On Saturday, November 7, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans will honor its 5th class of Rising Stars at the 2008 City Stars Soirée. The celebration and recognition will take place at the newly restored (slated to be finished in early November) Capstone Education Center, formerly known as Exchange City, on the City Park campus of Delgado Community College. The 2008 Rising Stars are: Ashley Abbott, President & CEO, MPress; John Alford, CEO, NOLA 180 (Langston Hughes Academy); Robby Moss, President, Hartwig Moss Insurance Agency; Kenneth Purcell, Founder & CEO, iSeatz.com; and Matthew Wisdom, CEO, Turbo Squid.

JA inspires and prepares young people to successfully participate in our economy through workforce development, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. JA does this with its economics curriculum presented by role model volunteers in classrooms and other settings throughout our city and region. JA also does this by honoring successful entrepreneurs.

Since 1984, JA New Orleans has annually inducted business leaders from the community into its prestigious Business Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Laureates are individuals who exemplify all that JA teaches. They are people who have excelled as entrepreneurs and business people making a difference for themselves and the community. The JA Hall of Fame Laureates have etched legacies of achievement over many years. They are the superstars of business and entrepreneurialism. 

As JA celebrates our youth again at this year’s City Stars Soirée, we recognize that one day our schoolchildren will enter the business world and become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. JA looks forward to those children rising from JA and from under the City Stars of a new capstone education center to become rising stars and maybe Hall of Fame superstars. To point the way, this year Junior Achievement again introduces a new class of Rising Stars.

Rising Stars recognizes young individuals (40 or under) who have demonstrated strong entrepreneurial skills with high moral and ethical standards. They must be a founder, co-founder, owner, and/or integral key person of a growing entrepreneurial business. The JA Rising Star must demonstrate leadership, vision, ingenuity and innovation, and must serve as a role model for others in business and life.
Come celebrate with us on November 7. For more information, and tickets, visit jagno.org or call Melissa Binder at 569-8658.

Message from the JA President and Soirée Chair
We’re back and we’re ready to celebrate on Friday, November 7, at the 5th Annual City Stars Soirée. After three long years of dealing with the challenges of the post-Katrina recovery bureaucracy, our wonderfully successful “kids city,” formerly known as Exchange City – New Orleans, destroyed by the Katrina levee failures is nearly fully restored.

Of course, though we are back as evidenced by our restored Capstone Education Center on the City Park Campus of Delgado Community College, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans never went away. Because of our devoted friends and supporters and the dedication of our classroom volunteers, we have continued serving the children of our region teaching them that by staying in school they can reap the many benefits offered by our free enterprise economy.

Even in the aftermath of Katrina, thanks to the generosity of The Shops at Canal Place, we continued with our annual celebration of the children with City Stars Soirées in 2006 and 2007. But as you join us for this year’s celebration presented by Capital One where we will again recognize five young Rising Stars of the business community as presented by St. Charles Avenue magazine, we will again celebrate under the stars of our kids city.  Fully restored, though not yet re-equipped, the Capstone Center will host our celebration. 

In January 2009, we will introduce our new 5th and 6th grade program, JA BizTown, in the restored center. You can get a preview at the City Stars Soirée. At the celebration, you will also get a preview of a new facility for 7th through 9th graders. 

At a reception where we will recognize our Rising Stars, all Soirée guests will preview the Capital One/Junior Achievement Finance Park. Creatively presented in two tractor trailers, the Capital One sponsored program will give 1,200 middle grade and high school students a hands-on learning experience in financial literacy in November and December 2008. The mobile learning lab foreshadows a permanent JA Finance Park planned for incorporation into the restored Capstone Center possibly in 2009.

You can read more about this elsewhere in this special Rising Stars section of St. Charles magazine. But for a close up look and to join in our celebration, come to the November 7 City Stars Soirée.
Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2008 Rising Stars
Jack Brancewicz, President
Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans

Lee Anne Sciambra, Chair
2008 City Stars Soirée

JA Of New Orleans growing better and brighter
Educating Young People
Junior Achievement educates young people about the business of life and how education, careers and family work together to form healthy communities. JA New Orleans has touched the lives of nearly a half million young people since its inception in 1955. 

JA’s earlier focus was high school students. Students attended an after-school activity where they formed companies, offered products and services, and earned profits for shareholders. As times changed, JA expanded its programming to reach children in grades K -12 and brought programs into the classroom. 

The JA K-12 curriculum is led by trained volunteers who share  their experience and serve as true-to-life role models  to teach children business principles, decision-making, and critical thinking skills. JA’s classroom volunteers include business professionals, college students and retirees. 

Katrina Impact
In 2003, JA New Orleans introduced its Capstone education learning experience known as Exchange City on the City Park Campus of Delgado Community College. At the Capstone Center, 5th and 6th graders followed weeks of in-class preparation with a one-day experience in a kid-sized city where they owned businesses, enforced laws, earned paychecks, and bought goods and services. Hurricane Katrina virtually destroyed the center.

In the aftermath of Katrina, though JA staff had been cut in half and its
volunteer base depleted, the remaining staff focused on reaching children in nontraditional settings, including after-school and summer camp programs. In 2007-’08, the third post-Katrina school year, JA New Orleans reached nearly 22,000 students – more than two-thirds of the pre-Katrina service level.

New Capstone Education Programs
JA Worldwide has now moved to spotlight two Capstone Education offerings, a new 5th and 6th grade program, JA BizTown, and a similar learning lab experience for 7th, 8th and 9th graders known as JA Finance Park.  Immediately before Katrina, JA New Orleans was preparing to make the transition from Exchange City to JA BizTown, with long term plans to add JA Finance Park. Katrina brought a new perspective. 

As the JA Capstone Education Center nears post-Katrina restoration to its pre-storm condition, JA will now introduce the JA Exchange City successor program, JA BizTown, in early 2009. This decision is supported by the results of a feasibility study of area educators and endorsed by a vote of the JA Board of Governors. 

Coincidentally, JA has begun a $1.25 million capital campaign. The capital campaign will fund important changes to the restored Capstone Center to accommodate the enhanced JA BizTown program and allow introduction of JA Finance Park, possibly as early as fall 2009. 

The leadership of JA New Orleans is confident that the Capstone Education offerings are potentially life-changing educational experiences. The programs fulfill the JA mission to inspire and prepare young people to successfully participate in our economy through workforce development, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. To learn more about Junior Achievement and its programs, or to make contributions, visitwww.jagno.org.

JA Celebartes its 2008 Rising Stars
Ashley Abbott
President/CEO, Mpress

Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2008 Rising Stars

Ash Abbott, a native of New Orleans, went to Clemson University with intentions of majoring in electrical engineering but quickly changed his mind and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in graphic communications, which led him into the printing industry. After a year of freelance work in Charleston, S.C., he came back to New Orleans to work as a label maker in Elmwood. He worked another 13 years before he was able to purchase Monahan Printing & Direct Mail in 2003 – one of three printing houses that would come to make up his current company, Mpress.
Abbott moved Monahan away from its location in downtown New Orleans on account of an arrangement that presold the building – but the new location took on 18 inches of floodwater during the 2005 hurricane season. Shortly thereafter, two other printers, Franklin Southland Printing and Metairie Printing, asked him to buy them out and Mpress was born.

Now that Mpress has established itself as a full-service printing company, Abbot says “We’re getting more and more into the franchise world of on-demand printing. We’re trying to be more nationally present; to really fine-tune our niche to franchises.” Although he’s cautious about the weather in New Orleans, Abbott is looking forward to continued success with Mpress.

When not at work, Abbot likes to stay active by playing softball and basketball. He also enjoys spending quality time with his two children and wife of 13 years. •

John Alford
CEO, NOLA 180 (Langston Hughes Academy Charter School)

Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2008 Rising Stars
John Alford was born and raised in  Brooklyn, N.Y. Rising through New York’s public school system, he went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard University.

Early in his professional career, Alford managed a team of in-house consultants for General Motors. However, he soon left the automotive industry behind to join the movement for reformed public education. Alford originally worked with the Knowledge is Power Program to open new schools.

Alford now works as the leader of Langston Hughes Academy Charter School in association with NOLA 180. Langston Hughes celebrated the first groundbreaking under the Quick Start Initiative, which expedited construction and renovation of five public schools in New Orleans, the first move in the larger scope of School Facilities Master Plan. The Master Plan represents a cooperative effort between the New Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District, a statewide organization founded by the Louisiana Department of Education for the sake of reforming schools with poor performance records.

“I chose Langston Hughes because it was in an under-served part of the city,” says Alford. “I expect that every student in every zip code in the city of New Orleans will be able to attend a public school that prepares them for college.” •

Kenneth Purcell
Owner/CEO, iSeatz.com

Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2008 Rising Stars
Kenneth Purcell had to clean kitchens and wait tables to earn a little extra cash during college.  After graduating, he managed a joint venture based on his own concept for a concierge service/restaurant booking engine, between the technology company that employed him and Where. He then managed the sale of the intellectual property to iSeatz.

Since 1999, iSeatz has grown to a travel and hospitality booking service available to individual consumers. Purcell has ridden the ups and downs of running iSeatz. “We lost a few key employees during the weeks following [hurricanes] Katrina and Rita,” says Purcell.

After briefly running the company from an office in New York, Purcell decided to reconsolidate the New Orleans office, which reopened in 2006 and is going strong. “2008 is our year for international expansion,” says Purcell. “Our business is really growing.”

When he isn’t swimming with the proverbial sharks of the workplace, Purcell enjoys fishing for large marine sharks. He also likes to travel with his new wife, with whom he shares three bulldogs that keep them very busy. •

Robby Moss
President, Hartwig Moss Insurance Agency

Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2008 Rising Stars
Robby Moss was born and raised in New Orleans, leaving home only to attend Boston College. He studied medicine as an undergraduate and worked for a while at Touro Infirmary. However, he had a change of heart and decided to enter business.
Moss represents the fifth generation of his family to lead Hartwig Moss, the company started by his great-great-grandfather in 1871. “Our focus has always been to cultivate and expand relationships with individuals and business owners,” he says. “Since I joined Hartwig Moss Insurance Agency in 1995, we have expanded into the Employee Benefits arena.”

As more of a consulting firm than a direct sales agency for insurance, Hartwig Moss has shouldered the burden of educating many of its customers about purchasing insurance, both before and after hurricanes. “Many people had never filed a claim until Katrina,” says Moss. “Now our clients are more informed and engaged in the process.”

Moss is an avid Saints and Hornets fan and an amateur poker player, as well as a dedicated husband and father. •

Matthew Wisdom
CEO, Turbo Squid

Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2008 Rising Stars
Matthew Wisdom was born to work in digital imaging. After graduating from Brown University, Wisdom worked for several years for Chimera Digital Imaging before co-founding Turbo Squid in 2000. The idea behind Turbo Squid was to create a place where 3D artists and software developers could buy and sell 3D models.
Eight years later, Turbo Squid is the largest online clearinghouse in the world to feature 3D models, boasting a library of 200,000 unique 3D models, which actually adds up to over 900,000 actual items, from geometric shapes and digital textures to cars and characters.

Turbo Squid has also expanded to include a new division, GameFlood, which is designed more for artists and developers concerned with creating or enhancing third-party video game content.

Turbo Squid jumped from brainchild to business model after the SIGGRAPH conference in 2000, and has since grown into a dynamic marketplace for consumers of digital products.

Wisdom also sits on the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Video Access Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating films and educating people about film and video. •