Racing to raise funds for Junior Achievement

Racing to raise funds for Junior Achievement
JA Boy$ Program Manager Johathan Bishop, with Director of Special Initiatives Teresa Smith, Development Manager Wendy Viciana and Special Event Coordinator Shaina Tillman

It was the sweet taste of victory that racers were craving as they lined up in pit row at the Second Annual Junior Achievement Grand Prix race. The adrenaline-filled evening at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway was a draw for drivers who came out to show their fundraising fervor to benefit the JA Boy$ initiative in Northeast Florida.

The gender-specific program, funded entirely by donations, helps deliver much-needed dollars for curriculum training packages for volunteers. The full-throttle goal was to raise $20,000 for the special programs which benefit young boys in Northeast Florida. Support from Zaxby’s, Coca-Cola, Autobahn Indoor Speedway, along with participants from Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Citi and Northwestern Mutual helped the event get off to a strong start on July 28.

According to the local JA President, Steve St. Amand, JA Boy$ helps volunteers train to teach financial literacy, workforce preparation and entrepreneurship to boys. After the successful pilot program for JA Girl$, leadership at the organization worked to design programs to meet the needs of boys and young men. By developing boys into better men through mentorships and life skills, outside of their curriculum-based classroom teaching, the programs have been a success, said St. Amand.

Bill Koch, of Northwestern Mutual, headquartered on Riverside Avenue, has been on the board for 18 years, and has donated countless hours to grow young minds in Jacksonville. Koch sees the Grand Prix as a great way to stir some interest, while building camaraderie with employees at the respective companies involved.

“Three of my best associates won a contest to race against the boss, and we’ll see who’s going to win,” said Koch.

In addition to his race day challenges, Koch involves others to reach directly to students at local schools. “We go to San Jose Elementary every year and teach for a day,” he said. Koch believes the opportunity affords volunteers a chance to encourage students to aspire to higher education and grow their potential.

Through a multitude of programs in Northeast Florida, Junior Achievement reached 52,881 students, both boys and girls, during the 2014-15 school year. The organization continues to encourage young people to connect with learning opportunities to reinforce the importance of staying in school. More information about mentorships and volunteer opportunities can be found online at

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