June Newsletter

Dear Friends of JA,

Magical moments are created every day at the McGrath Family JA BizTown. The thriving mini-city is home to more than 17,000 fifth graders, each year as they discover how to start and run a profitable business. This month was even more memorable because students had a chance to celebrate JA BizTown’s 10th Birthday with some very special guests.

Two monumental supporters of the program, Wendy Gillespie and Laurie McGrath, along with Board Members, volunteers, community partners and our friends at Jack-n-the-Box, Mission Federal Credit Union, SDG&E, and The Super Dentists, made the day very special, as they joined 150 students to sing “Happy Birthday” to the little city that inspires big dreams.  In case you missed it, click here to watch the fun.  

If JA BizTown has made a difference for you and your child, we are asking you to “light the way” by sponsoring a Junior Achievement student. Your gift of financial literacy will be celebrated with a candle as you allow our students to dream for a better and brighter future. Select your BizTown candle and keep the program thriving for years to come.

 Stay tuned….next month we are looking forward to sharing our accomplishments in a special “School Year in Review” report.

Warmest regards, 

Marla Black

Laurie McGrath and Wendy Gillespie celebrate JA BizTown's 10th Birthday with 5th grade students.

The History of the McGrath Family JA BizTown

Since opening its doors ten years ago, the popular 10,000 sq. foot mini-city has “employed” nearly 126,000 5th grade students. The young adults may not be old enough to drive, work or vote. But that will not stop them from running a business, starting their own company, and earning a profit as they becomeJA BizTown Citizens for the day.

After four weeks of curriculum and preparation inside the classroom, students have to apply for a job and learn how a city’s economy works. They then put their knowledge into practice by working a job at one of the 21 life-sized San Diego businesses. Students earn paychecks, open bank accounts, pay taxes, vote, and are challenged to earn a profit in their business.

“This interactive, project-based program teaches students how to manage their own personal finances and the importance of becoming a successful professional within our community,” said Marla Black, President and CEO at Junior Achievement.

The unique program would not have happened without the collaboration of three dedicated JA supporters, Wendy Gillespie and Carlee and Laurie McGrath. Wendy and her late husband, Marty Capdevilla, created the home for JA, which is now known as the Capdevilla Gillespie Center for Junior Achievement, in 2006. We are also incredibly grateful to Carlee and Laurie McGrath for naming the mini-city.

Our sincere thanks to our faithful Shop Sponsors for their financial and volunteer support.  We could not do it without your support:  ABC-Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Cox Communications, EDCO, H.G. Fenton Company, Jack in the Box, Kaiser Permanente, Mission Federal Credit Union, NBC 7/39, Procopio, SDG&E, San Diego Humane SocietySan Diego International Airport, Scripps Institution of OceanographySea World, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Super Dentists, The UPS Store, and U.S. Bank.  

As we honor ten years of JA BizTown, we are asking you to light the way.” Your investment will be celebrated with a candle as you allow our students to dream for a better and brighter future. 

Select your BizTown candle and keep the program thriving for years to come.


JA’s Corporate Partners Go Back to School

As we celebrate another successful school year, we want to thank our tireless volunteers for bringing the JA Day program to life for thousands of elementary school students. Studies show children learn best from a combination of inside and outside influences.  For this reason, we appreciate you exposing JA students to new things and helping them connect classroom learning to the real-world of adult responsibilities. 

This month we are grateful to our corporate partners, Allianz Global Investors, Bank of America and Deloitte for giving K-5th grade students real-world experiences so they can dream for a bigger and brighter future. 


Allianz Global Investors team kicks off JA Day at Kempton Elementary  

JA Board Director, Karen Harrison at Bank of America JA Day at Kimbrough Elementary


JA Board Director, Susan Steele & Christina Amaroso at Deliotte's JA Day at Foster Elementary


Making a Striking Difference for JA

This year over 75,000 students learned how to get a job, start a business and how to manage their money by experiencing one of JA’s programs.  But there are 500,000 students in San Diego.  We believe every student should receive the skills they need to succeed. That is why we are so grateful to AT&T, EY, LpL Financial, KPMG, Mission Federal Credit Union, PwC, Retirement Benefits Group, SDG&E, Silvergate Bank, Swagelok, U.S. Bank, Union Bank, USB Financial Services and all of the various corporate partners for participating in this year’s Bowl-A-Thon fundraising campaign.   With your support, 1,000 students, who would not have the opportunity, will now receive a JA program.  It is not too late to particpate in JA Bowl-A-Thon! 

Sign-Up Now!




Making an "A" for JA

JA is proud to recognize Tyler Whitehead as this month’s donor spotlight.  Tyler, the oldest son of JA Board Member, Chad Whitehead, Audit Partner at EY, said he was shocked by a statistic that “an overwhelming majority of teens --87%-- admit they don’t know much about personal finance.” 



(From left to right: Chad, Sarah and Tyler Whitehead are all smiles as they showcase Tyler's senior project for JA.)

(The Whitehead family celebrates Tyler's recent graduation from Poway High.)

The recent Poway High graduate was surprised to learn that many of his peers, fall into this category. Tyler decided financial failure should not be an option for his peers.  He dedicated thirteen-weeks to spread the word and seek funding for JA’s newest budgeting center, Mission Fed JA Finance Park for his senior project.


 “JA Finance Park has given me practical, everyday financial knowledge that is simply not taught in the classrooms,” said Tyler. 

By speaking to several large professional groups, sending out emails and appearing as a special guest on SDUT’s community radio show, Tyler was able to raise $13,000 for Junior Achievement’s Finance Park program.  The financial support will allow 260 students to experience the Finance Park simulation. Thank you Tyler for your dedication and support to ensure all teens are prepared for financial success. 


2nd Annual Codechella Inspires STEM Careers

Middle and high school students had fun showcasing their coding skills at the 2nd Annual Codechella: Coding Competition.  Students were challenged to put their “skills” to the test as they programmed NAO Robots to dance and raced small balls through challenging maze-like game boards for the “Sphero Robots Race.



This event would not have happened without the support of our regional partners, San Diego County College and Career Readiness Consortium, SB 1070 Regional Pathways,  College, Career & Technical Education (CCTE) representing San Diego Unified School District, and  Doing What Matters.  We appreciate their commitment to demystify computer science and introduce students to the tremendous job opportunities in this growing field.


“The need for these high-tech skills is critical to the San Diego workforce and we are so thankful to San Diego City College, San Diego Unified, CCTE, SDCCCRC, and SB 1070 Regional Pathways for giving us the unique opportunity to teach digital literacy to our kids,” said Ashley Packard, Work-Based Learning Manager at JA of San Diego County.

Despite growing demand for jobs in the field, it remains marginalized throughout the US K-12 education system.  California is one of 17 states that does not require all high schools to offer computer science courses. Learn more about the need to teach computer programming and JA's Job Shadow program: http://bit.ly/2sza9cQ


Wanted: Volunteer Summer Camp Counselors

We are looking for fun Volunteer Camp Counselors to help us host an unforgettable summer camp at Mission Fed JA Finance Park. This is a great opportunity for young adults to gain volunteer experience to boost a high school or college resume. Counselors will get an inside look into potential career paths in San Diego. Learn more: http://bit.ly/2twsvbO

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Kristi Zimsky

Kristi Zimsky

PR and Social Media Manager