Michelle Anderson, back row center, is president of Junior Achievement of Maine. She recently won the national organization’s MVP Award and is seen here with a group of kindergarten students at Saccarappa Elementary School in Westbrook this past spring. Contributed

PORTLAND — As president of Junior Achievement of Maine, Michelle Anderson sees her primary role as preparing students to become the state’s next generation of prepared workers.

Anderson joined the staff of Junior Achievement right out of college as a marketing intern and became so enamored of the organization’s mission of providing workforce readiness skills, financial literacy, and entrepreneurial education that she never left.

Michelle Anderson, left, with Junior Achievement Maine marketing coordinator Jenna Jeffrey, development assistant Stephanie Heatley, and Director of Operations Jill Jamison. Contributed

Now, she’s won the national organization’s MVP Award, which is given out annually to staff members who demonstrate a “passion for the mission … commitment to excellence … and results orientation,” among other attributes, according to a Junior Achievement USA press release.

Anderson received the award at the JA National Leadership Conference held in Colorado Springs earlier this month.

She took over as president of the Maine chapter four years ago and has also served the state organization as the program coordinator and marketing director.

Anderson said she’s “extremely honored and humbled” to receive the MVP Award from JA, but added, “this recognition is shared with the team here at JA Maine. It helps validate the great work we are doing to change the lives of young people in our state.”

“I feel so lucky to have a job that I absolutely love,” Anderson said. “It is so rewarding to see students engaged” in JA programming, which serves to ‘broaden their opportunities and raise their self-efficacy. Working for JA makes every day rewarding, challenging and fun.”

“Michelle is an extremely worthy recipient of the MVP Award,” said Dave Vasconcelos, chairman of the JA of Maine board. “She is committed to advancing the JA mission through … hard work and enthusiasm.”

JA of Maine worked with more than 15,000 students in 174 schools across the state during the 2018-2019 academic year with the help of over 600 volunteers, the JA of Maine website says.

This year Junior Achievement USA is celebrating its 100th anniversary. In Maine, JA began at Portland High School in 1965.

JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to plan for their future and make smart academic and economic choices, according to the national group’s website.

JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers that work to provide “relevant, hands-on experiences,” the website adds.

Overall, Anderson said, “JA focuses on the real-world skills needed in the workplace and introduces students to companies and career opportunities here in Maine.”

JA works with students in kindergarten through 12th grade and Anderson said its programs are “all about providing relevance and bridging the gap between business and education. We help students discover the job opportunities available to them and are excited to be part of the effort to build a prepared workforce … to fill the growing needs of our state’s economy.”

Data shows, she said, that JA alum have higher levels of educational attainment, career satisfaction and are more active in business ownership than many of their peers.

“The most rewarding moments are when we hear alumni talk about the impact JA made on their life (and that) they’re still using the lessons learned through JA in their everyday life,” Anderson said.

Winning the MVP Award from the national organization is more than a personal honor, she added. Her hope is that the attention the award garners will get more people interested in becoming involved in JA.

“JA relies heavily on volunteers and (donated) financial resources to bring our programs to life,” she said. “Everyone has life and work experience to share.”

Anderson said JA Maine partners with a variety of companies across the state, both large and small, that all face the same challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

She said JA is always looking for businesses interested in joining forces. Any business owner wishing to know more or to sign up with JA Maine should call 347-4333, Anderson said

“Junior Achievement of Maine has seen incredible growth the last few years,” she said. “We are revolutionizing education and providing the real world, hands-on learning experiences needed for students to gain skills and knowledge and prepare for their future career.”

Right from the beginning, “I saw the amazing impact JA has on students,” Anderson added. “With the support of the business community, I am excited to take Junior Achievement of Maine to the next level and continue to impact the lives of more Maine students this coming year.”

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