GRAND RAPIDS — Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes announced that the non-profit organization ended its 2010-11 fiscal year with a budget surplus and extended the organization’s classroom presence to reach more than 56,000 students across 2,223 classes in West Michigan, Mid-Michigan and northern Michigan.

The year ended June 30 was also marked by the merger of the Lansing JA region into JA of the Michigan Great Lakes, as well as participation by nearly 1,300 individual volunteers spanning 45 counties.

“We are grateful for the generosity of our volunteer and financial supporters resulting in a strong year despite the economic challenges facing our community and the non-profit sector,” said William C. Coderre, president of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes.

Over the past 15 years, JA of the Michigan Great Lakes programs have consistently demonstrated how its elementary, middle and high school programs effectively prepare students to develop successful financial management habits, empower them to explore the potential of becoming an entrepreneur, and provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in a global workforce.

JA is committed to ongoing, rigorous evaluation and quality assurance of all programs. In the past five years, more than 96 percent of JA’s programs have undergone comprehensive, nationwide evaluations to assess program effectiveness and impact.

Junior Achievement USA’s investment in student outcomes research exceeded $4.1 million during the past five years. Collectively, as evidenced by more than 50 evaluation studies, JA programs have a significant impact on students’ knowledge, skill development, and attitudes. The ultimate impact is more thriving communities with a well-educated labor force.

Students who participate in JA programs develop financial skills necessary for future success and can acquire management skills such as how to create a budget and how to set personal financial goals. According to the Junior Achievement USA Retrospective Study, 88 percent — almost nine out of 10 — of Junior Achievement alumni report they are confident in their ability to manage personal finances effectively, in comparison to 71 percent of those who did not have the benefit of the JA experience.

Entrepreneurship is an integral and significant activity in building a strong U.S. economy and JA programs support this mindset in students entering a competitive job market. According to the survey, 76 percent of JA alumni say they have the skills to start their own businesses, as opposed to 41 percent of non-JA respondents.

Along with teaching skills in the classroom, JA instills self-confidence in students as they prepare to advance into higher education and/or a career. In recent high school program evaluations, more than eight out of 10 students report that the JA program better equipped them for the future. In longitudinal studies, JA students were significantly more likely than their peers to believe that they would graduate from high school, pursue post-secondary education, and graduate from college.

“Our findings only further validate JA’s continued commitment in the areas vital to a child’s development,” Coderre said.

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