Volunteer Spotlight | Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Volunteer Spotlight

Our Volunteer Spotlight highlights a volunteer who empowers students to own their economic success. Want to nominate a volunteer? Email Robin Olson or call (610) 230-3366 for more information on what to submit!

Volunteer Spotlight

Matthew Smeltzer- Manager, Financial Accounting Advisory Services, Ernst & Young

erin freeney volunteer spotlight
Junior Achievement is proud to announce Matt Smeltzer as the 2017 JA of Southeastern Pennsylvania Volunteer of the Year.  
Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania is pleased to announce our 2017 Volunteer of the year, Matthew Smeltzer.  Matt has been instrumental in bringing his firm, Ernst & Young into the Junior Achievement Company Program.  Matt was chosen as volunteer of the year because he embodies our mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed.
Matt has been involved with JA since 2014 as a volunteer for various JA in a Day events. He became involved in the JA Company Program, hosted at Aqua America. Last year, Matt was an integral part in EY signing on as a host site for the 2016-17 school year and took on the role of volunteer coordinator.  "Without Matt's help, this wouldn't have happened," said Laura Yohe, JA Program Director.  
In addition to helping with EY's Company Program, Matt is also a member of the JA Young Professionals Board, a group that is committed to advancing JA's mission through promoting interest and generating support among Philadelphia's young professionals.  
"You can tell that you're making a difference," Matt says.  The students go from knowing very little about business at the beginning of the program to running a business efficiently by the end. To see this change in the students and hear from their parents about how the program has helped their children become laser focused at school, and how all they can talk about is the program, is very rewarding.  We are making a true positive change in the lives of the students and hopefully setting them up for a better future, which is what the program is all about. 
Through his efforts, he has inspired many co-workers to get involved in JA in addition to the students he's impacted through is work with the Company Program.   "Matt started this program for our firm and from his first email to recruit volunteers his excitement was contagious. It made me want to join immediately (which I did). He was an anchor from start to finish, always with an upbeat and positive attitude. His dedication was unrivaled and the pride he took in being part of the JA Company Program made us all work that much harder to create value for all of our young professionals," said Colburn Combs, one of Matt's co-volunteers.
The Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Volunteer of the Year Award is designed to honor exceptional service and outstanding dedication to furthering the mission of Junior Achievement. On behalf of Junior Achievement and the students served, thank you Matt for your extraordinary commitment to empowering and preparing students through your time, experience and caring. 

Erin Feeney - Financial Analyst, Rates and Planning, Aqua America, Inc. 

erin freeney volunteer spotlight
Junior Achievement is proud to announce Erin Feeney as the 2016 JA of Southeastern PA Volunteer of the Year. A Rates and Planning Financial Analyst at Aqua America by day, Erin has been a JA volunteer since 2012. She began her journey with the JA Company Program®. Within the last two years, she has become the volunteer coordinator at Aqua, leading the student run company to the National Student Leadership Summit (NSLS) two years in a row.
The staff at Junior Achievement of Southeastern PA chose Erin for Volunteer of the Year because she embodies JA's mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed. Erin (pictured leftmost in the photo to the left) encourages her students to be brave and to take risks in themselves and in their work. This is most evident in her time with students at NSLS. During their trip to Washington, D.C. the bus students were riding broke down, forcing everyone to walk up Capitol Hill in the rain, carrying their supplies for the event's upcoming trade fair. Erin mentioned to students to wear comfortable shoes for the long walk. However, when one of the student's feet started to hurt, Erin put others before herself and switched shoes with the female student. Erin wore uncomfortable shoes so that one of her students would be comfortable and prepared to present their product. She was willing to do whatever it took to make sure her students were ready for success.
Caring, driven and hardworking, Erin is very committed to seeing her students thrive within the program.
"Enjoy the journey was the mission and this extremely talented group of students did just that." Erin describes the 2015-2016 Aqua America sponsored student run company, Impress. "In just 16 short weeks, the students started and successfully ran a profitable company through the support of myself and 8 other volunteers at Aqua America. Each member grew their business skills individually and as a team and achieved great success." At the National Student Leadership Summit during June of 2016, her team of high school students from Delaware County won first place as Company of the Year, among 15 other nationwide teams.
"I am proud to work with such a dedicated and hard working group of students. Over my last 4 years in the program I have watched these students mature and develop their business skills; the future is bright for these young entrepreneurs." Erin said.
It is clear that Erin makes an impact, not just by the number of students who return to the program at Aqua year after year, but the relationships that they develop outside of the program. What the students have accomplished under Erin's leadership is proof of what young people can do when they work with mentors who truly believe in them and prepare them with the essential skills they need for lifelong success.
The Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Volunteer of the Year Award is designed to honor exceptional service and outstanding dedication to furthering the mission of Junior Achievement. On behalf of JA and the students served, please take a moment to thank Erin for her extraordinary commitment to empowering and preparing students through her time, experience, and caring. 

Trey Ulrich - Assistant Vice President, Alumni Relations, La Salle University 

Trey Ulrich Volunteer Spotlight
Trey Ulrich, a first-time JA volunteer, played a key role in securing La Salle University as the first college to pilot the JA Step to Success program in June 2016.  Through Trey's vision, over 1,000 Philadelphia 3rd Grade students had the chance to tour a college campus and see the exciting role that higher education can play in their future. 
Trey has been working at La Salle for over 16 years and began his career in the Development Office. He moved over to Alumni Relations to engage over 50,000 alumni in support of La Salle. Amy Lynn Flood, who is the Alumni Board President and JA volunteer coordinator for PricewaterhouseCoopers, suggested that Trey gets involved with the JA Step to Success program. Through his leadership, he coordinated a team of Alumni and Staff volunteers for the three high impact days in June.
JA Step to Success emphasizes a foundation of college aspiration within the School District of Philadelphia by targeting 3rd Grade students. The program centers around a tour of a local University, enhanced by in-class lessons designed to reinforce the college visit experience. The program brought students to the La Salle campus for a tour based on their motto of "Never Stop Exploring".
Trey described the experience, saying "Our little Explorers got exposed to campus life and learned about what it is like to be a college student from our alumni and student volunteers.  They explored our Library, Innovation Center, and visited a classroom to learn about all the different career options and areas of study you can pursue in college."
Trey's commitment to education was evident through his interactions with the students; he clearly demonstrated dedication and enthusiasm to inspire them to see college in their future. He demonstrated through example, on behalf of the entire team at LaSalle, a passion for the children and therefore the ideals that represent outstanding Junior Achievement volunteers.
"This was a great experience for me in working with the students because they brought so much energy and enthusiasm to campus.  Each group of students came prepared with questions and all left La Salle saying how they couldn't wait to come to college. I also teach college students business classes so to be able to serve as a positive role model and mentor for these kids was truly a rewarding experience. All of the volunteers who helped with JA's Step to Success Program wished we had more time with the kids and look forward to having them come back again next year."
Thank you to Trey and the La Salle volunteers for supporting this important initiative and helping JA change the way our Philadelphia students think about their futures! 

Terry Kennedy - CEO, Chair of Personalized Books Given to Children, Inc. 

Terry Kennedy Volunteer Spotlight
Terry Kennedy has been a Junior Achievement volunteer for over 15 years; since 1998, he has presented multiple JA programs per year throughout the Lehigh Valley. He has volunteered in several schools, including Ritter Elementary, Dodd Elementary, Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, and most recently, William Allen High School.
Terry, who is CEO  & Chair of the non-profit organization Personalized Books Given to Children, Inc., first heard about JA from his fellow Chamber of Commerce members who kept insisting that he volunteer until he finally said yes! His personal interest in the Allentown community began with his organization, which provides personalized storybooks to first-grade students in the Lehigh Valley, with the goal of getting children excited about reading. Local sponsoring businesses provide the books free of charge and personally read the books to students in the Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton Area School Districts.
Terry's dedication to the future success of local students is evident in his day to day work, as well as his volunteering role with Junior Achievement. His favorite part about volunteering with JA is "working with the children! The JA lesson plans are to die for and the programs make learning fun! You also learn from teaching." Connie Ganey, who worked with Terry at William Allen High School, has seen firsthand the impact that Terry has on her students. "He was absolutely fabulous! Very enthusiastic every single time he came into the classroom. He would go out of his way to help the kids and to contribute to their understanding of entrepreneurship."
We chose to honor Terry for his outstanding dedication to Junior Achievement's mission. He began working with the JA of Southeastern Pennsylvania office last year and has been a wonderful asset to the organization. He goes out of his way to help in any way he can, at Junior Achievement and in his local community. He is committed to giving the students the best possible education and access to the best resources. Even after speaking to Terry for just a few minutes, it is clear that his commitment to the JA programs and the students is genuine. 
Terry – Congratulations and thank you for making a difference in the lives of our students! 

Andrea Sawchuk - Branch Manager, Diamond Credit Union

Andrea Sawchuk Volunteer Spotlight
Andrea Sawchuk, Branch Manager at Diamond Credit Union in Pottstown, PA, has been involved as a JA Volunteer Coordinator for the past two years.  She is responsible for recruiting and organizing the volunteers to present JA Economics for Success at Pottstown Middle School. Andrea coordinated a total of sixteen volunteers for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, plus presented the program in two classrooms each year.
Zeigler Family Foundation, whose mission is to enhance education through the implementation of financial literacy programs, works in conjunction with JA and Diamond Credit Union to fund the programs. After a meeting with Jenelle Ross, Executive Director at Zeigler Family Foundation, Andrea said "it became very clear what an important initiative this would be with our local school district.  I saw this partnership as a great way to give back to our local community and help guide our local students on a path to future success!"
As Branch Manager at Diamond Credit Union, Andrea's first focus is to lead and motivate her branch team to success.  Her role at the Credit Union involves reviewing the needs of members and finding the right products and services to help them meet their financial goals. Andrea's background certainly fits with JA's core mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. 
When asked what she liked most about volunteering with JA, Andrea said "The interaction with the students!  It is so rewarding to see the students learn the different financial fundamentals taught during the 6 class rotation.  The financial basis and fundamentals taught help to provide the students with a framework for future success and contributions to the community". She also praised JA, saying "it's wonderful to work for an organization that truly cares about the local community and gives employees so many opportunities to give back."
JA of Southeastern Pennsylvania chose to recognize Andrea for February's Volunteer Spotlight because her energy and enthusiasm motivates her team members to participate. Jenelle Ross, of Zeigler Family Foundation, said "she's very passionate about what she does and loves working with the kids. I think that her energy and passion are evident and that really helps the students to be enthusiastic about what they're learning". Her time and dedication spent with the program is greatly valued – she is truly an advocate for the JA mission!
Congratulations Andrea and thank you for all that you do!

Pat Kerr - Former Senior Director of Business Analytics, Janssen Pharmaceuticals 

Pat Kerr Volunteer Spotlight
Pat Kerr began volunteering with Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2012 at North Penn High School, in Ken McLarnon's Accounting class. After retiring from her position as Senior Director of Business Analytics at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, she wanted to find an activity where she could apply the skills she had gained while working in the corporate world. After receiving an e-mail promoting JA, her husband suggested that Pat volunteer.  
She enjoyed working with teenagers, and the JA program seemed like a good fit.
Pat has been presenting the JA Company Program to North Penn students for the past three years. The JA Company Program teaches students about entrepreneurship by giving them the tools to create and operate their own business venture. Through a variety of hands-on activities, students perform tasks necessary to running a successful business, such as selling stock, creating and marketing a product, and writing an annual report. The student companies at North Penn have been hugely successful over the past few years. Each semester, the company donates a portion of their proceeds to a local charity – last year, their donations totaled over $3,000. 
The student companies' success is due in large part to Pat's hard work. She comes to the school two to three times per week, interviewing students for officer positions, creating financial spreadsheets, and delivering the product to students and teachers. Pat even uses her weekends to work on elements of the program, ensuring that everything runs smoothly during the week.  
Ken McLarnon, an Accounting teacher at North Penn High School, praises Pat for her devotion to the school and the students. "Pat does a great job working with the children – her experience and knowledge have a big impact on them," Ken says. "Pat keeps everything going, and makes my job so much easier!"
It is clear why Pat was chosen for the Volunteer Spotlight – the countless hours she has dedicated to the program illustrate that she goes above and beyond her role as a JA volunteer. She truly is a mentor to the students, helping them not only with their school work, but also giving them advice about other important decisions they face in their lives. Pat is the more than the ideal volunteer; she empowers the future every day. Thank you Pat!


Becky Hamilton Volunteer Spotlight

Becky Hamilton - Enterprise Support Delivery Manager, SAP Americas, Inc.

Becky Hamilton has been involved with Junior Achievement since 2012. She started as a volunteer mentor in the JA Company Program and became a co-coordinator in 2014. Becky, along with her co-lead Brian Jones, coordinates 15-20 volunteers and 20 students each week from November to April. Becky also serves as the coordinator for SAP's JA in a Day with Marple-Newtown School District, which takes place during SAPS' October Month of Service. She is responsible for organizing over 35 volunteers at four elementary schools in the district.  
Her previous volunteer experience and background in education made Becky a great fit for Junior Achievement. When asked what drew her to the program, Becky responded, "It provided me an opportunity to work with students and volunteer my time to a valuable program, both of which I am greatly passionate about. As I chose a career path with SAP and not education, being able to work with students was something that was missing and I knew I still wanted to be a part of empowering our future leaders. The JA Company Program opened this whole new world for me. "
Becky's warm smile, welcoming personality and overall kindness has an effect on everyone. She is one of the reasons that many students return year after year to SAP for the JA Company Program. "Over the last two years in the JA program, I had the pleasure of knowing Becky – one of the most energetic and creative people I have ever met," commented Julie Lee, a returning student.  "With her contagious smile and encouraging attitude, she spreads positive energy to everyone around her, making it impossible not to have an amiable atmosphere. Becky's dedication and passion have inspired me in limitless ways, and I am looking forward to working with her again this coming year! "
Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania chose Becky for the Volunteer Spotlight because she is a shining example of a JA volunteer who goes above and beyond their role. She is always willing to offer a helping hand, whether to a fellow volunteer, student, or staff member. Her commitment and enthusiasm are apparent in everything that she does. "I say it to just about anyone who will listen when talking about volunteerism. One of the best decisions I made working at SAP was becoming a mentor for the JA Company Program because of the incredible students, the dedicated mentors (I am now lucky to call friends) and the supportive staff of JA of Southeastern PA. To say I am proud of what the students accomplish each year would be a true understatement and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something so special."
Thank you to Becky for your volunteer work, and good luck with the 2015-2016 year!

Pete Defazio - Senior Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin

Pete Defazio Volunteer Spotlight
Junior Achievement is proud to announce Pete DeFazio as the 2015 JA of Southeastern Pennsylvania Volunteer of the Year.  
A software engineer at Lockheed Martin by day, Pete has been a JA volunteer for over 10 years. This past year Pete volunteered more than 70 hours of his time, impacting well over 116 students directly. "Pete's enthusiasm is reflected by his classrooms: students love to learn from him!" Commented Program Director Laura Yohe. He was a mentor for the JA Company Program this year for student run company Ear Buddy, sponsored by Evolve IP. He also volunteered in four additional JA in Day events. "Pete continues to embody the heart of what it means to be a Junior Achievement volunteer," Yohe continued. "It has been my complete pleasure to get to know Pete through his years of service and to witness his passion in working with our students.  Year after year Pete goes above and beyond - volunteering for multiple events and offering his expertise."
The Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Volunteer of the Year Award is designed to honor exceptional service and outstanding dedication to furthering the mission of Junior Achievement.
On behalf of Junior Achievement and the students served, please take a moment to thank Pete for his extraordinary commitment to empowering and preparing students through his time, experience and caring. Leave a comment on our Facebook page to congratulate Pete DeFazio!
  • "I look forward to teaching JA each year! The JA activities are engaging and allow me to bring my world into the classroom."

    -Junior Achievement Volunteer
  • "The students got a real idea of what a corporate office is like and some of the tools and technology they will use in the future."

    -Junior Achievement Volunteer

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