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Lightning Foundation Grant Spotlight: Junior Achievement of West Central Florida

by Erin Chenderlin / Tampa Bay Lightning

On April 23, the Lightning Foundation awarded grants to 16 local organizations totaling $120,500 at the Community Awards and Donor Recognition Reception. Grant applicants were asked to detail their organizations and give a proposed program or project, along with a description of how it qualifies under the Lightning Foundation's funding guidelines. The Foundation's Board of Directors selected the 16 organizations. is profiling each of the organizations and the grant they received. Check back daily for a new organization and see how the Lightning Foundation is truly fulfilling its mission to make Tampa Bay a better place to live, work and play.

Junior Achievement of West Central Florida

Through a continuing grant, the Lightning Foundation is helping children throughout Hillsborough County learn the value of business and economics within their community.

With a grant awarded this year to Junior Achievement of West Central Florida, the Lightning Foundation is providing continuing funding for JA BizTown, a mini-city located within the Junior Achievement Center facility that consists of 20 public and private enterprises.

"[JA BizTown] combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to the facility," said Richard George, President of Junior Achievement of West Central Florida. "They get the experience of an adult that day. They're thrilled to be there, but then they have respect, a fifth-grader's respect, of what an adult goes through every day."

Interaction within JA BizTown enables children to take on adult roles and act out principles taught in their classrooms. This interaction reinforces economic, business and financial concepts. The children, usually fifth-graders, receive many hours of in-class instruction before heading to their day-long experience at JA BizTown.

"As a capstone program, it sort of takes everything they learned K-5 and shows the relevancy of what they're doing," George said.

Working in JA BizTown, the students learn how an economy works. They run banks, restaurants, health care centers and grocery stores, among other venues, and get to see firsthand how the economy cycles with the ebb and flow of both making and spending money.

George said having the support from the Lightning Foundation is a huge reason why JA BizTown has been so successful, and why it continues to thrive.

"It validates our programs and the need for businesses to invest in our young people," he said. "When you have the Lightning behind you, it says a lot about your organization.

"They're a tremendous partner and not only with the dollars, but they give us in-kind support and volunteers. It's a full partnership."

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