Junior Achievement has served the Lincoln community for 50 years, preparing students in kindergarten through 12th grade on financial literacy skills and entrepreneurship work. Junior Achievement now extends into multiple Nebraska communities, reaching 30,000 students annually.
In and out of the classroom, the 2010s were a decade of expansion for JA of Lincoln. Thanks to an anonymous donor who challenged JA to grow the JA of Lincoln Foundation, the organization took a giant leap forward in long-term financial stability. By 2012, the Foundation had grown to $500,000.
In 2011, the District of Grand Island was established, remaining under the umbrella of JA but growing in impact and self-governance. Three years later the District of Kearney, also under the JA of Lincoln umbrella, began with three pilot programs. Soon each of the new districts were reaching upwards of 3,000 students annually. Meanwhile, JA of Lincoln continued reaching new communities, including Seward, Beatrice, Bennet, York, and Pleasanton.
With classroom growth skyrocketing, JA of Lincoln also continued to establish innovative new events. The inaugural JA Stock Market Challenge took place in 2015, hosting 200 students. Six years later, the now-annual event hosts 550+ students from 30 high schools in a single day.
The JA USA Board of Directors recognized all this growth and innovation with the prestigious JA USA Hook award in 2018.
Growth marked JA of Lincoln’s transition into the new century, with 16 elementary schools becoming “All-JA Schools” (a distinction achieved when the JA curriculum is in every single classroom) in 2001. At the same time, the Foundation for Junior Achievement was being created to help ensure JA’s financial future.
Now ranked in the top 1% of domestic JA cities, JA of Lincoln continued to receive national attention, receiving a second Peak Performer among 148 JA cities by the JA Worldwide organization and receiving a Gold Summit Award for nine consecutive years of student growth and fiscal/operational excellence from the National JA Board of Directors. Then in 2005, JA of Lincoln received Platinum Summit Award from the JA Worldwide Board of Directors, recognizing thirteen consecutive years of student growth and fiscal/operational excellence. Nick Cusick became the second Nebraskan to win the prestigious Gold Leadership Award.
In 2006, the JA of Lincoln office moved from Goodyear property to office space at Southeast Community College, ending 39 years of rent-free space donated by Goodyear.
In 2008, JA of Lincoln decided to focus its efforts and resources on the ever-expanding K-12 programming, and the JA Company Evening program was retired. The end of the decade saw major change for the organization with Ken Carlson retiring as JA president after 32 years in 2009, and Tera Norris becoming president of JA of Lincoln in 2010.
JA of Lincoln continued to grow and innovate, becoming a pioneer in launching programs to reach communities and schools outside of Lincoln, including Norris, Waverly and Eagle. It was also in this time that former stand-alone franchises in Grand Island and Hastings came under the JA of Lincoln umbrella as part of a national JA re-alignment.
As programs were expanding in surrounding communities, JA was also growing it’s impact within Lincoln’s borders. The 90’s brought new pilot programs in Lincoln's middle schools, as well as expansion in Lincoln's Catholic schools. That growth was recognized by the National JA board of Directors, who awarded JA of Lincoln the Bronze Summit Award for four consecutive years of student growth and fiscal/operational excellence.
In 1999, JA Trustee Marc LeBaron received the Gold Leadership Award from the National Junior Achievement Board of Directors, becoming the first Nebraskan to receive this prestigious award.
By the end of the decade, JA of Lincoln’s student impact had grown to 6,000 in Lancaster County.
As Junior Achievement of Lincoln continued growing the JA Company Program to encourage entrepreneurship in local high school students, the organization was working hard behind the scenes to grow its foundation. More local businesses continued to sign on to support JA's mission, the JA Board of Trustees was established to support the JA Board of Directors, and JA of Lincoln was selected as one of the four best JA operations in the country.
Junior Achievement took a major step forward in becoming the organization as it functions today by creating in-school programs led by a community volunteer. It was in the 80’s that JA of Lincoln expanded to become a kindergarten through 12th grade in-school program organization. The first programs were piloted in fourth grade at Arnold Elementary and Economics at Lincoln East.
At the same time, the JA of Lincoln Company Program continued running strong throughout the 80’s, impacting an average of 450 kids a year who formed about 18 student companies annually.
In 1971, Dan Remigio – plant manager at Goodyear – with help from other community leaders, brought Junior Achievement to Lincoln, chartering Junior Achievement of Lincoln as a national Junior Achievement franchised office. Goodyear, with Dan’s continued support, donated the JA building at no cost to Junior Achievement, housing Junior Achievement until 2006. Goodyear continues to be a strong supporter of JA to this day.
Junior Achievement of Lincoln’s mission in the 1970s was to empower young people to understand, appreciate and experience the free enterprise system. The JA Company Program gave Lincoln’s high school students an opportunity to fill a need or solve a problem in their community by launching their own start-up business, thereby unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit. Local businesses and their employees mentored students during the 13-week program. This program ran until 2006 and gave thousands of Lincoln high school students a first-hand, engaging introduction to entrepreneurship.
Ken Carlson was hired in 1977 as JA president and held the position until 2009 - 32 years! Ken created a strong partnership between Lincoln’s business community and its schools - with Junior Achievement as the conduit. That partnership has been key to JA’s growth and impact throughout the decades. Lincoln businesses support JA through volunteers and financial support. Lincoln’s schools and educators continue to rely on JA to be a connection between the community and the classroom to show kids what is possible when they dream big and work hard.