Our History | Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes

Our History


In 1955, a significant partnership between business and education was formed in Grand Rapids with the advent of Junior Achievement. Business leaders and employees were given the opportunity to share their business experiences with teachers and students, bringing economics to life.

Influential Grand Rapids business people were involved from the beginning. Edward Frey, Sr., founder of Union Bank (now Chase), founded Junior Achievement of the Grand Rapids Area. L.V. Eberhard, CEO and Chairman of Eberhard Foods, and Marvin Blackport, President of Blackport Packing Company, provided much-needed financial support. The Grand Rapids Jaycees worked with a steering committee composed of 20 volunteers to fund the initial $25,000 budget. Seventeen companies provided the first volunteers and monies.

In that first school year, the two employee staff, Director Leonard Galloway and secretary Mollie Griffin, worked out of a donated office located in the Manger-Rowe Hotel.

From 1956-1979, JA's only activity was the familiar student-run business program, dubbed the Evening Program. In 1956, the initial Evening Program effort attracted 17 companies and about 250 student participants. Interest and support grew as business firms provided money and advisers. During this time, Mr. Jim Dieleman became President and during his many years of leadership Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes transformed itself from an after-school program to a major provider of in-school programs in the West Michigan community. Mr. Dieleman also implemented the first Junior Achievement West Michigan Business Hall Of Fame which has become the signature recognition event for those individuals in the West Michigan buisiness community who have achieved significant business accomplishments. After 30 years of service to our community, Mr. Dieleman retired.


Each year the local service area has continued to grow. In 1967, Junior Achievement had approximately 1,000 students, 160 volunteers, and a $66,000 budget. Today, under the direction of current president, Bill Coderre, JA has over 1,500 volunteers educating over 61,000 students across 45 counties, and operates on a budget of over $1.6 Million.

In 1994, the name was changed to Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, Inc. to reflect expansion. In addition to providing programs to students in the greater Grand Rapids area, JAMGL also has offices in Grand Haven, Traverse City (servicing the Traverse City and Cadillac areas) and Boyne City, where the Northern Service Office is located. The Northern Service Office provides programs to students in northern Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula. Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes expanded once again in 2011 when it acquired Junior Achievement of Mid-Michigan. The Lansing office serves the counties of Eaton, Clinton and Ingham.

The most important changes in JAMGL's history have been in the program itself. Although the organization was developed around the Evening Program, JA now offers a continuum of economic education through K-12, in-school programming. In fact, 98% of student activity occurs within the curriculum-enhanced courses.

Junior Achievement USA's History

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes is part of Junior Achievement Worldwide, a global organization that offers high-quality economic education programs to over 9.7 million students in 123 countries. Programs in the United States are offered to schools and businesses via 131 area franchise offices.

This is accomplished through Junior Achievement's diversified product line of participative economic education programs for students in all grades: the Traditional Company Program and Economics for high school students; the Middle Grades program and the Economics of Staying in School for junior high school students; and the Elementary School Program for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. One could classify Junior Achievement as being a very progressive organization, continually striving to better itself through new ideas and explorations. However, it is also an organization that carries a very rich sense of tradition and history.

Founded in 1919 by Horace Moses, president of the Strathmoor Paper Company, Junior Achievement's aim was to be a link between agriculture, business and the general public. Moses modeled the "learn-by-doing" approach of Junior Achievement after the 4-H Clubs, another organization in which he was heavily involved. It wasn't until 1929 in New York City that the modern day prototype for Junior Achievement was created. By the time World War II ended, Junior Achievement enacted its national expansion plan with programs in 12 different cities. That figure would better than double over the next five years.

While many talented men and women have contributed to the total Junior Achievement effort, two names stand out in recent organizational development. Dick Maxwell, former National President and Junior Achievement Professional Hall of Fame inductee, is the individual most responsible for guiding the organization in the direction of multiple programs.

Under the leadership of President and CEO Karl Flemke, Junior Achievement soared higher and higher as it moved its focus from the Evening Program to a full menu of in-school programs. As Junior Achievement consistently improves its product quality, it is also experiencing tremendous growth in the demand for its products.

Now under the leadership and direction of Jack Kosakowski, current President, Junior Achievement® is recognized as one the best managed not-for-profit organizations in the country.

  • "This is great, it fits my curriculum plan perfectly."

    First grade teacher using the online version of JA's Traditional Curriculum
  • "The JA online programming is a success. After his first lesson, my kindergartener has been talking about good and bad choices all afternoon."

    Parent of student using newly released Online Programming
  • "I like to do this type of school work."

    Middle school student using newly released Online Programming
  • "I liked how the Junior Achievement volunteer explained his job to us."

    Junior Achievement Student



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