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Junior Achievement and FirstEnergy Foundation Partner to Build Brighter FuturesShare icon

Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio (NCO) and FirstEnergy Foundation are teaming up to help young people take their first steps toward their careers through JA Virtual Inspire, an online, interactive career exploration fair for students in grades 7-12.

Set to launch March 10, 2021, the program's aim is to help students, some of whom may not have the resources to do so on their own, take the first steps in deciding a career path at a crucial time in their development. Currently more than 15,000 students from 60 schools (in 11 counties, including Richland, Stark, Summit and Wayne) are registered to participate. In addition, over 60 area companies and trade organizations, including ten universities, will host virtual booths at the event.

"Whether in a 7th grade English class or a 10th grade economics class, a simple but vital question of our students resurfaces time and again: what do you want to be when you grow up?" said Lori McCleese, president of Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio. "We tell our youth to dream big and shoot for the stars, but often they don't even know what stars are there in the first place."

To prepare for JA Virtual Inspire and jumpstart career ideas, students will complete activities ahead of the event, including a career assessment, learning soft skills and developing a career plan. Videos and interactive content allow students to connect their current interests and talents to potential career paths.

"Our original goal was to have 10,000 students and 50 companies participate in this event with a vision of exposing students to the different ways they can build a successful career and life right here in our region," said McCleese. "We are thrilled that our schools and business partners see the benefit of a career exploration event. Employers need to build their future talent streams and students are craving quality educational experiences. With the strong support of FirstEnergy Foundation and local businesses, we believe we can help deliver both."

FirstEnergy Foundation's financial support of JA Virtual Inspire was part of the Foundation's "Investing with Purpose" campaign, which donated $3.4 million to organizations focused on supporting organizations that advance health and safety, workforce development, educational and social justice initiatives across FirstEnergy's service territory.

"From the beginning, our goal has been to help those who have been impacted most significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Lorna Wisham, president of FirstEnergy Foundation. "Junior Achievement's mission directly aligns with our efforts to help bridge the digital divide and provide support for programs which may have otherwise been lost without in-person events. As a former member of JA, I know first-hand how important access to these programs are for student development."

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