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Junior Achievement struggling to stay open

JACKSON — Junior Achievement of Mississippi Inc. (JA) is in need of a "transformation gift" of around six or seven figures from people who believe in economic education in order to stay open, said Scherry Gilliland, organization president and CEO.

"The board is currently wrestling with the decision of being able to continue working with JA Worldwide," Gilliland said, "and I have no idea how far the board will be willing or able to go. Our funding is basically from corporations, and, like many non-profits, we have really been hurt in the past year, she said. The debt on the office building at 1695 High Street in Jackson has also become a burden."

JA announced in October that it ranked first nationwide for percentage growth of number of classes and students served, comparing 2007-08 figures to 2008-09 figures. In the past academic year, 86 percent more students were served than the previous year, for a total of 10,100. JA volunteers also provided more than 146,000 teaching hours in classrooms.

Gilliland said many people are shocked at the organization’s financial struggles in light of its programming success as number one in the nation: "It’s a tragedy." Regarding the economy, she said, "I hope we can be there when the pendulum swings the other way."

JA Mississippi has served the state since 1963, educating students in kindergarten through high school about the complexities and rewards of the United States free enterprise system.

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