Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest has received $1 million, its largest grant ever, from the Otto Bremer Foundation to expand its financial-education and signature high school entrepreneurial activities to hard-pressed rural schools in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin.
"We have a three-year plan to reach out to [rural] high schools and partner with other nonprofits, with a special focus on immigrants and low-income kids," said Gina Blayney, CEO of Midwest Junior Achievement (JA). "Entrepreneurship is one of the foundational pillars of Junior Achievement along with personal finance and college and career readiness, and this initiative will allow us to expand our programming and outreach."
Immigrants start a disproportionately high number of small businesses compared with the general population, according to recent studies by Junior Achievement, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Junior Achievement will leverage its work with local business and nonprofit partners.
Brian Lipschultz. a Twin Cities businessman and Bremer Foundation trustee, noted that Otto Bremer, an immigrant who started as an accounting clerk 115 years ago, became a banking and brewing magnate before leaving his wealth to the community.
"The legacy of our founder … the Otto Bremer Foundation and Bremer Banks … is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit," Lipschultz said in a statement. "So we believe the combination of programming and geographic focus can inspire students to pursue entrepreneurial ventures, create jobs and strengthen our region's economy."
St. Paul-based Bremer Banks are owned largely by the Bremer Foundation, which has donated more than $400 million over the years in the communities it serves.
The Otto Bremer Entrepreneurship Fund will adapt and expand several successful JA programs, including in-school enterprises such as JA Company, which lets high school students research, create and market a real service or product as part of a school-based club. Another program, JA Titan, lets students apply their knowledge of businesses as they compete in a virtual environment to create and market a company in an interactive business simulation.
Minneapolis and St. Paul JA teams led by minority and immigrant students have had national success in recent years.
In 2012, a Minneapolis Edison High "company" finished among the nation's top 15 Junior Achievement student companies and the participants spent several days in Washington, D.C., competing and collaborating with teams from across the United States.
A JA team from St. Paul's High School for Recording Arts was selected as the 2011 North American JA company winner.