Making financial education fun with Junior Achievement

Raymond James has partnered with Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay for more than four decades to help students bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.

Raymond James and JA Tampa Bay

A longstanding partnership

Junior Achievement (JA) is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students in grades K-12 about financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.  

Raymond James began its partnership with Junior Achievement in 1982 when then-CEO, now Chair Emeritus Tom James joined the board of JA Tampa Bay. Among his many contributions to the organization over the decades-long relationship, Tom helped to solidify a relationship between JA Tampa Bay and Pinellas County’s Gus A. Stavros Institute – another Raymond James charitable partner – to create what are now cornerstone Junior Achievement programs: JA BizTown and JA Finance Park.

A group of around 20 Raymond James volunteers pose at Finance Park wearing Raymond James Cares shirts

“The Stavros Institute was paving the way for innovative, immersive learning with their Enterprise Village and Finance Park programs,” JA Tampa Bay President Richard George said. “Tom recognized the opportunity for us to collaborate instead of compete, so we began to work together to make a greater impact. That’s when JA BizTown and Finance Park were born.”

BizTown, Enterprise Village and Finance Park are immersive simulations that allow 5th and 8th grade students to dive deep into economic concepts, workplace skills and personal finance practices. Thanks to the collaboration driven by Tom in Tampa Bay, JA BizTown and Finance Park are now global Junior Achievement initiatives.

"I believe it's imperative that we as a financial services firm support organizations like Junior Achievement that are helping to solidify students’ understanding of key financial literacy concepts and prepare them with tools to survive in the real world,” Tom said.

The partnership between Raymond James and JA has continued over the years as a natural extension of the firm’s commitment to financial education in the communities where we live and work. In 2015, Tom was recognized by Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay as the recipient of the National Gold Leadership Award, the organization's most prestigious national award for excellence in volunteerism. 

“Raymond James is always the first to volunteer, the first to support our new initiatives,” Richard said. “Our community impact wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of Raymond James. I would say Tom James is responsible for most, if not all, of our milestones.” 

Providing first-hand financial experience

JA’s unique approach to financial education allows volunteers from across the community to deliver financial curriculum while sharing their own knowledge and expertise with students. JA of Tampa Bay’s learning experiences aim to bring relevance, authenticity and application into everyday education to energize students about the future. 

Patrick O'Connor sits at a table with three students“What’s so exciting about JA is that it’s experiential learning,” Raymond James Senior Vice President, Division Director and JA Tampa Bay Board Chair Patrick O’Connor said. “It’s not just learning from a textbook – it’s putting kids in environments that simulate real life.”

Since 2001, Raymond James associates have volunteered more than 6,000 hours through JA of Tampa Bay programs like BizTown and Finance Park. 

“Finance Park absolutely floors most of the kids when they realize how many expenses come with being an adult,” Raymond James Supervisor, Account Services and JA Tampa Bay engagement lead Alexa Grossenbach said. “It’s fun to see their wheels turning. After spending the day budgeting and learning more about the cost of day-to-day needs, many students even express a greater appreciation for their parents and how they manage to pay for everything!”  

Creating purposeful, meaningful and memorable education opportunities for students of all ages

Junior Achievement’s purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy by providing relevant, authentic and hands-on education. One of the newest programs created to achieve this goal is 3DE: JA’s high school education program. 

Alexa Grossenbach helps a student on his iPadLaunched in 2015, 3DE schools address the structural inequalities in education by providing access to in-demand careers, fostering school stability and building a culture of inclusionary instruction and individual value. One of 14 communities across the country with integrated 3DE programs, Tampa Bay is home to six 3DE schools: Chamberlain High School, Dunedin High School, Gibbs High School, Hillsborough High School, St. Petersburg High School and Tenoroc High School.

As part of the program’s holistic and comprehensive education model, 3DE schools partner with companies like Raymond James to allow students to present a solution to a real company challenge. Students work on these case challenges for months before presenting their solutions to company leaders.

“As a Chamberlain High School graduate, I love seeing innovative programs like 3DE make their way to my alma mater,” Raymond James Bank Chair and CEO and JA Tampa Bay supporter Steve Raney said. “3DE’s dynamic, experiential education model is unmatched.”

According to JA, 3DE students consistently outperform their host school comparison peers on 100 percent of the statistically significant State Milestones and other Academic Benchmarks.

St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Chamberlain and Hillsborough High School students are currently preparing a case study for Raymond James. The students will present to firm leaders in April 2023.

A common goal

JA’s and Raymond James’ shared commitment to financial empowerment is a key reason why the partnership has stood the test of time.

“As a financial services firm committed to giving back, Junior Achievement fits seamlessly as a signature charitable partner of ours,” Patrick said. “I can say with confidence that our community-minded associates will continue to support JA for many years to come.”

Raymond James Cares

Together, we make a difference to build, strengthen and grow our communities. To learn more about the firm’s corporate philanthropy, click here.

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