Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ) held its New Jersey Business Hall of Fame Centennial Celebration last night, marking the national organization’s 100-year anniversary and recognizing the past 63 Hall of Fame Laureate Legacies in the state who, since 2003, have come from leading New Jersey corporations.
These men and women, throughout the years, have volunteered their time as JANJ mentors, helping students in New Jersey acquire business and leadership skills.
On an annual basis, some 82,000 students go through JANJ programs. During last night’s virtual ceremony, which was live streamed on YouTube (the in-person event was originally scheduled to be held this past April), a group of those students described how the organization has helped them obtain skills such as leadership, entrepreneurship, workforce readiness, and financial literacy.
JANJ President Catherine Milone said that even though 2020 had its many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the students “have inspired us with their innovative spirit and compassion. They will to stay on the path and keep learning, dreaming and planning for their futures.”
The theme of the event was “100 Years of Growing Mighty Trees,” and Milone, talking directly to students, commented: “All that you are doing today to prepare for your future – the tools you learn, the wisdom you acquire, the success you achieve, and the failure you will endure – these are the seeds that will support your growth and help you create a vision for your future.”
Three JANJ board members were interviewed by two JANJ students during the celebration on: why these executives support the organization; what JANJ can add to a student’s skills; and what characteristics do they see in successful businesspeople?”
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, commented, “The skills that are built by JANJ are the skills that New Jersey needs for its next-generation workforce. It is incredible to believe, but we have a skills gap that programs like JANJ help to fill as the organization prepares today’s youth for tomorrow’s jobs,” she said.
When asked about what JANJ can add to a student’s skills, even when they are getting good grades in school, Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said, “Book learning and having good grades in school is wonderful. However, you also need the soft skills to achieve success … the interpersonal skills, the confidence. That is something JANJ brings to the table. It allows students to interact with leaders who they can emulate.”
Asked what characteristics he sees in other business leaders, John Harmon, founder, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said they include: integrity, “Your word has to be your bond”; hard work, “You don’t ever start something and not complete it”; and “It’s never about you! If you are an employee at a small, mid-sized or large business, you are there to contribute to the goals and objectives of that institution. When it becomes about you, you have lost one of the most innate qualities of a good leader,” Harmon said.
Siekerka said passion is another quality. “When you wake up every day and you are headed to whatever your particular vocation or job is, if you are not bringing your passion to it, then you need to do something else,” she said. “Additionally, other people can see and feel your passion. Quite frankly, it is contagious.”
Commenting on the continued support for tomorrow’s youth, Christine LaCroix, JANJ chairperson and energy & resources partner, audit & assurance, at Deloitte, asked attendees to make a contribution to JANJ’s Centennial Tree of Giving Program. Tied into the theme of “Growing a Mighty Tree,” the goal of the program is to sell 100 leaves (donations), representing JA’s 100 years.
The campaign seeks to raise $1 million to develop a JANJ Career Pathways Center (CPC). More information on the campaign can be found here: https://janj.ja.org/about-ja/opportunity/ja-career-pathways-center-centennial-capital-campaign
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