An overdue partnership whose relevance to education is leaving many bursting with enthusiasm is about to unfold as Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region prepares to relocate its offices to the Cleveland State Community College campus.
A long-time tenant at Cleveland High School, JA is vacating space at the crowded Raider Drive complex in order to take possession of a vacant, stand-alone building on Adkisson Drive that formerly housed CSCC campus security.
Junior Achievement had operated rent-free in a CHS classroom for years in a partnership that helped the five-county nonprofit expand its outreach to 4,000 students per year. However, with recent growth at Cleveland High School and at JA as well, the chance to relocate to the 900-square-foot building at Cleveland State seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, according to Tracie McCartney, JA president.
“Everyone has been so great at Cleveland High School to give us this space free,” McCartney said. “But this [relocation] will give us much more visibility at Cleveland State Community College. This will give us more space ... and it will give us the chance to work with more people.”
Space, and people — in nonprofit terms that means volunteers — are two key ingredients for any organization whose public demand is picking up. Last year alone, the nonprofit that supplements public education with real-world classroom expertise in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness reached out to a record number of Southeast Tennessee students.
JA partners with school systems, and teachers, to provide specialized instruction in Bradley, McMinn, Polk, Monroe and Meigs counties.
The physical move is expected to take place Oct. 28 with JA’s new offices to open in early November.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” McCartney said.
That’s because JA’s new visibility will open more doors for additional volunteers, and it will open another door; that is, a viable partnership with Cleveland State that will provide chances for CSCC education majors to provide classroom instruction on JA’s behalf. And, it will improve public access to Junior Achievement.
“We are truly excited and grateful for this opportunity to partner with Cleveland State,” McCartney stressed. “Dr. Tommy Wright (vice president of Finance and Administration) and Dr. Carl Hite (president) have been extremely responsive to the needs of our organization.”
McCartney credited the work of Rick Platz, chairman of the JA board of directors, who worked closely with CSCC leaders to bring about the relocation.
JA’s move is not all about changing scenery; in fact, leaders of both organizations point to the creation of natural synergies between the two. One is a shared mission. CSCC’s Office of Workforce Development, led by director Rick Creasy, is making a growing impact on preparing future workers — including students and older adults — for the rapid changes occurring among employers and manufacturers. Simultaneously, JA is working with younger students to teach them real-life skills that go beyond the world of textbooks and academia.
“Through this partnership, Cleveland State Community College will continue its longstanding support of education in our area,” Wright said. “JA has been a staple in our community for more than 45 years and this was the perfect opportunity to not only house JA offices on our campus, but to also become an integral part of all of their efforts.”
The new partnership isn’t just about occupying an empty building. It’s about sharing perspectives in education and creating innovative ways to reach out to students of all ages, as well as the area’s surrounding workforce.
And, it’s about mutual identification.
“JA will be branding our materials and events with CSCC logos, showing our new partnership,” McCartney explained.
Platz, a longtime JA volunteer who worked to broker the deal with CSCC, said the JA board of directors fully endorses the relocation and the chance to grow the relationship with the community college.
“The board of directors is extremely excited about this alignment,” Platz said. “Our educators are working very hard to help the youth of Bradley, Meigs, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties, and we want to supplement what they’re already teaching with the programs offered by JA.”
He added, “Allowing JA on the CSCC campus, we hope, will draw in more business volunteers and create teaching opportunities for the education majors in the college.”
McCartney pointed to the natural ties between Cleveland State and JA.
“JA programs provide students with a bridge from school to work readiness and entrepreneurship, reinforcing Common Core standards for college and career-readiness,” she offered. “Specifically, our programs help young adults develop the skills they need to navigate the realities and opportunities of work and entrepreneurship in a global marketplace.”
Like Cleveland State, JA already works closely with programs like Tennessee Scholars. McCartney said JA will begin working immediately to further the relationship with Creasy’s programs and to recruit the support of education majors as well.
“[In this new location] we will get a whole lot more visibility from students and education majors,” she stressed. “So many people (students, faculty and staff) at Cleveland State are different ages, so we’re hoping this will build more volunteers and board members ... professors and students who are looking to get more involved.”
She added, “This will open up a lot of doors for us.”
Like most area nonprofits whose presence seeks to make a difference in their community, JA relies heavily on corporate and civic volunteers to spread its message.
“Our corporate and community volunteers deliver JA program content using informative text, related to work, entrepreneurship and the 21st century global marketplace,” McCartney explained.
According to recent surveys, eight out of 10 students who are JA alumni believe the organization enabled them to connect what they learned in the classroom to real life, McCartney noted.
To learn more about JA of the Ocoee Region, or to volunteer, area residents may contact the nonprofit by calling 423-476-6772 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.