Last evening, Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ) celebrated the three newest members of its New Jersey Business Hall of Fame. The class of 2021 includes: John Harmon Sr., founder, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey; Valerie Montecalvo, CEO and president of Bayshore Recycling; and Steve Rusckowski, chairman and president of Quest Diagnostics.
With 63 individuals inducted in the Business Hall of Fame since 2003, the event, which was held virtually this year, recognizes and celebrates individuals who have consistently demonstrated throughout their professional lives: high ethical standards, mentorship, community involvement and innovative leadership.
“These three laureates are extraordinary individuals who, over the course of their careers, have exemplified notable leadership attributes as our past laureate legacies,” said Catherine Milone, JANJ president. “These attributes are: grit, resilience, determination, high ethical standards, and a commitment to working on their own ethical causes and in their communities. It is these very same characteristics that JANJ hopes to instill in New Jersey students as our future leaders.”
The New Jersey Business Hall of Fame program is JANJ’s signature fundraising event that supports the organization’s work, specifically its High School Heroes program, a service-learning initiative where JANJ collaborates with high schools around the state to recruit and train students to serve as volunteer role models in community schools.
These High School Heroes present themes such as money management, entrepreneurship and other business-oriented curriculums to younger students, helping to spark their curiosity and build life skills, employability skills and soft skills.
“At the same time, these High School Heroes are also honing their presentation, time management, communications, and above all else, their leadership skills,” said Milone.
The three laureates honored last night exemplify the core mission of JANJ, which is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed.
“As I speak to the young men and women who are part of this great organization, I encourage [them] to take full advantage of the resources and all the people who take the time to invest and ensure that [they] have a successful life,” Harmon said. “It is not who you know, but ultimately who knows you. Life is what you make it. Just because you come from some challenging beginnings does not determine who you will ultimately be.”
Speaking to the power of JANJ, Rusckowski said, “We see the impact that Junior Achievement is having in New Jersey. They are reaching more than 86,000 students and engaging 170 schools. Like many successful organizations, when the pandemic struck, JANJ had to adjust and place additional emphasis on training opportunities. Thank you for your commitment to growing the leaders of tomorrow.”
“This award means so much to me because as a Junior Achievement alumni, my experience in the program helped channel and drive my ambitious young self,” added Montecalvo. “The many programs provided to New Jersey students through JANJ are especially needed at this time. The need for financial education and workforce preparation is vital to a positive work experience.”
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