The organization is Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, a student-friendly group that serves some 4,000 youngsters in our immediate five-county area: Bradley, McMinn, Polk, Monroe and Meigs.
The tribute honors Ron Braam, a longtime industrialist and avid community volunteer who has given his heart, voice and full support to JA — not just financially nor through his time, but in his willingness to work ... as an unpaid classroom instructor, as a dedicated fundraiser and as a leader who has prioritized Junior Achievement awareness in Cleveland and Bradley County as he would his own private business.
That’s how Ron views Junior Achievement and why he recognizes its importance in supplementing work already being done by the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems in the realm of bringing the real world to young people.
JA’s mission is to introduce work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to young minds whose priority — at this stage of their school lives — is to learn the fundamentals of education in order to prepare for postsecondary education. But public education also bears another component, an unseen one; that is, preparing its students for lives outside of textbooks and academics. It is known to most as the real world. Entry into its front door means developing a better understanding for how business operates and how best to manage household finances and personal accountability.
JA’s task is not to repeat what is already being done.
JA’s focus is not to provide what public education should already be offering.
JA’s mindset is to supplement. It is a working agreement, one of strategic partnership in which JA volunteers are invited into area classrooms to teach an element of life that is just as important to students as earning a respectable GPA and proving their worth in the world of academia.
It is part of a well-rounded educational experience.
Teachers are already overburdened. Principals are expected to wear more hats than a league of esteemed gentlemen. And both face more pressures, added stresses and increased demands on their time than at any era in the history of modern education.
Theirs is not a simple task. And too often it goes unthanked. And on occasion, it falls short — out of necessity but not intent — of giving students the versatility they need to be welcomed into a world whose invitation comes with condition.
Thankfully, communities like our own Cleveland and Bradley County have people — steadfast volunteers who are provided by like-minded employers — who want to help. Locally, this group is known as Junior Achievement. While we cannot speak on their behalf, it is our belief local school system directors Dr. Martin Ringstaff and Johnny McDaniel would echo these sentiments — that JA is a viable tool in the comprehensive education of area children.
And one such spokesman for the JA cause is Ron Braam who recently received the organization’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ron retired from active duty with JA this summer after years — since 1985 — of dedication. JA’s recognition of his service not only was heartwarming, it was befitting of a community servant who believes in the betterment of all — people and places, as well as the organizations, like JA, that train minds, instill hope and build futures.
Ron’s impact locally also has been recognized at JA’s national level. In 2005, he received the coveted “Above and Beyond Award,” and in 2012 he was named to the “Impact Award.”
JA Board Chairman Rick Platz said it best when he pointed to Ron’s hands-on involvement. Not only did he pilot JA’s first “Reality Check” initiative, he also designed the nonprofit’s President’s Council, a group of influential community leaders whose shared cause was the development of young minds and the expansion of tools to make it happen.
We salute Ron Braam, as we do his nonprofit of choice — Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region.
Regardless of all the salaries across America, it is the volunteer spirit that runs this country.
Such sentiment is true from corner to corner — from Spokane, Wash., to Clearwater, Fla., from Bangor, Maine, to Brownsville, Texas, and most especially in our hometown Cleveland ... known to those who know it best as “The City With Spirit.”