published on November 29, 2012 - 10:47 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Michelle Calandra
Regional Executive Director
Junior Achievement of Northern California

What we do:
  Bring financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship skills to kids in K-12. Our purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.
Education:  Fresno State: BA political science emphasis in international political economy
Fresno State Executive MBA Program: MBA with an emphasis in marketing
Age:  32
Family:  Just Me

How did you arrive at your position as regional executive director of Junior Achievement of Northern California, Michelle?
It has been a long journey to get to where I am. I have held many positions throughout the private and public sectors, all working towards where I am today. My background in the financial sector and public sector in economic development have helped to provide a solid background for the position as the regional executive director. My love of the non-profit world and giving back to youth is my passion. So everything in my background has come together for a position I am happy to be in — a position I would have never known about if a friend of mine would have never emailed me about it. She felt the position would be a perfect fit for myself and my background.  I knew instantly that it would be the perfect fit, and it would give me to the opportunity to be back in my hometown with family and friends doing what I love and giving back to my community.

What are your primary responsibilities as regional executive director, Michelle?

I oversee all of our Central Valley operations within five counties: Fresno, Madera, Inyo, Mono, and Mariposa. I look to find funding opportunities through corporate sponsorships, grants and individual giving. I also oversee all the programs within the Central Valley. Junior Achievement focuses on bringing financially literacy to kids in k-12th , workforce readiness and entrepreneurship skills through all the various programs. Lastly, I oversee our efforts to recruit volunteers throughout the community, who then go into the classroom and provide JA’s programs.
What are some of the challenges your organization faces each year, Michelle?

In the Central Valley, specifically, we find that funding and volunteers are our main challenges. Also, since Junior Achievement is still relatively new in the area, people may not know exactly who we are and what we do. Once people understand, I believe that the funding and volunteers will follow.  
What do you see as the most rewarding part of your job, Michelle? The most difficult?

Getting into the classroom and volunteering is the most rewarding part.  You see first-hand how kids respond to someone from the community coming into their classroom and teaching them about financial literacy. The most difficult is knowing how many children need our programs, but due to lack of funding we can not reach them all (yet).  The kids motivate me to continue to move forward and find ways to find more funding to allow more children the opportunity to also experience Junior Achievements programs.
What do you see in the future for Junior Achievement of Northern California as a whole, Michelle?

Junior Achievement of Northern California continues to grow and expand its footprint bringing financial literacy to more and more children across the region and with more funding, corporate sponsors and volunteers. we will continue to grow and expand.
What is the best business advice that you have ever received, Michelle?

Never give up and treat all people with dignity and respect.
Do you have a favorite quotation, Michelle?

Yes. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” Benjamin Franklin
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Michelle?

One of my first jobs was working at Baskin Robbins. I learned that it is all about teamwork. Working as a team and coming together will lead you to be a success.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Michelle?

I love to cook. I make a homemade spaghetti sauce to die for, and I call it Saucy Goodness.

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