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Local Junior Achievement celebrates 45 years

December 19th, 2011 10:01 am by Staff Report

Local Junior Achievement celebrates 45 years

Today, Junior Achievement classes are taught at every grade level - K through 12.

Founded nationally in 1919, Junior Achievement is the nation’s oldest "economic business education program," according to local President Cathy Salley, Junior Achievement of Tri-Cities TN/VA.

The program started as a counterpart to 4-H to help move workers from the agricultural age to the industrial age.

"Initially, we were not in the schools. Our goal was to help adults and youth transition from agriculture production to manufacturing," Salley explained.

As the nation evolved, so did Junior Achievement.

Today, the worldwide program reaches 10 million students and, last year, locally served 10,469 students in 468 classrooms throughout the region. The local region encompasses seven counties in both Tennessee and Virginia, including Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Hawkins, Greene and Johnson in Tennessee, and Scott, Washington, Buchanan, Russell, Wise, Lee and Dickenson in Virginia.

Junior Achievement of Tri-Cities TN/VA is celebrating its 45thanniversary of operation in this region. When the program started here in 1966, it was based on the Junior Achievement Company Program that many of Kingsport’s "baby boomers" participated in during high school.

High school students from around the region gathered in Kingsport and, under the guidance of local volunteer business leaders, formed their own companies. The business leaders served as "advisors" to the group of local teens. Salley grew up in Kingsport and participated in the high school JA Company Program.

"I like to say I have come full circle," she said. "The JA Company Program operated just like a real business - in that we had to come up with a business plan, elect officers, determine a product to create, and sell this product in the community. That was long before malls, so we mostly sold our products door-to-door."

The JA Company Program helped many teens during that era determine a career path. It helped Salley determine what she did not want to do for a career.

"For some reason, they elected me as the bookkeeper, and I was always stuck in this little side room with my advisor working on the books when all my friends were out marketing and selling products," she laughed. The JA Company Program continued locally until the late 1980s.

As national trends changed, so did Junior Achievement. Today, Junior Achievement classes are taught at every grade level - K through 12.

"All of our programming is sequential learning and each topic builds on the other," Salley said.

JA USA has a staff of specialists that develops its curriculum, which focuses on work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. New curriculum is written every third year and revised annually.

"The goal of Junior Achievement is to teach students how America’s free enterprise system works and also to help kids understand the value and importance of their education." Volunteers go into local classrooms and teach the JA curriculum, most of which is designed to be hands-on interactive learning.

Junior Achievement of Tri-Cities TN/VA is funded by the local business community and personal contributions. It is managed by a regional board of directors, with a local board of directors in four cities - Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City and Greeneville.

Locally, JA holds two annual fundraisers - the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, in which two Laureates are recognized each year for their accomplishments in business and contributions to their community; and a golf tournament.

"The Business Hall of Fame is our premier event and is a ‘Who’s Who’ of our region’s role models. Not only does it recognize and honor these men and women, it helps us show our youth what the entrepreneurial spirit has done in our area and inspire our youth to follow in our Laureates’ footsteps."

For 45 years, Junior Achievement of Tri-Cities TN/VA has been "empowering young people to own their economic success." If you are interested in empowering our youth, either through a monetary donation or volunteering in the classroom, contact Junior Achievement at 423-392-8841.

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