A ‘Champion for Education’

CAI’s gift to support JA’s work in schools

By RICK NORTON rick.norton@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 3/20/17

While Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region champions its 52-year mission to supplement, and to streamline, education in local classrooms, Cleveland Associated Industries has further championed its …

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A ‘Champion for Education’

CAI’s gift to support JA’s work in schools


While Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region champions its 52-year mission to supplement, and to streamline, education in local classrooms, Cleveland Associated Industries has further championed its support of Junior Achievement.

It has come in the form of a $5,000 donation.

CAI’s gift to the much-respected, nonprofit organization that targets financial literacy, workplace readiness and entrepreneurship keeps it shoulder to shoulder with a handful of other JA supporters that believe in the education initiative.

Alongside Cleveland State Community College, Lubing Systems LP and Wacker Polysilicon North America, CAI has been tagged a “Champion for Education” partner because of the size of monetary contributions.

“We are grateful for Cleveland Associated Industries’ partnership that will allow Junior Achievement to empower students, and to open their minds to their potential,” said Melanie Connatser, JA of the Ocoee Region president. “This will positively influence the business community of the future.”

That’s one of the reasons — among many — that Junior Achievement exists.

S.B. “Skeet” Rymer Jr., chief executive among the business-savvy leaders who molded the former Magic Chef Company into a leading appliance manufacturer eventually based in Cleveland, envisioned the need for two organizations to keep Bradley County’s manufacturing dream alive. In 1965, he spearheaded the formation of both Cleveland Associated Industries and Junior Achievement of Bradley & McMinn Counties.

Originally operating under the 1917 label of Dixie Foundry, and later Dixie Products, the company changed names again in the 1950s when it merged with Magic Chef, a St. Louis-based manufacturer. The newly combined company moved its headquarters to Cleveland, and under Rymer’s guidance it grew into a national appliance-manufacturing powerhouse.

In 1986, the former Maytag Company acquired Magic Chef, and this led to the birth of the expanded Maytag Corporation. In March 2006, Maytag was purchased by the Whirlpool Corporation. At this time, the Cleveland-based factory underwent a name change from Maytag Cleveland Cooking Products to Whirlpool Cleveland Division.

“Mr. Rymer was committed to using the industry’s (Magic Chef) resources to improve life in Cleveland and Bradley County,” according to Lisa Pickel, CAI executive director. “He also introduced Junior Achievement to Cleveland with the start of the JA Company Program.”

Discontinued years ago by the nonprofit to make room for new directions, the JA Company Program resurfaced this year and has now been offered to five local high school classrooms.

“More than 70 students have had the opportunity to start their own businesses in a realistic classroom setting,” Connatser said. “This has provided students the skills needed for a lifetime of learning, including 21st century learning and STEM skills” (which relate to science, technology, engineering and math).

Beyond the innovative company initiative, Junior Achievement is also known in public classrooms in Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Meigs and Polk counties for teaching concepts — in conjunction with professional classroom educators — related to budgeting, saving and money management “... with the intent of promoting the development of good financial habits,” Connatser explained.

Additionally, students will also become more prepared to enter college and the workforce, she added.

Bethany McCoy, chair of the Junior Achievement board, thanked CAI for the monetary gift and for the organization’s longstanding support of the JA mission.

“We’re thankful to Cleveland Associated Industries for providing the resources necessary to help our young people grow up to be successful adults,” McCoy stressed. “We are very grateful to Cleveland Associated Industries for their unwavering support of Junior Achievement.”

She added, “We believe in the power of collaboration and partnership, and it is through the support of organizations such as CAI, that we may continue to live out our purpose of ‘inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy.’”

McCoy joined Connatser in pointing to the big picture of Junior Achievement. It’s not just about one organization (CAI) making a generous donation to the cause of education, they agreed. It’s about making it possible “... for nearly 4,500 area students to get hands-on knowledge of what it takes to start and grow a business, and contribute their talent in the workplace,” the JA duo pointed out.

It’s also about Junior Achievement expanding its work to more schools, thereby reaching more children. JA’s belief is the more school-aged students are exposed to practical, responsible spending habits, the greater Cleveland’s business climate will grow in years to come, Connatser advised.

“Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region has increased its programs in the local schools by 20 percent this year, and Cleveland Associated Industries’ support will help JA provide the curriculum this spring with the invaluable help of more than 100 volunteers,” she stated. “With volunteers bringing the ‘real world’ into the classroom, the programs prepare students for key economic and workforce issues they will face.”

JA of the Ocoee Region works in partnership with both business and education communities to deliver programs that teach K-12 students “... age-appropriate, hands-on lessons about how to be financially literate,” Connatser noted. “After participating in Junior Achievement programs, students see the important connections between education, career, salary and desired lifestyle.”

Pickel, who made CAI’s recent check presentation, said the organization continues its support of Junior Achievement because of shared interests in keeping young minds active with a focus on understanding monetary responsibility and preparing for the job market.

“Cleveland Associated Industries understands the value Junior Achievement classes bring to students and the lifelong lessons our young people learn and carry with them,” Pickel said. “There are so many aspects of the JA programs that are taught in K-12, and they bring real life into the classrooms.”

Pickel added, “What makes Junior Achievement unique is the fact that its programming is taught by business and industry professionals in our community, all of whom are serving as volunteers. CAI is proud to support the efforts of Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region and the impact this organization is having on our future workforce.”

To learn more about Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region’s “Champions for Education” partnership, visit www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-ocoee.


(About S.B. “Skeet” Rymer Jr. and the Magic Chef Company: Published under a 1988 copyright, the story of the Rymer family and the manufacturing operations that spurred the formation of Magic Chef are told in a book titled “The Spark of Enterprise: A History of Dixie Foundry-Magic Chef Inc.” The 148-page publication was written by John Longwith.)


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