From Classroom Volunteers to Corporate Champions

The Vega FamilyThink back to when you were in school.  You were probably juggling a lot: coursework, homework, personal commitments, and maybe a job… or two.  Perhaps your school had community service opportunities—either optional or mandatory, and somehow, you managed to squeeze that in too.

This was the case with Carlos and Jan Vega.  While getting their MBA degrees at USC’s Marshall School of Business in 2004, their school gave them the opportunity to volunteer with JASoCal in a local classroom.  They opted in, volunteered at a local elementary school, and have since gotten their companies, Toyota and Wilmington Trust,  involved as well.  Here’s a conversation that JASoCal had with Carlos and Jan about why they work with JA:

JASoCal: Why did you decide to volunteer with JA while at USC?
Jan: I liked the idea of young kids getting a financial education.
Carlos: I wanted to mentor kids and provide them with guidance.

JASoCal: How did you get your companies involved?
Jan:  I asked Wilmington Trust to start to do philanthropy days with JA, one to two times a year.
Carlos: I did the same at the L.A.Times.  I got to Toyota in August of 2007.  That first year, it was definitely a challenge to recruit, but the people who came to the first JA event are repeat customers. They volunteer at least once a year.  After the first year, people started recruiting other people, and now, we can fill up an event just with one department.

JASoCal:  So it seems like its spread throughout Toyota?
Carlos: Yes, more than 150 people have participated over the years. People are always excited about these events. These last two years we’ve had vice presidents attend.

JASoCal:  Why do your colleagues volunteer with JA?
Carlos: It’s a team-building experience. It helps people develop their public speaking skills and other skills.  We’ve had a group of Toastmasters come, and they’re hooked on JA.  Everyone finds that it is a fun experience to teach and represent their company.

JASoCal:  How do you, as volunteers, see JA impacting students?
Jan:  Junior Achievement is an exposure to something they don’t see on a day-to-day basis.  It gives them ideas of things that they can do.
Carlos: JA provides 1) a good financial education that they don’t get, and 2) a window of outside opportunity.  Having someone come in from Toyota or Wilmington Trust and tell you about it, puts you in a place where you can start to aspire to things.  I wish I could have had that as a kid.

JASoCal:  How do you want to work with JA in the future?
Jan:  I want to be involved with a high school.
Carlos: I would love to have Toyota volunteer at more schools, to make a long-term impact.

JASoCal:  What is your favorite JA class memory?
Carlos and Jan: Teaching first graders about needs versus wants.  The JA lesson said that a TV was a “want,” but the students thought that a TV was a “need,” We agreed with the students, so we told them that they were right.

JASoCal:  Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Carlos: We love JA.
Jan: It’s such an easy sell, once they’re in the classroom.

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Thank You to Our National Supporters

Our supporters are usually Southern California-based organizations, looking to support local youth. However, we couldn’t do what we do without support coming from far and wide across the nation as well. We’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the generosity of our supporters. Without you, we couldn’t make quite the same impact on our youth.

New York Life Foundation gave JASoCal $10,000 as part of the Skills to Success Initiative. We will deliver our work readiness and financial literacy programs to new audiences of students who had not yet been reached. The goal of our partnership is for JA to become an intrinsic part of the local program mix for this new market.

TD Ameritrade provided $8,000 to JASoCal for financial literacy classes. Also, TD Ameritrade had over 60 volunteers across the spectrum of JA programs, in JA Finance Park®, JA Job Shadow™ and traditional classroom teaching.

“The partnership with Junior Achievement gives us the opportunity for a unified program throughout our network of 105 branches across the U.S.,” said Pamela Sellers, Regional Director of the Los Angeles Metro area for TD Ameritrade, “[it is also a] chance for our Associates to share their talents and time in an incredibly impactful way.”

The Donaldson Foundation gave $5,000 as part of the Junior Achievement/Donaldson Foundation Operation: Graduate and Succeed Initiative. The purpose is to partner together to help middle and high school students become better equipped to be successful in life, including graduating from high school. The money will fund eight JA Finance Park classes.

The HSBC Volunteer Alliance provided JASoCal with $100-$500 per volunteer that teaches JA programs. In the alliance, 23 HSBC volunteers impacted over 400 students at the Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Sciences.

DeVry University gave $3,500 to support seven classes at Garfield High School. The classes received personal finance programs.

UPS gave JASoCal $6,000 to fund five JA Be Entrepreneurial® classes. The programming was delivered to classes at DaVinci, Crenshaw and Westlake High Schools.

At JASoCal, we strive to empower young people to own their economic success. Gifts and generosity shown by these organizations is exactly how we are able to inspire Southern California youth. Thank you, all of our supporters, near and far.

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Special Dinner Package at Fogo de Chao supports JASoCal

Fogo de Chao is offering Junior Achievement supporters an incredible dinner package to support the youth of Southern California on Wednesday, April 25.

In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, the Brazilian steakhouse is donating 100 percent of dinner proceeds from all tables reserved through JASoCal. Come experience the authentic Brazilian steakhouse’s delectably slow-roasted meats prepared by gaucho chefs, gourmet salad and sides bar, award-winning wine list, and impeccable service.

The Deal
For $50 per person (a $75 value), or $25 per child (ages 6-10), you will receive unlimited servings of 15 cuts of fire-roasted meat, carved tableside by gaucho chefs, a gourmet salad bar, non-alcoholic beverages, dessert and a glass of wine or a cocktail. Additional alcoholic beverages or bottles of wine can be purchased separately.

Please RSVP to reserve your table for this special event by contacting Marisa Materna at 323.785.3544 or

Take advantage of this offer to plan the perfect date, family night out, or business dinner for up to 12, and help support our community. April 25 is also Administrative Professionals Day. If you are looking for a way to say “thank you,” this is the perfect opportunity!

Seating is limited, so we encourage you to make your reservation quickly.

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A Real Life JA Role Model, Globally and Locally

In his second year of the full-time MBA program, UCLA Anderson student Devin McGrath already has an impressive resume in community building and volunteer-work.

Devin McGrath

It was through his post-baccalaureate community involvement that McGrath was introduced to Junior Achievement. It was not in the United States that McGrath found JA, but in a country 4,700 miles away from where he grew up.

A New York native, McGrath graduated from Bentley University in Massachusetts with a BS in management and gained extensive leadership experience. After college, Devin was ready to make a difference in the world, so he joined the Peace Corps as an economic development volunteer. He was sent to Bulgaria.

In the small town of Berkovitsa, McGrath involved himself in many community projects and programs. He participated in grant writing, tourism, Habitat for Humanity, recycling and various other projects. Eventually, he discovered JA.

“It sounded to me like [Junior Achievement] was teaching kids every practical business skill,” McGrath said. “It turned out to be my most successful project while in Bulgaria.”

McGrath begin his JA work in the JA Global Program®, starting a cooperative with local tradesmen and crafters. The business was named Original Craftsman Berkovitsa, and the goal was simple: to export unique hand-made items from local artisans to Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and across the world. They also would later partner with another JA school in Toronto to import Canadian goods, as well.

The young people involved with OCB immediately grasped the concept and what needed to be done.

Devin McGrath

“These kids went from having absolutely no business knowledge, to having to market and sell this company,” McGrath said. “They were able to quickly make it a success.”

OCB became profitable shortly after, with a 185 percent return with their first stock offering.

The business had made such an impact locally, the mayor of Berkovitsa said OCB was one of the eight biggest contributions to the area that year.

As a reward for their success, McGrath and the young people involved in OCB had the opportunity to fly to Toronto to compete against other JA company programs.

“It was so important for the kids to get an opportunity to travel,” McGrath said. “Many had never been outside of Bulgaria.”

At the competition, McGrath was nervous, but thought his team had a chance.

“We had a fantastic product to show,” McGrath said. “The kids really rallied and came together for the competition.”

It turned out, there wasn’t too much to be nervous about. McGrath and his kids’ business won the competition in Toronto.

“It was one of the proudest moments of my life, not because of the business fundamentals they learned or winning the competition, but because of the leadership, confidence and communication skills they grained through the program,” he said.

McGrath believes the curriculum of the JA Global Program played a key role in the success of OCB.

“The program gave so many opportunities to build leadership abilities and business skills. The ideas the kids had were great and really added to the business,” he said. “The practical knowledge JA provides helps students think outside of the box.”

The students in OCB had similar feelings about the program.

“It is wonderful to learn about things like team spirit, networking and marketing from really successful entrepreneurs,” said Peter Bessalev, a JA Student in Bulgaria. “I know they are talking from their own experiences, which shows us that everything is possible if we only believe that we can do it, just as they have done.”

After two years in the Peace Corps, McGrath found himself in Panama for a year, and also found JA was in the region.

“I reached out to a teacher already on board with JA and was able to volunteer in Panama as well,” McGrath said.

Now nearly complete with his MBA program, McGrath had yet another experience with Junior Achievement at UCLA. He was part of a the team training over 300 full time first-year MBA students for UCLA-JA Days in four Los Angeles elementary schools, in October last year.

McGrath will leave UCLA Anderson in the summer, and already has a position lined up with Credit Suisse, a world leading financial services company.

I’m excited for the entrepreneurial aspect of working [at Credit Suisse],” McGrath said. “I am really looking forward to helping people manage one of their most valuable assets – their wealth.

Well-prepared from his degrees at Bentley University and UCLA Anderson, and equipped with his experience volunteering in several countries with Junior Achievement, McGrath is the perfect role model for someone looking to succeed in the business of life.

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Golf Classic Sponsorships and Foursomes Still Available

Acclaimed by participants as the best charity tournament in Southern California, JA’s Golf Classic is  celebrated among LA’s most senior executives.

On May 7, 2012, you are invited to participate and play at the prestigious Sherwood Country Club on the signature Jack Nicklaus golf course. Not only is this course exclusive, but our “best ball” tournament allows each player to play his or her own ball at this unique and beautiful course. The two best scores from each team will be counted towards your foursome score.

Monday, May 7, 2012
8:00am – 7:00pm

Sherwood Country Club
320 W. Stafford Rd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91361

Become a Sponsor
Sponsorships for this event are critical for JASoCal to continue providing life changing programs to students in Southern California. These programs are delivered at no cost to students and JASoCal relies on funding from individuals, corporations and foundations. You can make a difference in the lives of these children by participating in this world-class event.

Foursomes and sponsorship opportunities are currently available. For more information, to sign up or to sponsor part of the event, contact Marisa Materna at or 323.785.3544.

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Suitcase Party Offers Chance to be Whisked Away

The inaugural LA Suitcase Party is a fundraiser teaming up with children’s charities, including JASoCal, to offer guests a unique and fun luxury event on February 10, 2012. Before the night is over, someone will be leaving on a private jet.

The Party
The party will start at 6:00pm at the Van Nuys Airport in a luxury private hangar provided by Maguire Aviation. Guests will bring a packed suitcase to the event, walk the red carpet, view on site luxury cars including Aston Martin and Jaguars, and enjoy an evening of live music, food from Jennifer Naylor Catering and Special Events and beverages from Patron, Ultimat Vodka, and Coppola Wineries. Purchase tickets here.

The Drawing and Grand Prize
At approximately 9:00 PM, a private jet will taxi to the far side of the hangar and the evening’s main opportunity drawing will take place. The winning ticket will entitle its owner, plus a guest, to grab their packed suitcases and board the private jet which will leave immediately for Napa Valley, CA. Over the weekend, the winners will enjoy 5-star accommodations, private tastings, massages, gourmet meals, and full day tours of the region in their private, chauffeur-driven car before their private jet returns them to Los Angeles late Sunday afternoon.

Consolation Prizes
Those not fortunate enough to win the trip to Napa Valley will be eligible for other vacation prizes, including a stay at the Montage Laguna Beach, or the brand new downtown Ritz Carlton, which will also be drawn and awarded that night. Those winners will be taken by limousine, directly from Van Nuys Airport, to local resorts for a weekend get-away.

Everyone will have the option of pre-reserving a weekend trip at a big discount to one of several local 5 star hotels like the Beverly Hills Hotel, Casa Del Mar, Shutters, Peninsula Beverly Hills, or the St Regis Monarch Bay, each with special goodies and discounts thrown in.

The event will also feature a live and silent auction.

Net proceeds from tickets sold to JASoCal supporters will solely benefit JASoCal. To purchase tickets visit this link. When prompted near the bottom of the form, enter JA of Southern California as your supported organization.

For more details visit

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JA Student Scholarships Available

A scholarship opportunity for students who have participated in JA high school programs is now available through Johnson & Wales University and National Student Organizations (NSO).

Students who apply online with Johnson & Wales also apply for an NSO scholarship program and benefits. The scholarships range from $1,000 to full tuition for students who have participated in a Junior Achievement high school program. Last year, more than $1 million was awarded to former JA students.

Johnson & Wales offers a variety of degree programs in business, hospitality, culinary arts and technology across campuses located in Providence, Rhode Island; North Miami, Florida; Denver, Colorado; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

For more information, visit the Johnson & Wales admissions website.

How to Apply:
Download an application or contact the National Student Organizations Office at Johnson and Wales University, 8 Abbott Park Place, Providence, RI 02903 (800) DIAL-JWU ext. 2345 or through

JA USA offers many other scholarships through universities across the nation. To see more, visit the JA USA scholarships page.

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