By Brenda Flanagan
In a room full of CEOs, corporate presidents and power brokers, three teens stood tall at the New Jersey Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
They emceed the show, worked the crowd and stepped up as ambassadors for a non-profit mentoring group called Junior Achievement of New Jersey.
“Junior Achievement is something I’ve been part of for five years,” said Leo Ricketts.
The Newark native certainly did achieve. He now attends Seton Hall University. Nahzae Branch joined Junior Achievement back when he started kindergarten at Newark’s Lincoln School.
“I’m in sixth grade and I’m looking forward to having a bright future. I know it’ll be bright, because I’ve worked very hard and I’ve been on the Honor Roll,” Branch said.
“The purpose of Junior Achievement is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. We do this through the eyes and lives of volunteer role models in the corporate community,” explained Junior Achievement of New Jersey President Catherine Milone.
Those corporate role models attended the April 4 ceremony, applauded the three new members inducted into the Business Hall of Fame and bid on silent auction items; in all, raising $300,000 for Junior Achievement of New Jersey. The group reaches more than 50,000 students a year in more than 70 school districts across the state.
“It is building our youth for their workplace, for higher education. There’s no better mission than that,” said New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President and Hall of Fame inductee Tom Bracken.
“And it’s just so important that people have someone to look to, to guide them and set them on the right path. I wish I had that. I wish I knew about Junior Achievement when I was a young person,” said Michelle Lee of Wells Fargo.
Lee says she had to forge her own way up the corporate ranks. She’s now region president for Well’s Fargo Community Banking in the Northeast. The Junior Achievement members watch and learn.
We asked Ricketts what he’d learned about the business world.
“Money tough! Finances are very complicated and budgets are necessary to keep all the money together,” he said.
Lesson learned. Ricketts, himself, is now a role model — mentoring younger students at local elementary schools.