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Politicians Use Bipartisan Approach to Encourage JA Student

Platts and Obama

(Article first published on Oct. 30, 2012.)

As the long political campaign season comes to a close in the next week, it is nice to see politicians reaching across the aisle to benefit students. Tom Russell, president of Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania, shared a story about how Junior Achievement was recently on the mind of the President of the United States.

Congressman Todd Platts, a Republican representing Pennsylvania’s 19th congressional district, was recently recognized for his service on his local JA board of directors. In Rep. Platts’ acceptance remarks, he told a story about his oldest son, T.J., and his involvement with JA BizTown®. Following in his father’s political footsteps, T.J. decided to run for mayor of JA BizTown.

JA BizTown combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to a fully-interactive, simulated town facility. Students like T.J. operate banks, manage restaurants, write checks and vote for mayor of JA BizTown. The program helps students connect the dots between what they learn in school and the real world.

The morning of T.J.’s election, Rep. Platts was at a bill signing at the White House. While chatting with one of President Obama’s staff members, he commented that he was “anxious about the election being held that day.” Of course, it was not an official election day, so the staff member looked perplexed. Rep. Platts proceeded to explain how his son, T.J., was running for mayor of JA BizTown.

A while later, when Rep. Platts was in a meeting with President Obama, the President asked the Congressman to relay his best wishes to T.J. The staff member had told the President about T.J.’s election. Two weeks later, Rep. Platts returned to the White House for another meeting, and during one of the breaks, President Obama asked who had won the election. The Congressman explained that T.J. had come in second and was the deputy mayor during their day at JA BizTown. The President told Rep. Platts to tell T.J. that he didn’t win his first campaign either.

Later that day, the Congressman introduced his family to President Obama. As T.J. shook the President’s hand, President Obama told T.J. to stay determined and to follow his dreams.

Deployed Soldier Continues JA Commitment Overseas


For some, inclement weather or sluggish traffic may be enough to cancel a commitment.  For William Hurd, not even a dangerous military deployment, 7,578 miles’ distance, ornine-and-a-half hours’ time difference could keep him from contacting his Junior Achievement students at Spanish Fort High School in Southern Alabama.

Prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, Captain Hurd led students in Dianne Bernasconi’s Family and Consumer Science class through the JA Success Skills® curriculum for two years. JA Success Skills provides engaging, academically enriching, and experiential learning sessions in work-readiness education and career perspectives.

Beginning in September, Hurd began using a video conferencing application on his smart phone to contact students from a secure location in Afghanistan. Hurd was able to demonstrate live from the field the importance of communication and motivation as well as some of the tough decisions that leaders have to make in crucial times.

The students are grateful for the program and their volunteer. Chloe Dasinger, a student in Ms. Bernasconi's class said, "I felt Capt. Hurd was very helpful in the way that he showed us how to manage our careers, family and life after college. The Junior Achievement program also helped us learn how to communicate with others the correct way."

According to Jennifer Hatchett, director of marketing for Junior Achievement of Greater Birmingham, Hurd has endeared himself to the teacher and students and has inspired other volunteers with his commitment. She explained, “This is a great example of how volunteers can go above and 


beyond making a difference in a student's life by teaching JA. Volunteers can make a difference by sharing their own story and demonstrating real-world examples of why they need to learn work readiness skills.”

Hurd reflected on his volunteer experience with Junior Achievement. “If my experiences can help at least one of the great students at Spanish Fort High School to open their eyes to opportunities they can create for themselves through the power of knowledge, motivation and dedication, then I know I have succeeded.”

Teacher’s Determination Ensures Real-Life JA Experience

When Title I funding cutbacks threatened the Gillis Elementary School’s annual trip to Houston’s JA Biztown, a resourceful social studies teacher began looking for alternative funding. According to DeJeania Jones, senior director of Capstone Programs for Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, the teacher’s efforts paid off with a $500 grant from the JA Area.

JA Biztown combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to a fully-interactive, simulated town facility. Through daily lessons, hands-on activities, and active participation, students develop a strong understanding of the relationship between what they learn in school and their successful participation in a worldwide economy.

In her grant application letter, teacher Staci Shaver wrote of the importance of JA Biztown for her students. “Out of all of the resources I strive to utilize, Junior Achievement’s JA Biztown has by far been the best. Through the provided course work, JA Biztown enabled me to excite my students about free enterprise, civics, banking, employment, responsibility and good citizenship.”

Thanks to Shaver’s determination, students will leave the mixed pine and hardwood forests of unincorporated Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, and will once again make the 155-mile, 2½-hour drive to Houston for the one-of-a-kind JA Biztown experience.

2013 Teens & Careers Survey

2013 Teens & Careers Survey

Today's teens want to pursue careers that will provide both financial rewards and job satisfaction. To gauge teens' perspectives on their ideal careers and what steps they will need to get on their desired career path, Junior Achievement USA and the ING Foundation recently conducted their 12th annual Teens & Careers Survey.

JA Alumnus Pays It Forward

Maine Pic In August 2012, Junior Achievement of Maine provided support services at the Great State of Maine Air Show as a unique fundraising activity. The money raised goes to providing financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurial programs to students in kindergarten through 12th grade throughout the state of Maine. Ann Goodenow, area board operations director for Junior Achievement of Maine, recently shared an experience that demonstrates the power of JA programs. As JA Area board members from Mid Coast Maine and students volunteered at the air show, a man involved with the show’s communications revealed his JA roots.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jim Fiorito was the youngest of four children and felt alone as older siblings left home and as a close childhood friend moved away. As he searched for an activity to fill his time, he was approached to join the local JA Company Program® his freshman year of high school. Through the program, students organize and operate an actual business enterprise and learn about how businesses function and the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system. 

Fiorito’s advisor helped the student group develop a unique business venture: a 13-week television show. The students developed the program, which showcased famous personalities in the area, including ventriloquist Shari Lewis, television star Fred Gywnn (Herman Munster), former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench, actor James Brolin, actor George Clooney’s parents and the former head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Sam Wyche. Through the project, Fiorito and his team members learned about “cold calling” to sell advertising time and other business aspects of television production. Fiorito said that at the year-end banquet Junior Achievement of Cincinnati gave out a number of awards and proudly announced his group “blew the doors off” other projects.

Fast forward to 2012. Fiorito now works for Time Warner Cable and is in charge of field technicians. Today, Fiorito follows many air shows around the eastern United States working with Continental Air Show Productions, which is the production company behind some of the country’s most spectacular air shows. At the end of the third day of the air show fundraiser, student volunteers were treated to an impromptu job shadow experience they will likely never forget when the Thunderbirds communication team came over and gave all the students headsets so they could listen to the pilots during flight. Fiorito talked to the students throughout the show, explaining what they were hearing, where the planes were coming from and more.

Fiorito credits his time working with the JA Company Program for his success today. As a JA alumnus, Fiorito has nothing but praise for Junior Achievement programs and firmly believes in their power to provide needed education in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

“If not for Junior Achievement, I don’t know where I would have received the foundation to launch my career and the guidance and direction to keep going,” Fiorito said.

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