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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.

Teen Entrepreneurs Learn Life Lessons

Meet Nolan Reese and Ben DeLaurelle, the 14-year-old entrepreneurs behind B&N Games. High school freshmen Ben and Nolan participated in JA programs during their middle school grades. Like Microsoft, their start-up company began in Nolan's parents' garage. Sue Schwartz, director of Brown County and Wolf River District for JA of Wisconsin, shared the stories of these two successful teen entrepreneurs.

The young men knew they needed to make a quality product to beat the competition—and they did! They created a hand-crafted outdoor Washer Toss game. Crafted from high quality lumber, quality PVC and galvanized washers, these hand-painted outdoor games will last for years to come. 

Through trial and error, Ben and Nolan discovered ways to improve their process, but encountered stumbling blocks to increasing their profits. They reached out to JA volunteer, board chairman and business owner Chris Vanderheyden who worked closely with them as they uncovered solutions to their barriers.

Chris gave Ben and Nolan the opportunity to present their product to Junior Achievement in Brown County's Senior Advisory Board at the September 2014 annual meeting. They created a professional presentation and soon found themselves in a "Shark Tank" scenario where experienced business leaders posed their ideas and challenges to the young entrepreneurs.

The outcomes of this encounter brought many opportunities for Ben and Nolan. Business leaders in the audience have donated many of the raw materials Ben and Nolan use to make their product, increasing their profits dramatically. The connections made by the JA mentor have also increased sales for B&N Games significantly.

"Junior Achievement helped us realize anything can be accomplished with hard work and ingenuity," Nolan and Ben said. "We learned that a good plan is a must in order to be successful. One of the big tasks in the business was creating a solution to lower the supply cost of each of our products. In order to do this, we researched product prices, looked online and in newspapers, and went to the store with the best deals. Collaboration is key when communicating and scheduling work time to fulfill the customers' orders efficiently."

Ben and Nolan's mentor Chris continues to work with them and advise them as they enjoy the success of their entrepreneurial adventure.

JA Alumni Spotlight: Estefania Alayeto

Estefania Alayeto is a JA alum, employee of BMO Harris Bank and a student at Cardinal Stritch University in the Business & Management program. She has an incredibly touching JA story as it not only helped her with her personal finances and career planning, but it also inspired her parents to complete their degrees and become more financially stable. All because Estefania brought a Junior Achievement brochure home and said she thought it would help their family. 


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  • "Junior Achievement has given me a sense of what adults go through with budget issues."

    -Junior Achievement Student
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