Junior Achievement of Central Illinois recently held its inaugural JA Hall of Achievement event, recognizing the many members of the “JA family” who have helped empower young people in central Illinois to own their economic success. The event was held on June 5th at local restaurant 309 in Peoria’s Junction City. During the evening, four honorees received awards, including JA Laureate, JA Volunteer of the Year, JA Teacher of the Year, and JA Business of the Year. More than 100 Junior Achievement volunteers, students, educators, honorees and guests enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and networking during the evening.

Entrepreneur Jack Pearl, chairman and founder of Pearl Companies, was inducted as a laureate into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame. Mr. Pearl was honored for his business excellence, vision, innovation, and moral and ethical principles. He has been a visionary businessman and role model in central Illinois for more than 55 years.

Mr. Pearl has always run his business under the premise that a company is only as good as its people, based on his belief that you must always reward people’s hard work. Jack’s son, Gary Pearl, has served as president and chief executive officer of Pearl Companies since 1998. He remains deeply involved in every aspect of the business and is committed to continuing Pearl’s tradition of innovation, delivering new products, services, markets and technologies year after year.

Karoline Seitz-Goddard was named the 2012 JA Volunteer of the Year. She began as a volunteer classroom consultant in 1993 and has taught the second-grade program, “JA Our Community,” for the last 13 years, impacting more than 400 young people in five different schools in the central Illinois area. Karoline, a vice president at Central Illinois Bank, was nominated by Oak Grove East second-grade teacher Lenora Bright for her ability to engage and build rapport with the students, as well as patiently answering their numerous questions. Ms. Bright said of Karoline: “They all look forward to the next time, when ‘the community lady’ is coming back.”

A fifth-grade teacher at Bloomington’s Stevenson Elementary School, Melody Chiga, was named 2012 JA Teacher of the Year. She was nominated by Victoria Foster, volunteer classroom consultant from State Farm. “Ms. Chiga has a challenging class this year, as well as 30 students. I’ve observed [her] while in her classroom and admire her commitment to her students and her unending patience. I’m thankful for teachers like Ms. Chiga, who view their teaching position as more than a job,” said Victoria. Victoria’s son, Nico Fry, who was a student in Ms. Chiga’s class, had this to say about his teacher: “I love her. She is a good teacher, and I miss her. I think she’s a good teacher because she helps me work. I like her because she cares about me.”

Caterpillar Inc. was awarded the 2012 JA Business of the Year for its commitment to providing funding and volunteers. The very origins of Junior Achievement of Central Illinois are attributed to Louis Neumiller, who was Caterpillar’s president from 1941 to 1954 and chairman from 1954 to 1962. While attending a business conference in New York, he heard about Junior Achievement and was convinced of the immense possibilities JA offered young people to learn about business.

There are about 120 area offices in the Junior Achievement USA family. Together with over 178,000 volunteers, they reach more than four million students per year in over 176,000 classrooms and afterschool locations.

Locally, Junior Achievement of Central Illinois covers 12 central Illinois counties. In the 2011-2012 program year, nearly 15,000 students in almost 700 classrooms were impacted, in partnership with nearly 700 members of the Junior Achievement family of volunteers. iBi