By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Anyone who is very familiar with Junior Achievement of East Tennessee (JAET) knows that there is no greater champion for the program than Clinton resident Joe Hollingsworth. It was his vision for and passion, not to mention fundraising prowess, that led to the organization’s premier facility on Charles G. Seivers Boulevard just off I-75 in the county seat of Anderson County.
Yesterday, at an event that also commemorated the 75,000th student to be served in the 15-year old facility, Hollingsworth and his family doubled down on that commitment with a $2.5 million immediate gift and a promise of another $2.5 million if JAET can raise an additional $5 million from other sources.
“We need to step-up to the next level,” the Clinton businessman told a small group of other community leaders, many of them Laureates, as they are called, in JAET’s “East Tennessee Business Hall of Fame” that was launched in 1989. Preparing youth to follow in the footsteps of the Laureates and be successful businesspeople is the mission of the organization.
Ahead of announcing the gift and challenge under a campaign named the “Laureate Venture Fund,” Hollingsworth uttered these words on several occasions: “Think big.” He talked about turning 13 years of age and working for his father’s construction company. Over the next several years, Hollingsworth said he came to realize that “big things cannot be accomplished by driving nails.” So, at age 16, he petitioned the court to allow him to own property, and he founded his own company with his own crew.
“This (the family’s gift, pledge and campaign) takes JAET to the next level,” Hollingsworth said, a point that was reiterated by Callie Archer, the organization’s President who presided at the event where she celebrated the milestone of students served over the last 15 years, accomplishments in spite of the impact of COVID-19, and the pledge from the Hollingsworth family.
“We are thrilled to have people back in our facility after 18 months,” she told the group at the beginning of the program. Archer also spotlighted several success stories including one related to Austin-East Magnet School that she shared at a recent Knoxville Chamber of Commerce webinar about its just released “Capital Access Redefined” report.
During the panel discussion that we captured in this teknovation.biz post and again yesterday, Archer celebrated the effort of the students who sold $864 worth of socks in less than 30 minutes. “The pride they took in that accomplishment was incredible,” she said. The students have continued their efforts in spite of supply chain challenges and have now generated $2,500 in revenue from sales.
Of the new campaign, Archer described it as being “designed to fuel innovation” in the region for years to come.