We refer to Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region whose volunteer-driven board of directors must fill some mighty big shoes with last week’s announced retirement of Sandy Moore, JA president. A two-decade JA veteran who has steered the five-county Southeast Tennessee service area since 2001, Moore will say goodbye to her paid leadership role Aug. 31.
She anticipates remaining an unpaid volunteer by combining classroom instruction with strumming up JA promotional campaigns in McMinn, Monroe and Meigs counties — areas that the Ocoee Region has worked to strengthen for years. During Moore’s tenure, JA’s greatest impact has been centered in Bradley and McMinn counties.
In today’s world of hardworking nonprofits where fundraising requires as much time and effort as operating their community programs, quality leadership comes at a great price — not necessarily in wage but in time, stress and personal sacrifice. No one understands this better than Junior Achievement, an organization whose academic partnership with local school systems is unprecedented in the level of advanced training and support it provides to students at all levels, and whose respect from principals and teachers is hard-earned and well-deserved.
Moore will be difficult to replace. In typical modest fashion, she would be the first to declare she is not irreplaceable. Although true, her experience with Junior Achievement, her understanding of its business-in-education message and translating that theme into local action for the betterment of young minds will make her a tough act to follow.
Yet it can be done.
Actually, it must be done if JA of the Ocoee Region is to remain a viable operation that is integral to Cleveland City School and Bradley County School system classrooms and more than 4,100 students who benefitted this year from JA’s comprehensive outreach.
For those who quickly recognize the Junior Achievement name, but can’t quite put a finger on its purpose, JA is a rare cross between education and business that essentially provides three key components within our Cleveland and Bradley County classrooms. These are financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career awareness.
For a time, some might have questioned JA’s continuing relevance.
Just a quick look around will tell the sobering story. Home foreclosures. Record numbers of bankruptcies, especially in Tennessee. Unemployment based on lack of communication skills, job understanding and career qualifications. Inability to take a risk due to fear of failure and lack of confidence, both of which are brought on by insufficient preparation for life in the real world.
In today’s business climate, each of these is now being addressed by Junior Achievement, an organization whose curriculum addresses gray areas not automatically included in the mainstream curriculum of public classrooms. It isn’t for lack of want by the schools. It is for lack of time, funding and manpower.
Through volunteer instructors and its own fundraising activities, JA provides each of these opportunities; at least, as far as donations will allow. The schools don’t fund JA. Local government doesn’t fund JA. The people and the corporate partners of JA fund JA.
It requires a lot of work and a rare dedication often limited to those with the deepest vision and depth of mission.
Sandy Moore had the kind of perseverance needed to get the job done. Hers was a tough task and sometimes a thankless one.
We congratulate her on a well-deserved retirement. We thank her for all she has done for Junior Achievement and for invigorating the growing minds of our young people.
We wish President Rick Platz and the JA board well in finding her successor.
And when they do, we urge the entire Ocoee Region to embrace the convictions of this new leader and to look to JA’s future with a common cause led in a united front.