Column: Junior Achievement’s Discovery Center grand opening Aug. 20

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, July 26, 2013

As Junior Achievement of Georgia prepares to unveil the Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center — a novel financial literacy experience for middle school students — it has several reasons to celebrate.

It raised more than $15 million for the Discovery Center, which is being constructed on the mezzanine level of the Georgia World Congress Center’s Building C. It will include two interactive venues — JA BizTown and JA Finance Park — as well as the Delta Career Exploration Center, that will feature career opportunities and jobs of the future.

“The campaign has completely met and surpassed its goal,” said Jack Harris, president of Junior Achievement of Georgia. He said that a who’s who of Atlanta companies and foundations have contributed to the initiative. Harris said Chick-fil-A, SunTrust Banks, Delta Air Lines and the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation deserved special credit for the campaign’s success.

The Discovery Center also has completely sold out all the 36 storefronts — 18 in each of the venues — to a total of 40 companies (a few are co-leasing their spaces).

“The majority of Atlanta’s large corporations are part of this,” Harris said. “We have got representation from all these companies and brands. What they’ve invested in, this tells you a lot about the Atlanta community and its commitment to education.”

The Discovery Center will serve 30,000 middle school students a year from the school systems in Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties and Marietta. Students will have an opportunity to learn to manage personal budgets as well as experience working in a simulated town with real businesses.

Junior Achievement has similar centers across the country but Harris said Atlanta’s “is taking the best of what others have done and expands on that.”

The Discovery Center will have its grand opening on Aug. 20 when people will be invited to see how the spaces have been transformed. The first day that students will begin attending the center will be Sept. 10, and it will be in operation every weekday throughout the school year.

Project Grad’s Spiva off to Seattle

Yolanda Watson Spiva, CEO of Project GRAD Atlanta since 2008, has been named president and CEO of the College Success Foundation, a national college readiness scholarship organization based in Seattle.

Spiva, who joined Project GRAD Atlanta in 2006, was instrumental in expanding the organization’s services to include more than 13,000 middle and high school students per year, helping nearly 1,000 Atlanta students enroll in colleges and universities each year.

Despite Project GRAD’s expanded services, Spiva acknowledged that “there still remains lots of ground for the organization to cover” given Atlanta’s low graduation rates.

“It is therefore with mixed emotions that I leave Atlanta to pursue this work on a national scale,” Spiva wrote in an email to Project GRAD supporters. The Project GRAD Atlanta board has named an interim executive director, Nanette Lee Reynolds, who has served as a consultant to the organization since February. She will serve through the end of the year. The board is conducting a national search for a permanent successor.

PWC’s Price heading to NYC

Gary Price, market managing partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Atlanta, Alabama and Tennessee, is joining the accounting firm’s national leadership team as its chief administrative officer and partner affairs leader.

In his new role, he will be reporting directly to CEO Bob Moritz and will be based in New York City.

Price said the promotion is “bittersweet” because he will be leaving 14 years of “incredible memories in Atlanta and working in the community.

“You have allowed me to exercise my passion for young people — our future — engaging in activities and organizations working to improve public education,” Price wrote in an email to business colleagues.

Price chaired the 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission that did the preliminary investigation on the cheating scandal of the Atlanta Public Schools.

In his email, Price said the timing of his relocation is uncertain because PwC is looking to identify his successor, and is seeking a smooth transition.

Wells Fargo No. 1 on giving list

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has just released its latest rankings of top corporate donors, and Wells Fargo Bank was No. 1, with total giving of $315.8 million to 19,500 nonprofits. That edged out Walmart’s giving of $311.6 million.

Wells Fargo’s numbers in Georgia also were impressive. In 2012, Wells Fargo gave a total of 1,202 grants totaling$7.6 million. The bank also gave another $7 million in the state through the NeighborhoodLIFT program, which primarily went to down payments for homebuying in the city of Atlanta.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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