One day away from closing the book on an impactful 20-year career dedicated to preparing school-aged children for the real world, Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region President Sandy Moore on Thursday acknowledged she retires with “mixed emotions.”
“I am looking forward to having time for myself and for my family ... but I’m going to miss a lot of wonderful volunteers, good friends and community leaders who believe in the Junior Achievement message,” Moore said in between individual and small-group conversations during her informal retirement reception at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
“But it’s time,” she added. “It’s time for new ideas and new directions. It’s time for someone else to be in charge and to lead Junior Achievement into a new era.”
Although already hired by the JA board of directors, Moore’s successor will be named next week. The outgoing president has spent most of the week preparing the new JA leader for the short- and long-term future.
The short term includes the completion of an $85,000 annual fundraising campaign that “still has a way to go” — using the words of fundraising chairman Ken Jones — and the long term is the development of a strategy that will keep up with the classroom demands of area school systems in spite of limited funding, busy volunteers and an ever-changing landscape in the sometimes chaotic arena of public education.
JA of the Ocoee Region partners with school systems in a five-county territory including Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Polk and Meigs counties. Last year, JA reached 4,100 students in a myriad of programming from grades K-12. JA’s three-pronged focus includes financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career awareness.
Several attending Thursday’s 90-minute reception were JA board members who admit they will miss their retired leader, but who will always admire her commitment to teaching young minds beyond the realm of fundamental academics. Like Moore, board members also are excited about her successor.
“Sandy has been a great friend to us all,” Jones, a two-year board member and 16-year volunteer classroom instructor, said. “We will miss her drive and her enthusiasm.”
The professional financial analyst, who is comfortable teaching financial literacy in the classroom, reflected on Moore’s positive influence on area children and education. He credited her for a strong influence in helping him to overcome any reservations about teaching youngsters.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Jones said of his first teaching assignment in a public classroom. “I thought those eighth graders were going to eat me alive.”
But they didn’t. In fact, most marveled at his willingness to show an interest in their lives by spending time in their classroom. Jones credited JA, Moore’s influence and the prepared curriculum for getting him through his first teaching assignment.
Of the ongoing fundraising campaign, Jones acknowledged, “We still have a way to go ... but knowing that the money is used to pay for this JA program, that keeps us going.”
Rick Platz, a retiree who chairs the JA board, praised Moore’s leadership and admitted he struggles to find the right words to describe her fearlessness and uncompromising mindset when it comes to spreading public awareness about Junior Achievement.
“There’s just not enough you can say to thank someone who has given so much of herself for such a worthy cause,” Platz said. “We will miss Sandy in her retirement, but the good news is she is remaining as a volunteer.”
By Moore’s own assessment, her hours won’t be as long, but her commitment to JA and to area schools will remain unchallenged.
She has spent the week instilling this mindset into her successor whose experience in the nonprofit industry and whose eagerness to carry the JA torch has excited both Moore and the organization’s volunteer-driven board.
“I know the person hired to take over will do an incredible job,” Moore stressed. “We’ve gone over everything this week ... the budget, fundraising, classroom demands, curriculum, special events, board development and a lot more.”
Of her successor, Moore added, “I’m really impressed. This person brings a lot of skills, a lot of experience in nonprofit work and a dedication to community service.”
Platz said announcement of the new president should come by midweek.
Another friend to Junior Achievement who has spent time in Knoxville city classrooms as a volunteer with the Knox County affiliate is Doug Berry, vice president of Economic Development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
Berry, who joined the reception as a Chamber representative and friend to JA, said Moore’s strength has been her ability to understand the needs of young people and to customize her role to meet those needs.
“... Her expertise is hard to come by,” Berry stressed.
Kim Gunter, vice president of Marketing for the Bowater Employee Credit Union and an avid JA board member and classroom volunteer who has also worked tirelessly to help coordinate a wave of special JA activities, praised Moore as well for her leadership.
Gunter said she is excited for Moore in her retirement, but equally as thrilled that she will remain with the organization as a volunteer to spread the JA message, teach in the public classrooms, and to promote public awareness of the organization and its relevance to today’s changing educational environment.
In typical Sandy Moore fashion, the JA veteran offered the same message on her next-to-the-last day as president that she did three months ago when she announced her retirement.
“I think Junior Achievement has a viable future,” she offered. “JA will grow and change, and it will meet the needs of the community. But it will have to evolve. The mission of JA likely will remain the same, but new technologies and new goals will have to be embraced.”
And that’s why she believes the time for a changing of the guard has come.
“It’s time for new ideas and new directions,” she repeated herself from earlier in the reception. “It’s time for someone else to be in charge and to lead Junior Achievement into a new era.”