Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, a longtime partner of the Cleveland City Schools and Bradley County Schools systems which serves the immediate five-county region in Southeast Tennessee, is in the beginning stages of its annual drive.
This year’s goal is $50,000, according to Rick Platz, JA board chairman.
P&G Duracell, a Bradley County manufacturer whose business and civic footprint in the community has been as diverse as it has been widespread, has jump-started the JA campaign with a $5,000 donation. The check was recently presented to Platz by Delita Cobb, plant manager.
The local facility, which pumps Duracell batteries into the domestic and international market, has supported Junior Achievement for years. The company’s partnership with JA has extended far beyond monetary donations by providing employee volunteers who serve in public classrooms as instructors in grades K-12.
“P&G Duracell is one of many outstanding industries, businesses and other organizations who have stepped up to provide volunteer manpower to Junior Achievement,” Platz explained. “These partnerships are invaluable to JA because they provide volunteers to our organization; they serve the schools because they teach life skills to students which are not included in everyday textbook curriculum; and for P&G Duracell and other area companies, they assure students are being better prepared for the future workforce.”
Platz said most potential donors in Bradley County have been contacted by now. Because businesses operate in budget cycles, their contributions will be coming through this fall, he explained.
“Each year at this time our annual campaign raises the funds we need to operate for the next fiscal year,” Platz explained. “This is when we ask the community to give us the support we need to reach more than 4,500 students in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk counties with programs that will help them succeed in a global economy.”
He added, “It’s only with the help of the community — including large corporations, small-business owners and committed individuals — that we can achieve this goal.”
JA curriculum helps to build work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy, none of which are traditional components of public classroom instruction.
Tracie McCartney, JA of the Ocoee Region president, pointed to the importance of skills taught by classroom volunteers.
“Our programs help young people develop the confidence, competence and character to make sound academic and economic decisions,” she said. “Students make the connection between what is taught in the classroom and how it can be applied in the real world.”
JA supporters not only keep the program viable through monetary contributions, they are just as critical as volunteers, Platz stressed. Currently, JA has 200 unpaid volunteers on its rolls, including its board of directors whose countless hours are contributed by area businesses.
“This is a real community effort,” Platz noted. “And, it’s successful. Studies prove that these programs not only reinforce to students the need to stay in school, they also have a positive impact on developing work-readiness skills for future success.”
Like other nonprofit organizations, JA has struggled the past few years in a sluggish economy that has forced most companies to downsize their financial support to civic causes. This means a smaller slice of the charitable giving pie for an increased number of nonprofits.
“There are many very worthy local nonprofit organizations,” Platz said. “In many cases, we are all requesting contributions from the same group of businesses, foundations and individuals. Local support for JA has been great, but in a down economy raising money to continue operations at the level we want is definitely a challenge.”
The board chairman praised the commitment by the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems to the JA partnership. He said a similar conviction is shown by other school systems within the entire JA region which includes Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Polk and Meigs counties.
“Teachers and school administrators understand the value of having well-researched programs that can supplement what they are teaching in their classrooms,” Platz said. “JA programs have an excellent reputation and we have an outstanding group of volunteers who go into the classroom and deliver these programs. We have a strong working relationship with all the schools in our area.”
Although the current fundraising campaign is focused on Bradley County, similar drives will be started up in the other four jurisdictions as well. Plus, JA is coming off a successful “Kash for Kids” fundraiser through Kangaroo Express convenience stores that netted almost $40,000 for the Ocoee Region’s programming.
Operations in Bradley and McMinn counties also just finished the Bowl For Education fundraiser. Others are on tap for later this spring and summer. The always popular Monster Ball will be hosted again at Halloween.
For more information about Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, to participate in the annual campaign or to volunteer as a classroom instructor, contact McCartney at 423-476-6772 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.