Each year Junior Achievement of North Florida’s Hall of Fame event recognizes the outstanding companies, individuals, and organizations that support JA. The 2013 luncheon was held June 13 in the Lower West Club at Everbank Field, where Junior Achievement celebrated its 50th Anniversary in North Florida and presented Shad Khan with the 15th Annual Thompson S. Baker Award.
A center-of-the-room display took guests through a historical timeline of JA in Jacksonville, going back to 1963 when Junior Achievement was chartered. Newspaper articles, photos, and original JA Company products served as reminders of what Junior Achievement used to be and how far the organization has come.
The stars of the show came in the form of four emcees: Eleven year old triplets Gage, Garrett, and Gray Vondrasek, in fifth grade at Loretto Elementary, and eight year old Arianna Cobb, in second grade at John E. Ford. “We will occasionally let a few adults on stage,” said a charming Arianna, “but, like Junior Achievement itself, this is all about the kids.”
JA Program Staff Tia Leathers, Rita Story, and Teresa Smith started off presenting the volunteer awards. First place went to Florida Blue, who adopted two elementary schools and taught over 1,000 students. Second and third place went to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and The Meninak Club of Jacksonville, respectively. Over 100 companies and organizations provide volunteers to JA and these three companies account for nearly one-third of those volunteers.
A special award was presented to Superintendent Vitti, recognizing he and the 230 District Administrators and four school board members who taught JA classes to over 5,000 children through the D.A.I.L.Y. initiative (District Administrators Investing in the Lives of Youth) this year.
After the volunteer awards, the kids took the stage to recognize the members of the top three donor levels of the Horace Moses Society. The Horace Moses Society recognizes the individuals, businesses, organizations, and foundations that contribute financially to JA. These members all had recognition trophies at their tables.
“There are three external pillars critical to Junior Achievement’s success,” said President Steve St. Amand. “Funding and volunteers are the first two. The third is our relationship with the school system.” Keynote speaker Superintendent Nikolai Vitti recognized this important relationship when he addressed the room, mentioning JA as a way to get involved and transform public education.
Following Dr. Vitti’s speech, the fourth class of inductees into the Hall of Fame were introduced. The first inductee, Jeff Edwards, has been greatly involved with Junior Achievement for many years starting when he was a JA student in the 1970s. He currently serves on the Board of Directors and is a former Chairman.
THE PLAYERS Championship were also inducted into the Hall of Fame. They recently made a third five-year grant to Junior Achievement for $250,000. Matt Rapp, executive director of THE PLAYERS, presented a giant check in that amount. It is support from individuals like Jeff Edwards and organizations like THE PLAYERS that better enables Junior Achievement to do what they do: empower students.
Among the numerous awards presented that day was the Richard Maxwell Award. This is awarded by the JA Program Staff to a company, organization, or individual who has reached out to serve JA students who would otherwise not be exposed to JA’s programs. Kerry Varkonda received the 2013 Richard Maxwell Award for organizing members of the Meninak Club of Jacksonville to volunteer in the classroom.
It was finally time, as emcee Garrett described it, for the “Super Bowl of all JA awards,” the Thompson S. Baker “Solid As A Rock” Award. Named after Thompson S. Baker, the founder of Florida Rock Industries, this is JA’s top award that has been presented since 1997 to dedicated community leaders. Last year’s Baker award recipient Harry Frisch took the stage to say a few words, and with help from Jaguars mascot Jaxon DeVille announced Shad Khan as the 2013 recipient.
This year over 35,000 students will be taught JA’s financial literacy programs in North Florida. The annual Hall of Fame event, for which over 400 people were in attendance this year, brings together those in the community whose unwavering support impacts what Junior Achievement is able to accomplish now and into the future.
For more photos from the event, view our Facebook photo album.
*All photos by Living Image Photography*