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.