The 2016 Wisconsin JA Business Challenge

The 2016 JA Wisconsin Business Challenge took place Thursday, April 28, at ACUITY in Sheboygan. It was a full house as 25 teams from around the state competed for top prizes of scholarships and Kohl’s gift cards.

Scroll down to see a gallery of photos from the JA Wisconsin Business Challenge.

The competition was fierce as team Schnickel’s Pickles Inc., from Kohler High School (ECD), took home the top prize of $1,000 scholarships for post-secondary education. Congratulation to Jacob Geldreich, Lucas Wesemann and Josh Konecke.

In second place, Chicken INC from Appleton East High School (WIN) was awarded $500 dollar scholarships for post-secondary education. Team members included Robert Kersten and Sidney Smestad.

Third place went to Sun Prairie High School (Dane) who won $100 gift cards to Kohl’s. Team members were Justus Benson and Noah Reisinger.

The first place teams from each of the remaining industries also received $100 gift cards from Kohl’s.

Exevutive Red Industry – RKD
Racine Area Homeschoolers
Amber Lange
Annah Lange
Juan Carlos Torano

Entrepreneur White Industry – WIN
Bonduel High School
Jaken Spreeman
Janel Wudtke
Scott Gunderson

Investor Yellow Industry – Rock
F.J. Turner High School
Dylan Holloway
John Gagula



New Berlin's JA Jump in to Your Future featured in New Berlin Now

Over the past month, students in New Berlin have had the opportunity to participate in JA Jump in to Your Future events. JA Jump in to Your Future gives students the opportunity to learn about various careers from volunteer speakers who come in to the classroom and discuss their careers.

New Berlin Now featured a story on the JA Jump in to Your Future events. Read the article here.

The 2016 Legends Breakfast

On the morning of Friday, April 22, more than 100 people came to listen to Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame Laureates Craig Culver, found of Culver's restaurants, and John Mellowes, of Charter Manufacturing, share their business expertise and secrets to success. The casual environment allowed guests to hear from the laureates on a personal level. It was a very intimate, insightful, and inspirational morning!

JA student Gavin also spoke about how JA has inspired him. Andrew Weiland from BizTimes Milwaukee moderated the discussion.  Thanks to TEC for sponsoring such a wonderful event.



FOX6 Visits the JA Kohl's Education Center for Tax Day

On Friday, April 16, FOX6 visited the JA Kohl's Education Center for the JA Tax Day event. Students in JA BizTown and JA Finance Park learned how to prepare a 1040-EZ tax form, and then filed their taxes with the JA IRS.

Watch the segment from FOX6 here.












Happy National Volunteer Week!

Happy National Volunteer Week to all of our wonderful Junior Achievement volunteers! Thanks to you, we are able to inspire more than 160,000 Wisconsin students each year to own their economic success. We couldn't to it without it. THANK YOU!

Are you interested in joining the ranks of these amazing volunteers? Learn more here.

Why It's Important to Vote, According to Fifth Graders

Students in JA BizTown tell us why it's important to vote! Get out and rock the vote, Wisconsin!


JA Wisconsin hosts UWO Alumni Event

On Wednesday, March 30, JA Wisconsin was proud to host more than 40 UW Oshkosh alumni at the JA Kohl's Education Center. UWO Chancellor Dr. Andrew Leavitt and UWO Director of Athletics Darryl Sims provided updates on the University, state budget discussions, athletics accomplishments, and more. It was their first visit to JA KEC, and when they entered JA BizTown they had the same excited faces as the JA 5th graders do.

Todd Teske, President, Chairman & CEO of Briggs & Stratton, JA Wisconsin Board Member, and UW Oshkosh alumnus, spoke about how his experiences at UW Oshkosh shaped his life.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this such a wodnerful event!

Two-Thirds of Teens See Borrowers, Not Government, Responsible for Paying Off Student Loan Debt

Junior Achievement Financial Literacy Programs Can Help Teens Make Better Informed Choices about Paying for College

Milwaukee, WI – A new survey of 1,000 teens by Junior Achievement USA and Voya Foundation shows that nearly two-thirds of teens, or 65 percent, believe borrowers are ultimately responsible for paying off their student loans, even if they borrowed more money than they are able to pay off, while 11 percent believe the government should do so. Fewer, 7 percent, believe it is the responsibility of the college and 5 percent think it’s up to the lender to resolve.

The survey was conducted March 1-6 by Opinion Research.

“What this survey shows is that today’s teens need information on how to make informed choices on choosing the best higher education avenue for them and how to pay for it,” said Tim Greinert, president of JA Wisconsin “This is why it’s so critical that our young people have the kinds of financial literacy programs JA offers free to schools in our community.”

Greinert notes that a four-year college education is the second largest investment many people will make in their lifetimes, and yet decisions to take on student debt are made by 17 and 18 year olds who have received little to no financial literacy education. This can result in students assuming more debt than they are able to pay off with their expected future income.

Each year, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin reaches more than 160,000 students in the state with programs focused on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Another resource available to teens, parents, teachers, and school counselors is JA Influencer, a free online resource that explores the opportunities and challenges associated with student loans. A guide titled “Understanding The Student Loan Explosion: Implications for Students and Their Families,” also investigates the various factors students should take into consideration when exploring opportunities in higher education. These include gaining a better understanding of the real costs of going to college and weighing alternatives to a four-year school, such as community college and technical schools.

JA Influencer is the result of support from Voya to reach students through Junior Achievement. Voya has partnered with Junior Achievement since 2001; the partnership is centered on the shared belief in the need to actively prepare and equip future generations to succeed.

The survey also found that 89 percent of teens who responded expect to attend college. Of those, 40 percent expect help in the form of scholarships and grants; 21 percent believe they will receive financial support from their parents and family members; 17 percent plan to work to earn money for college; and approximately 11 percent anticipate taking on student loans to help pay for their higher education. The results represent the findings of an Opinion Research Youth CARAVAN survey conducted among a sample of 1,000 13-17 year olds.  That survey was live March 1-6, 2016. 

About Voya Foundation
Voya Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in communities where Voya Financial® operates and its employees and customers live. Voya Foundation provides grants and establishes signature partnerships in the areas of financial literacy and children's education, and fosters employee engagement to deepen our positive impact on the community. For more information, visit

About Voya Financial®

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), helps Americans plan, invest and protect their savings — to get ready to retire better. Serving the financial needs of approximately 13 million individual and institutional customers in the United States, Voya is a Fortune 500 company that had $11 billion in revenue in 2015. The company had $452 billion in total assets under management and administration as of Dec. 31, 2015. With a clear mission to make a secure financial future possible — one person, one family, one institution at a time — Voya’s vision is to be America’s Retirement Company™. The company is equally committed to conducting business in a way that is socially, environmentally, economically and ethically responsible — Voya has been recognized as one of the 2016 World’s Most Ethical Companies® by the Ethisphere Institute, and as one of the Top Green Companies in the U.S., by Newsweek magazine. For more information, visit or view the company’s 2014 annual report. Follow Voya Financial on Facebook and Twitter @Voya.

For more information, contact Megan Olson at 414-577-3826 and

To set up an interview with Tim Greinert, arrange a visit to the JA Kohl’s Education Center, or to request high-resolution images, contact Megan Olson at 414-577-3826 and or Jessica Levine at 414-271-0101;

About Junior Achievement of Wisconsin

Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. is dedicated to educating students about work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. The organization prepares young people for the real world, showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, create jobs which make their communities more robust and apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Over 168,000 students in the state of Wisconsin put these lessons into action every year and learn the value of contributing to their communities.


New Berlin Elementary Students Jump into Their Future

On Thursday, March 24, students from New Berlin's Ronald Reagan Elementary School participated in JA Jump into Your Future. Students were given the opportunity to interact with professionals from a variety of careers, including a Navy pilot, dietitian, fire fighter, chef, truck driver, and more. Business and community professionals volunteered to serve as guest presenters in the classrooms to discuss and demonstrate aspects of their careers and their journey towards that career.

Each professional presentation included an explanation of the volunteer’s career path, personal stories of interest to elementary students, hands on activities that reinforced information about the presenters career path, educational decisions, the joys and frustrations of the career field, and the relevance of their classroom learning to the world of work.

A big thanks to BuySeasons for providing costumes for the students at the event!

Check out the gallery of photos below to see what the students were able to experience.



60 Organizations Honored by JA with U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award

Junior Achievement USA® (JA) honored 60 organizations with the 2014-2015 U.S. President's Volunteer Service Awards. The organizations receiving the awards provided Junior Achievement with significant volunteer resources during the 2014-2015 school year. The recipients were recognized at the evening awards ceremony as part of the JA Volunteer Summit presented by the American Express Foundation on March 8th in New York City in conjunction with JA's quarterly National Board of Directors meeting.

President George W. Bush established the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation (the Council) in 2003 to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers make in communities and to encourage more people to serve. The Council created the President's Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service. In 2006, Junior Achievement became an official certifying organization for this award, which recognizes corporations with a U.S. presence that provide volunteers to teach JA programs anywhere in the world.

"Junior Achievement volunteers are important mentors for young people, bringing our programs to life. Each year, more than 200,000 JA volunteers share their experiences and skills with students while delivering our programs, teaching them how to manage their money, succeed in the workforce, or start a business that creates jobs and grows the economy," said Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. "The recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Awards are leaders in this effort and critical to helping JA inspire and prepare young people for success."

The following organizations are recipients of the 2014-2015 U.S. President's Volunteer Service Awards, as determined by Junior Achievement USA:

Gold Award Recipients (15,000 Volunteer Hours or More)

  • Accenture
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America
  • Barclays
  • BBVA Compass
  • Capital One
  • Citi
  • Deloitte
  • Destination & Travel Foundation
  • ExxonMobil
  • Ernst & Young LLP
  • Financial Services Roundtable
  • GE
  • HSBC Bank USA, N.A. and HSBC Holdings plc
  • PwC
  • U.S. Bancorp
  • Walt Disney World
  • Wells Fargo

Silver Award Recipients (10,000 Volunteer Hours or More)

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Broward College
  • Caterpillar Inc.
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • LyondellBasell Industries
  • Regions Bank
  • Starbucks
  • SunTrust Banks, Inc.
  • University of Central Florida
  • UPS
  • Woodforest National Bank

Bronze Award Recipients (5,000 Volunteer Hours or More)

  • American Express
  • AXA Group
  • Bechtel
  • BP
  • Burnett Specialists
  • Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP
  • ConocoPhillips
  • Deere & Company
  • The Dow Chemical Company
  • FedEx
  • General Motors
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Halliburton
  • Jackson
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • MassMutual Financial Group
  • MasterCard Worldwide
  • MetLife
  • Microsoft
  • MUFG Union Bank
  • NRG Energy, Inc.
  • Robert Morris University - Illinois
  • SAP America
  • Schlumberger
  • State Farm
  • Technip USA
  • Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
  • University of Southern California
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Walmart & Sam's Club


The New JA Influencer

Thanks to the support of Voya Financial, a new thought leadership center, JA Influencer, has been launched. JA Influencer is a resource for educators to discuss topical subjects on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship with students. Designed with high school students in mind, the JA Influencer white paper and discussion guide dive into current events to prompt conversation and learning.

The most recent featured white paper, Understanding the Student Loan Explosion, authored by Penn State Economics Professor Ray Lombra, covers the benefits and challenges associated with student loans. The paper and discussion guide can help students better understand the issues surrounding student debt and make better informed decisions about paying for higher education.

Learn more about JA Influencer.

The 2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Junior Achievement of Wisconsin (JA), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and EY have awarded Chippewa Falls native Natalie Abbott with the “2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year” for her honey company that she started at age 10 as a 4-H project. She will be recognized at JA’s Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 21 at The Pfister Hotel and will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

The recipient of the Young Entrepreneur award, presented by EY, is selected from a joint committee from JA and DPI who evaluate each candidate on the following criteria: business success, growth potential, social involvement, ability to overcome challenges, strategic direction, innovation, personal integrity and leadership.

"Along with EY and DPI, Junior Achievement is thrilled to honor Natalie Abbott as this year's ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year,’" said Tim Greinert, president of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin. "Natalie not only represents excellence in entrepreneurship, but she is a role model to all young people looking to start their own business."



Abbott’s ability to recognize the needs and wants of honey consumers set her above the other applicants for the “2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.” Abbott realized early on in her experience the very high demand for raw, local honey. The West Hill Honey Company, a home-based beekeeping company, provides raw, local honey harvested from Abbott’s own bee hives.

Abbott really expanded her business in the summer of 2012, when she launched a kick starter project to fund her purchase of a un-capper, extractor and bottling tank to fully convert a room in her house to a dedicated honey room.

Abbot’s extensive knowledge of honeybees and beekeeping provides her with an edge. She is able to educate her constituents and answer their questions. Her main focus of sales is at craft sales, speaking at local 4-H clubs, and providing salons and boutique shops with her lip balm. Many of her customers are repeat customers, and call regularly to see if is honey available. Abbott enjoys all aspects of beekeeping, and is anxious to expand her business of harvesting honey and beeswax. Currently, she put her profits from honey sales back into new equipment for her company.

Like any young company, The West Hill Honey Company faces challenge - such as a bear destroying over three-fourths of her beehives last year. However, Abbott has been given five beehives this year, from someone with the WI Honey Producers Association, because she was the youngest member of the group. As a sophomore at Chippewa Falls High School, Abbott hopes to build back up to 20 beehives this year, continue to expand her honey sales and her work with local craft fairs and salons, and to begin producing lotions. Abbott’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year video application can be viewed on the JA website

A Look Inside the JA Kohl's Education Center

Every day in JA BizTown®, elementary school students operate a bank, restaurant, city hall, newspaper, retail store and ten other businesses, while learning about budgeting, taxes, entrepreneurship, and more. In JA Finance Park®, students create a budget and learn about personal finance. Watch the video below to see JA BizTown and JA Finance Park in action

Thanks to Kohl's Cares for producing this video and highlighting the importance of JA BizTown and JA Finance Park as a part of students' financial education.


JA Team Achieve Begins Training

Members of JA Team Achieve have officially started training for this year's half marathon! The team ran together on the morning of Saturday, February 27, for the first of 16 team training runs. More than 40 team members will be running the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on June 18, 2016, to benefit Junior Achievement of Wisconsin. The 2016 team has grown by more than 100% since last year's team of 17 members. JA of Wisconsin Board Members Chad Cundiff (Astronautics Corporation of America), Troy Carrothers (Kohl's) and Ray Wilson (PWC) are proud members of this year's team.

Learn more about JA Team Achieve.

Greenfield High School Students Advance to WI JA Business Challenge Championship

Students from Greenfield High School took both first and second place at this year's Metro Milwaukee JA Business Challenge. Pictured from left to right are: Jenny Lam, Nick Kleszczynski, Hannan Mirza, Isaiah Kleszczynski, Pratyusha Emkay, Brenda Ibanez-Garcia.


Student "CEOs" from Greenfield High School defeated 14 other area schools in the Metro Milwaukee Junior Achievement Business Challenge presented by Kohl's Cares® and Meijer, and hosted at Briggs & Stratton Corporation on Thursday, February 18, 2016. Each member of the First Place team received a $750 scholarship from Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, as well as the opportunity to participate in the Wisconsin JA Business Challenge Championship on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

The second place team, also from Greenfield High School, earned prizes from Kohl's, the Milwaukee Admirals, and will also advance to the statewide challenge in April.

"The JA Business Challenge prepares students for their continued journey after high school, in to college and their careers. The focus on team work and communication is exactly the type of experience employers are looking for in their future employees," said Dr. Eve Hall, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin.

In addition to gaining real-life business experience through the challenge, students had the opportunity to learn about the decision-making process, the significance of education and other valuable skills from guest speakers, including representatives from Kohl's and Dr. Hall.

School District of New Berlin Named Recipient of 2015 Governor's Financial Literacy Award

School District of New Berlin (SDNB) has received the 2015 Governor’s Financial Literacy Award for its efforts in promoting financial literacy for its students. Nominated by State Representative Joe Sanfelippo, the District was one of 15 individuals, businesses and organizations honored during an awards ceremony hosted by the Governor and his Council on Financial Literacy at the State Capitol on February 10, 2016.

An important component within the District’s College and Career Readiness program, SDNB’s Financial Literacy Initiative provides opportunities that span from 5th through 12th grade.

“We believe exposing our students to financial literacy through a comprehensive initiative such as the one we developed with our partners, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin and Layton State Bank, is more effective in establishing a strong financial foundation than limiting that learning to a single course offering,” said Kelli Kwiatkowski, Director of Curriculum. “Between the resources our partners bring to the table, and the coursework expertly taught by our educators, we have developed a very robust program for our students.”

Pictured, from left: Tim Greinert, President, Junior Achievement of WI; Joe Garza, Superintendent,  School District of New Berlin; Gary Szpara, Sr. Vice President, Layton State Bank; Carla Breunig, President, Layton State Bank; Kelli Kwiatkowski, Director of Curriculum, School District of New Berlin. 


JA BizTown®, made possible through a grant from Kohl’s Cares Field Trip Grant Program, gives 5th graders a chance to combine classroom lessons with a visit to an interactive, simulated town. Students interview for “jobs” to perform while at BizTown. They participate in BizTown’s local economy by serving as workers, producers and consumers. This visit allows students to put into practice material learned through earlier classroom lessons which introduce topics such as writing a resume; applying for jobs; creating a business plan; goods and services; supply and demand; opportunity costs; and taxes.

Seventh graders in the district take a Careers & Communications course that helps students develop a financial vision based on an examination of personal values; analyze and discuss the long-range impact of setting personal financial goals; and understand how career choices, education skills, entrepreneurship and economic conditions affect income.

The Layton State Bank Financial Scholars Program, powered by EverFI, is offered to the District’s 9th graders. By progressing through a series of online modules, students leverage the information presented to demonstrate an understanding of key components of financial literacy including: saving; banking; credit score; and financing higher education, among others.

An elective Personal Finance course offered to 10th, 11th and 12th graders gives students the opportunity to see the value in developing personal and household budgets; simulate the use of checking and savings accounts; the importance of debt and credit management; and realize how insurance and taxes come into play in the personal finance equation

Finally, the JA Personal Finance® capstone program presented during Advisory for all 12th graders, is the culmination of the District’s comprehensive financial literacy initiative, with lessons relevant to students’ current reality as they prepare for their post-secondary futures. Topics include earning money; spending, saving and investing money; using credit cautiously and protecting one’s personal finances.

“A strong understanding of financial literacy is an integral part of the Vision of Our Graduate. Mastery of those skills supports our goal of preparing our students to effectively navigate both the worlds of higher education and employment as they transition to adulthood,” stated Superintendent, Joe Garza. “We simply could not have built this program as quickly as we did without the commitment of our staff and our community partners. We are honored to have been recognized by the Governor and his County of Financial Literacy for our efforts.”

Miss Black Wisconsin USA 2016 Volunteers in JA BizTown

On Friday, January 8, Brittani Alston, Miss Black Wisconsin USA 2016 volunteered in JA BizTown. The Miss Black USA Pageant celebrates scholastic achievement and believes that education is the key to lifelong success and empowerment. "Volunteering at JA BizTown was an awesome opportunity because the children had so much fun but also learned a ton of life lessons. Part of my platform as Miss Black Wisconsin USA 2016 is to promote entrepreneurship for students, and to help them realize their part in supporting the economy. Junior Achievement aligns with those goals perfectly and is making a huge impact in the lives of the students involved," said Brittani. Thanks to Brittani for volunteering her time to help empower Wisconsin's youth!

Record-Breaking Day at JA Finance Park

On January 5, 2016, 139 students, a new record, visited JA Finance Park! The busy day was a great one for these eighth grade students. 

The States of Entrepreneurship Education in America


In the summer of 2015, Junior Achievement USA undertook a review of U.S. states reporting standards, guidelines or proficiencies in entrepreneurship education for grades K-12. This effort is in response to the fact that since the end of The Great Recession, there are more small businesses failing than starting in the U.S., going against historic trends. The 2015 review indicates a substantive increase in entrepreneurial education efforts at the state level when compared to a similar study conducted in 2009. Junior Achievement’s goal is to assist all schools and states interested in promoting entrepreneurial education by providing proven, impactful and engaging entrepreneurship programs to the nation’s young people.

Download a PDF of this critical issues paper.


Northwestern Mutual Donates $10,000 to Junior Achievement on behalf of employee

Northwestern Mutual, through its Foundation, is recognized local area nonprofits with grants totaling $225,000 through its Days of Sharing program. Now in its seventh year, the Days of Sharing program provides employees with the opportunity to nominate a nonprofit organization in the Milwaukee area to receive funding from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.


"Our Days of Sharing program allows our employees to recognize local nonprofits that enrich and improve our communities," said John Kordsmeier, president, Northwestern Mutual Foundation. "Employees at Northwestern Mutual have a shared passion of giving back, this program is a way for us to spotlight their dedication and volunteer service."


More than 700 employees nominated their preferred local nonprofit. The 25 winning grants were chosen at random each day for a week in November and range in size from $1,000 to $10,000.


Junior Achievement was honored to be the charity of choice by JA volunteer, Heena Ruparel, receiving a $10,000 gift from Northwestern Mutual! It is an honor to be recognized and to be able to provide financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship education to Wisconsin youth. Thank you for your generosity and dedication to volunteerism, Heena! 


Watch employee winners being surprised:



JA Volunteer Spotlight: Heena Ruparel

Employer: Northwestern Mutual


We took a moment to share more about Heena and why she voluneers for JA! 


1. Describe what you do in your day job: I am a support manager for the Annuities area at Northwestern Mutual.


2. What you volunteer with JA:  I primarily volunteer with grade schools


3. What is the funniest or most memorable thing that has happened to you while volunteering for JA?  It’s always funny to hear kindergartners get excited about their new shoes and adventures but the most memorable times are when a past student sees me in the hallways and says hello!


5. Tell us about the Northwestern Mutual initiative that allowed you to give us such a generous gift to help JA students:  Days of Sharing provides grants to charities nominated by employees. This is a great way for employees to get a donation for their favorite nonprofit.



6. Why did you choose JA to receive this gift from Northwestern Mutual?  I have volunteered with JA for 7 years and I love seeing the faces of young kids when they are learning new things.  It is important for me to give back to something that is important to me.


7. Please share your advice for other professionals in the community thinking about volunteering for Junior Achievement: I would encourage everybody to teach a class, if you are already a volunteer, bring somebody with you so they can observe how fun it is.

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