and laughs.
Favorite JA moment?
The morning after her JA BizTown experience, I was talking with my youngest daughter Ellie about her day. As she recapped her favorite parts of the day, I told her I was headed back to JA for a board meeting. She looked at me and asked what the board does. I told her that our primary job is to make JA BizTown the best it can be. She paused, looked at me and said, “How can BizTown get any better?!?” It made my day!