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Inspiring Students Up & Down the East Coast

JA Up & Down the East Coast

JA of Maine Board Member Retires to spend time in Florida relaxing, kayaking, and continuing to volunteer with Junior Achievement!

Marcus Barresi shares his Junior Achievement story and reflects on how the importance of JA programming is transferable across state lines! 

Over my many years as a benefits and financial advisor to many companies and individuals, I heard similar messages from employers and employees. Employers were saying to me that they were hiring young people who were not prepared for the workplace and lacked basic abilities. Employees in our workplace retirement plan meetings would tell me they wished they had some basic economics and financial education in school as they made many mistakes that could have been avoided. That prompted me [2006/2007] to look at the county schools offerings and programs that I could find that could go into the schools. Aroostook County did not have JA and after some research, it was clear to me that of the many programs out there, JA would be the best fit. I made contact with the folks at JA and managed to get things rolling forming a local Board of Directors for the area. It was not easy as there was resistance initially until the Middle School Principal in Presque Isle felt this was a no brainer after reviewing the curriculum. Then we did the JA Titan Challenge with 6 kids along with fellow JA Board Member Mark Wilcox from Dead River Company and we were off and running. 

After transitioning ownership of my firm to younger professionals beginning in 2005, I had made the move to the Bangor office in 2009 and continued involvement on both JA Boards.  After 25 years in a service Club raising money, it was nice to give of my time on something different, important, and rewarding. My semi and fulltime retirement began in 2017 and I looked into volunteer opportunities in our area in Florida. As it turned out the Venice and Northport Middle Schools had trouble finding volunteers for the County required JA for a day with the “JA It’s My Future" program. I helped the Sarasota office (JA of Tampa Bay) by posting on the area Next Door site and some very qualified retirees and professionals stepped up. This year I am still teaching that program but am helping with more volunteer outreach as the area’s population is growing and schools continue adding students from all over the country. 

My best memory took place in the Old Town School in Maine where I taught the entrepreneur-focused program "JA Our Region" to 4th graders. They all left notes to me on a poster on my last day on what they each learned. One student wrote to me, ”I learned that profit is good!!”. For many reasons, that said it all to me.

As I talk to students in Florida and Maine, it clear that getting business people in the schools is critical and needed more than ever. Their understanding of the workplace, building a brand, getting their first job, employer expectations, soft and technical skills development, etc is sadly lacking. 

Barresi's Impact on JA of Maine

Marcus is the founder of Barresi Financial and Barresi Benefits Group, an organization with three offices in Maine since 1979. Marcus grew up in Fort Kent, graduated from St Joseph’s College and after three years working with a national management firm, moved back to Maine and started his business. Marcus is very active in many community organizations including 30 years with Rotary and serving as the Past President of the Maine Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. Before getting involved with JA, Marcus co-founded the charity rock band “Sound Friendships” which has raised over $300,000 for charity.

Besides helping to establish a JA presence in northern Maine, Marcus and Dead River Company's Mark Wilcox started with a few Titan Challenge students in a small room at the Presque Isle Tech Center and the event has since moved to the University of Maine Presque Isle and hosts the most students statewide - an amazing accomplishment! Students, community members, and educators look forward to the event each school year and that is thanks to Marcus & Mark. 

JA of Maine President Michelle Anderson speaks highly of Marcus as an integral JA community member. “Marcus was instrumental in establishing an area board presence in Aroostook County where he rallied local business leaders to get excited and engaged in bring our programs to the youth in his local area," Anderson continued, "His passion and energy for youth education and early financial literacy is amazing. I am so happy to see he is still a JA volunteer in Florida, though we miss him in Maine!”

We are grateful for all that Marcus has done for JA of Maine over the years. To learn more about Junior Achievement programming, visit our website here, or reach out to us at info@jamaine.org

 

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