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RSW Living Magazine

Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida Focuses on Teen Financial Literacy This Month, Prepares for Upcoming Fundraising Events

Apr 12, 2018 03:00PM ● By Kevin
A new survey by Junior Achievement USA and AIG finds that only half of teens cite becoming financially independent of parents as one of their future goals. The 2018 JA Teens & Personal Finance Survey offers insight into how this generation is thinking about and planning for their financial future while emphasizing the value of financial literacy and personal finance programs, according to a recent press release.

With April being Financial Literacy Month, this will be a core focus for Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida. The local organization, which is based out of Fort Myers and serves Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties, partnered with more than 280 classroom business volunteers to provide more than 10,600 students with Junior Achievement programs in more than 440 classes in the 2016-17 school year, alone.
“Millennials have sometimes been referred to as ‘the Boomerang Generation’ because during the economic recovery many moved back home with their parents after college due to a weak job market and student loan debt,” said Angela Fisher, president and CEO of JASWFL. “This survey may be showing that today’s teens, Generation Z, could be seeing that as a situation they will encounter down the road.”

The JA/AIG Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. teens, ages 13-18, who are not currently enrolled in college, between March 9 and March 16, 2018, using an email invitation and an online survey.

JASWFL is a nonprofit organization, separate from JAUSA. Everything the organization does locally stays in Southwest Florida. That means they do their own fundraising without receiving anything from the national organization or federal grants.

"We're fundraiser-driven to help provide funds for the programs," said Stephanie Hoffman, the local organization's development director.

"We center our financial literacy programs on things like 'What are needs versus wants?', debit versus credit, how important credit scores and budgets are, and saving money," Fisher added, "and, as Stephanie said, we're very much fundraiser-event driven. but we're in the process of trying to change that. As you well know, with big change, it takes time."

Two of the organization's biggest events are coming up this month: its sixth annual Breaking Par at Grandezza at Grandezza Gala & Golf Tournament and the 2018 Business Hall of Fame, Lee County induction and awards ceremony. The former takes place April 21-22, and the latter on April 25. This will be the 19th year for the hall of fame event.

The two-day Breaking Par at Grandezza event will run from Saturday, April 21 through Sunday, April 22 at The Club at Grandezza, located at 11481 Grande Oak Blvd. in Estero. Previous Breaking Par at Grandezza events have raised more than $247,000 to support the CEO Academy and additional Junior Achievement programs. It is the main fundraiser for the CEO Academy, which promotes entrepreneurship by recruiting juniors and seniors in high school from Collier and Lee counties.

Attendees can participate in a one-week camp in the summer right after the school year, where they're able to create a product a la Shark Tank. Students are mentored by the professors at the institute, and are paired with students they don't know from different schools. As a group, they pitch products or ideas. Winners earn scholarships to continue their educations beyond high school.

The first night of the fundraiser is a gala, hosting a live auction and silent auction. The guest of honor is Florida Gulf Coast University president Mike Martin. The golf tournament occurs the next day.

"We're really excited about this year," Hoffman said. "Our fundraising goal for this year's event was a net of $74,000."

The prestigious Business Hall of Fame award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who serve as role models for youth through their professional accomplishments and commitment to the community. Inductees this year are Pason Gaddis, co-founder and CEO of Florida Media Group, LLC, and Gary Griffin, president and CEO of B & I Contractors, Inc. They join a distinguished group of individuals who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since its founding in 1999. The event takes place at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs.

JASWFL was incorporated in 1994. Prior to that, starting in 1975, multiple businessmen from Naples, who are still involved with the organization, today, decided to bring junior achievement to this area.

"They started teaching some classes under the license for the Miami JA," Fisher said. "In 1994, we became incorporated as our own local nonprofit and we started serving 350 students. Now we're at 10,600 students. We started mainly in Collier [County]. Most of the students we serve today are in Lee and Collier counties."

JA celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019. JASWFL will celebrate that locally. As for the future, as Fisher said, the local nonprofit hopes to partner with more local businesses in the area to provide volunteer programs, in addition to the ongoing fundraising efforts.

"We have a strong goal to increase student numbers this year of 10 percent," Hoffman said.

Hoffman and Fisher stressed the importance of community outreach and enlisting more volunteers in the counties JASWFL serves. These efforts could include local businessmen and businesswomen taking time out of their days to come to schools and talk about JA programs, as well as tell stories about how they got to where they are in their careers. This will help students identify the opportunities that are out there for them to get involved in their own communities.

Junior Achievement's purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. Junior Achievement is the recognized leader in "empowering young people to own their economic success®" through volunteer-led, experiential learning.

"We are dedicated to providing a positive, enriching learning experience free of bias. Junior Achievement welcomes K-12 students, volunteers and potential staff regardless of race, religion, age, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or any other legally protected characteristic," the local organization's website says.

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