Growing up with a father who was a firefighter, being married to a fireman with TVA, and having two brothers with the Cleveland Fire Department has led Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger to see how they …
Growing up with a father who was a firefighter, being married to a fireman with TVA, and having two brothers with the Cleveland Fire Department has led Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger to see how they help the community.
The new Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region president said that she wants to give back to the the community as well, and moved from banking to the JA position to make an even bigger difference in people's lives.
"About 15 years ago, I started volunteering with Junior Achievement and started teaching in the class, and about eight years ago, I joined the board," she explained. She served as board chairman two years ago.
She moved into the position of president on Oct. 9. She had previously been involved in banking, for nearly 20 years, and started volunteering with the organization when she worked at Regions Bank.
She was serving as assistant vice president of operations at Andrew Johnson Bank when she made the change to president.
"I am very passionate about Junior Achievement. We go into the school systems and prepare the students for work readiness, and help them with developing the workforce skills they are going to need," Pennell-Aslinger said. "We teach them about financial responsibility, how to run an account, run your bank account, how to do your personal budgeting and handle personal finances. And, we teach them about starting their own businesses."
The organization has a JA company program that has the students create products.
Pennell-Aslinger said she enjoyed being in the banking business, and knows that she helped people in that position. But, she was looking for something more.
After her father retired from firefighting, she began to re-evaluate her own life, after hearing him talk about what he had done.
"He had saved countless lives being a firefighter, and when he retired, he was proud of what he had done and the legacy he left behind," she stated. "And I began looking at 'When I leave here, will I have bettered the community I live in?' We were all raised to leave the community better than you found it."
"So when (previous JA President) Melanie (Connaster) left, I had many people ask if I would be interested in this job," she continued. "I said, 'I am a happy banker,' but sitting down and talking with my husband and others, I started thinking, and it sounds cliched, but 'the children are our future.'"
Thus, she accepted the position, and says she is looking forward to working with the schools and children in JA's five-county region: Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Polk and Monroe counties.
"I thought this would be something that I could be proud of, and look back and leave lasting memories," Pennell-Aslinger said. "I said if I can look back at a child's life and know that we helped them become a leader in our community, or our nation, then I can be proud of it at the end of the day."
The new JA president said her goal this year is to increase the number of students the organization connects with up to 4,500 and to around 200 classrooms.
She agreed that expansion is only possible with more volunteers working with Junior Achievement. As of today, Pennell-Aslinger is the only full-time JA employee, with two part-timers: Rachel Brannen and Melissa Gunnell.
"If they want to get involved, contact us here at the JA office (on the Cleveland State Community College campus), or call 423-614-8777.
"I am very passionate about Junior Achievement. We go into the school systems and prepare the students for work readiness, and help them with developing the workforce skills they are going to need." — Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger
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