For the last six years, Chick-fil-A Foundation has been working closely with Junior Achievement to expand youth education. Having first partnered to create the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center in downtown Atlanta in 2013, today over 21 Chick-fil-A Operator Markets sponsor simulated store fronts at their local JA facilities, while another 268 Operators support JA in other capacities.
Most recently, JA introduced its “school-within-a-school” concept called JA Academy. Currently being piloted in Atlanta, the immersive program allows students the opportunity to experience a magnet-style approach to learning — all while staying within the four walls of their public high school.JA works with counselors and school admin to ensure they are targeting the middle 80% of students, which reflects the greater society.
Launched in 2015 at Banneker High School, JA Academy has since expanded to several other high schools within the Fulton County, Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb County, and Gwinnett County School Systems.Chick-fil-A Foundation is proud to be a corporate partner of JA Academy at Banneker and to serve as the leadpartner of JA Academy’s newest addition, Frederick Douglass High School, which opened in fall 2017.
Here’s how it works: JA Academy teaches students how to approach and solve real-life issues through practical exercises such as business case challenges, which are created by partners like Chick-fil-A.
“Students can only strive to be what they have seen.” says Douglass’ JA School Partnership Manager TeCori Elder-Scott. “Through the case challenges, we’re able to expose our students to a wide variety of careers in their area and community.”
This year, the Chick-fil-A case challenge at Douglass was “Creating the Customer Experience.” To kick off the challenge, Chick-fil-A staff visited Douglass to share how the company executes operational excellence, delivers incredible customer service, and activates emotional connections with customers. The students then set out to answer this question:“How can Chick-fil-A continue raising the bar on the customer experience in order to drive long-term customer loyalty?”
The challenge culminated with the four groups with the best case challenge visiting the Chick-fil-A Support Center to present before a panel of Operators, staff and executives.
While Douglass recently completed its first school year with JA Academy, the impact is already apparent. According to TeCori, the discipline and suspension rate of JA Academy students is remarkably lower than the rest of the school, and the absentee rate has dropped 60 percent.
“The students are excited to learn and feel safe in the classroom, allowing them to make the most of their education,” TeCori says.
Much of this early success can be attributed to the JA Academy teachers, like Kimberly Hughley, who see the long-term potential for this type of teaching approach.
“The thing that inspired me to become a JA Academy teacher was hearing about the real-world interaction and experience the students would have with companies.” Kimberly says. “I knew the process and the end-goal were aligned with my philosophy of how students should be trained to make productive contributions to society.”
During the 2017-18 school year, 74 students enrolled in the program at Douglass. With the long-term goal of including 150 students per grade level, JA Academy plans to expand to 175-200 students at Douglass in the fall.
“I’m encouraged by the work these students are doing, because they are realizing how capable and talented they are,” says Kathleen Spangler, who manages the JA partnership for Chick-fil-A. “They’re seeing that their future opportunities are limitless, and that may not have been apparent to them before JA Academy.”