By Punch Correspondent Melinda Contreras
On the 3rd Annual #GivingTuesday, The Greater Washington Board of Trade, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, and Washingtonian Magazine hosted the 27th Annual Washington Business Hall of Fame. Held at the National Building Museum, the event honored four area business leaders that are paving the road for the next generation of Washington’s leaders, thinkers, and entrepreneurs through their drive, innovation, and commitment to excellence. With WJLA-TV/ABC7 Anchor Leon Harris serving as the Master of Ceremonies, more than 1,000 guests gathered together to celebrate the work of the Junior Achievement of Greater Washington. The $1.1 million raised will benefit JA’s innovative financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship K-12 programs designed to inspire the next generation to navigate their own path to the American dream. As Leon Harris noted during his opening remarks, the evening was about celebrating “the best in business to support Junior Achievement’s work to inspire our region’s next in business.”
During the black-tie event presented by Capital One and MorganFranklin Consulting, 2014 Laureates Peter Barris of New Enterprise Associates, Sudhakar Kesavan of ICF International, Debbie Kissire of Ernst & Young, and Dennis Ratner of Ratner Companies, joined the group of 127 other Laureates that have been honored since 1988. All Laureates were called on by 2014 Hall of Fame Chair Ron Morgan, of MorganFranklin Consulting to be a “visible inspiration to the kids of this region for a long, long time.”
One thing that stood out to me during the event was that all past event Event Chairs and Laureates were acknowledged through the event program and/or displays set throughout the event space. With continued acknowledgement of all those who have made a significant contribution to the Washington Business Hall of Fame since its founding, it was clear that Ron Morgan’s hope to have all Laureates be a “visible inspiration to the kids of this region for a long, long time” was a hope also shared by the founders of the Washington Business Hall of Fame. Just a few hours of working with kids in the Junior Achievement program can impact them for long time. The Washington Business Hall of Fame will thus continue to honor all those who have made an impact on these kids for a long, long time with the hope that everyone will do their part to make sure the Junior Achievement programs continue to have a long term impact.
Because I do believe that just a few hours of mentoring can impact kids for a long time, I can only imagine what 500,000 of instruction hours can do for kids. Last year, almost 53,000 students in Greater Washington received more than 580,000 instruction hours from Junior Achievement programs. My only guess is that this instruction makes them feel like superheroes that are capable of solving any problem. Alongside inspiring kids to solve the world’s greatest problems creatively, one primary focus of Junior Achievement is to help kids achieve financial literacy. The Junior Achievement Finance Park, a 20,000 square-foot facility located in Fairfax, VA, is a key component in Junior Achievement’s efforts to help students build financial skills for life. Since 2010, nearly 8,000 volunteers have have worked with more than 56,000 students from 8 area school systems at Finance Park. These numbers will quickly multiple when Finance Park opens in Prince George’s County next year, and in Montgomery County in the fall of 2017. In addition to expanding Finance Park, Junior Achievement will soon begin their Digital JA Company Program, which will teach them fundamentals for the future like crowdfunding and e-commerce.
In the same way that Ron Morgan called on all Laureates to be a visible inspiration for a long, long time, he also called on all guests to “get to know JA. Visit the team at Finance Park, see what JA actually does and see the genuine engagement of these kids.” He promised, “you will be blown away. In my view, there is no gift we can give our children that has as much long-term, sustainable impact as the foundation that JA provides.” To begin to get to know JA, visit www.myja.org.
Melinda traveled cross country from a suburb of Los Angeles to attend college in DC, and has been enjoying DC ever since. As a Product Development Coordinator for Thinkfun, an Alexandria based company that creates "addictively fun games that sharpen your mind”, Melinda is often asked if her job is like the movie Big. Basically, yes. When not playing logic puzzles, Melinda likes to track down the coolest events in DC (along with the contests and giveaways that will get you in to them for free). You can find her tweeting about giveaways (and pizza) at @withabambipurse.