Emily Adams Keplinger
For 25 years, a partnership between First Tennessee and Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South, Inc. has been making an impact on young people in the Greater Memphis area.
“Junior Achievement is a not-for-profit organization financed by businesses, foundations, and individuals,” says Larry Colbert, JA’s president and CEO. “Our organization’s mission statement is focused on economic education, work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Our purpose is to educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise, business, and economics to improve the quality of their lives.”
Simply put, Junior Achievement teaches children “how business works.”
“First Tennessee is a great corporate partner,” Colbert says, “and has been a supporter of us for years. Back in 2000, JA was looking to open up our capstone program, Exchange City. The idea was to create a little city where children could learn by doing.”
Exchange City opened in 2002 and Colbert said First Tennessee was the first company to step up and support it.
“They relished the idea that a bank was going to be the cornerstone of this mini city, and they wanted their name on that bank,” Colbert says. “This positioned First Tennessee to not only be our first sponsor for this endeavor, but to give them an outreach venue to help teach kids about financial literacy.”
Colbert says Terry Lee, senior vice president of corporate communications for First Tennessee, saw the value of the program. “He said it would address a long-term, ongoing need for the younger generation and that they wanted to support Exchange City because they really believed that it could make a difference in the lives of our youth.”
Prior to Exchange City, now known as JA BizTown, Colbert says his organization already had a great relationship with First Tennessee.
“First Tennessee has supported JA in so many ways,” says Colbert. “Our LPGA tournament at Southwind, which was our second largest annual fundraiser at the time, brought in lady pros and matched them with local teams. First Tennessee was always a sponsor and sent participating teams. Overall, this fundraiser brought in approximately $100K in revenue for us on an annual basis.”
Now the organization’s largest fundraiser is its annual Bowl-A-Thon.
“The Bowl-A-Thon, with 3,500 to 4,000 people participating each year, keeps our doors open,” says Colbert. “We have close to 100 companies involved, and for the last seven years First Tennessee has been the co-title sponsor, along with Power & Tel, for the event. Additionally, First Tennessee has consistently been one of the top three companies, both in terms of dollars raised and numbers of employees (over 200 each year) participating in the event.”
As much as that impact contributes to the financial health of Junior Achievement as an organization, there’s another way that First Tennessee shows its support year-round.
Kim Cherry, immediate past board chairman of Junior Achievement and Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications for First Tennessee, says, “For years, First Tennessee has provided hundreds of employees to serve as volunteers to teach Junior Achievement programs. Our people work directly with students in local elementary, middle, and high schools. First they go through their own training in order to teach the programs, then they make a personal commitment that can span six to eight weeks to teach on a weekly basis.”
“The work JA does for this community is invaluable to its future,” says Cherry. “It’s important to business, because a financially empowered community gives us more potential customers and potential employees. It’s important to the long-term success of Memphis. Who knows? The entrepreneurship JA fosters in students may just give us the next Pat Lawler or Carolyn Hardy or Bill Courtney or Pitt Hyde. If we don’t encourage our young people to think big, we’ll never know for sure what they can accomplish.”
Junior Achievement has been in Memphis since 1955. For more information: jamemphis.org and 901-366-7800.
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