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Junior Achievement welcomes new president

New Junior Achievement President Michael Gaffney seeks to expand program

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

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Michael Gaffney has moved from a senior marketing executive at United Way of Summit County to the top spot of Akron-based Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio.

“It was a great fit for me,” Gaffney said. “This is a brand everybody knows.”

Gaffney in November was named successor to David Best, who retired after nearly 40 years as a JA president, including 30 years with the Akron-area chapter. Gaffney, a New Franklin resident, previously was vice president of marketing and communications at United Way.

During his tenure, Best led an effort to reach more than 515,000 K-12 students with JA’s volunteer-led business programs.

“Dave successfully steered the organization through multiple moments of economic uncertainty and constantly changing educational landscapes,” said Donald Sedlock, area JA vice president. “Dave is leaving behind an organization that is well positioned for future growth. We are so thankful for Dave’s service and excited for the next chapter in JA’s history.”

The Akron-based JA program is in its 50th year. Junior Achievement uses volunteers to reach young people from kinder­garten to high school and teach them job readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy using age-appropriate lessons in the classroom and after school.

“I think it breaks down to inspiring young people to succeed in a global economy,” Gaffney said.

The Akron offices are in donated space at the back of the Myers Industries training and storage facility, behind South Main Street and off Firestone Parkway. Besides Gaffney, the local JA has five full-time employees and one part-time worker.

“What we want to do is raise awareness locally,” Gaffney said. “I want to make a more visible profile. We have 12 counties here that we cover.”

His goal over the next five years is to double the amount of students the Akron-based organization reaches annually in its territory from last year’s total of 22,720. JA volunteers went to more than 1,000 classrooms last year at 166 schools.

“The need is there,” Gaffney said.

To hit that five-year goal likely requires doubling the number of volunteers — 907 as of last year — Gaffney said.

“Both of these ships will rise at the same time,” he said. “A lot of our volunteers come from parents. A lot come from corporate groups.”

Businesses can use Junior Achievement as team-building exercises for employees, Gaffney said. The organization has a “JA For A Day” program where all lessons are compressed into one day and can allow dozens of employees to participate, he said.

Gaffney said he has been spending his initial weeks learning more about Junior Achievement. He said he has found Akron staff to be dedicated and driven.

Gaffney’s responsibilities include fundraising. And that means making sure current foundations and corporations that provide funding are happy and stay with the program, as well as finding new donors to help meet the organization’s five-year growth goals, he said.

“No money, no mission,” Gaffney said. Funding for the 2012-13 school year came from 87 individuals, 29 foundations and 199 corporations.

He also will be spending time with volunteers to make sure they are recognized, he said.

Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio covers Ashland, Coshocton, Crawford, Holmes, Knox, Marion, Medina, Morrow, Portage, Richland, Summit and Wayne counties.

More information is online at www.jaofnco.ja.org. The phone is 330-434-1875.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.


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