Junior Achievement of Central Florida and the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce have a unique relationship. The JA organization serves thousands of students in Central Florida … and the Chamber serves JA, and now they’ve partnered together to make a positive difference in St. Cloud and throughout Central Florida.

“You are the first chamber, that we are aware of, in the country that is a partner with JA,” longtime Osceola County Tommy Tompkins, named JA’s laureate at its recent 42nd Business Hall of Fame induction, told a Chamber gathering Monday. “Junior Achievement is one of the oldest non-profit foundation organizations in America, it’s over 100 years old. I love what they do and represent. Chambers and Junior Achievement go hand-in-hand. And It’s significant what they do.”

Tompkins said his link to JA started long ago when he led the Education Foundation of Osceola County. He said investing in it is another way to invest in the community’s future.

“Our Chamber represents the community and the voice for business, it’s members who build community. The future of community, it’s not us, it’s those in classrooms in Osceola County schools right now,” he said. “The best thing we can do as a chamber is go out and help support and direct that future so our efforts will have a benefit in the future. We’re working for next year, the best way to do that is through the classrooms. It will take time but we will come together.”

“It’s so important for this organization to do what we’re doing in forming this partnership to build the future of this community. It’s only going to be as good as we make it. If we do nothing, it will be nothing. If we do something, it will be huge.

Kathy Panter, President/CEO of Junior Achievement Central Florida, said at Monday’s gathering that it aligns closely with the Chamber.

“We often call Junior Achievement ‘the Chamber for kids,” she said. “We start with them from K-12 and let Dirk (Webb, the Chamber’s president) take over when they’re out school.”

And Webb is also connected to JA himself. “The Chamber believes very strongly in education. I’m a Junior Achievement alum. It’s here I first learned you make a good product you don’t mind standing behind, about customer service with a smile, and that you invest in your company, your community and everyone around you.”