JA Student Zoree Jones' Remarks at the 2016 Washington Business Hall of Fame

"Good evening everyone. You may not have ever heard of a Harvard Graduate named Donovan Livingston. But tonight, as we gather to honor four of Washington’s most renowned business visionaries and come together to commit ourselves to inspiring the next generation to transform 'I can’t' into 'I can,' I’m here to share some of his words with you. Because I believe they are some of the most powerful words about education ever spoken.

He said:  'At the core, none of us were meant to be common.  We were born to be comets—darting across space and time—leaving our mark as we crash into everything.  I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships—tribulations into telescopes. So a child can see their potential from right where they stand. Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness for generations to come.  No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.  Lift off.'

Ladies and gentleman, my name is Zoree Jones and I am a JA kid.

Thanks to people just like you, I see my potential from right where I stand.

I came to Junior Achievement’s Entrepreneurship Summit with so many ideas and questions about what I thought my future in business could look like.  I have always been inspired by the concept of ordinary people doing extraordinary things through business. Entrepreneurship held a certain flair that I found captivating. JA helped to give my interest and ideas shape and definition through hands-on experience.

And as CEO of my company, I set out to solve one of the world’s most pressing social and environmental issues: food waste.

I networked. I thought critically. I was creative. I built my own personal brand.

These are skills that not every student has a chance to learn and practice within the walls of a typical high school classroom.

I watched ideas become potential products, and while adult mentors supported and oversaw our progress, it was the students who created the solutions… digital apps, a nonprofit, new ideas to solve a real problem.

Some of you here tonight may not know what sets JA apart from other organizations. It is the role model mentor. It’s powerful to meet someone from your community who has found success and faced some of the choices that I know I will be making in just a few years.

It was a privilege to connect with amazing leaders in our community… leaders like our laureates Diane Hoskins, Tony Nicely, Ken Samet, and Gary Tabach, and their friends who are here to introduce them to you: Linda Rabbitt, Donald Graham, William Roberts, and Tony Buzzelli.  

Our volunteer mentors taught us invaluable lessons about business and about life. These are lessons that can’t be Googled, but can only come from being coached and mentored by people with many years of business and leadership experience. 

Thanks to JA, I was able to connect the dots between the knowledge and skills that I’ve acquired in school to their relevance in real world business situations.

So tonight, I thank you. I thank you for giving me a glimpse into what my future can be. I thank you for showing me that I can start preparing for it today. And I thank you for giving me—and tens of thousands of kids like me every year—the platform to take action on our dreams.

I speak for the millions of Junior Achievement kids around the globe when I say: we will take these skills and do something positive with them. We won’t let you down!"