Junior Achievement of North Florida Celebrated 100 Years of Service at the Hall of Fame Luncheon
05/16/2019

Darnell Smith was presented with the Thompson S. Baker Award

Online PR News – 16-May-2019 – Jacksonville, FL – Junior Achievement of North Florida hosted their annual Hall of Fame luncheon where they celebrated 100 years of JA as they handed out awards for volunteerism, corporate volunteerism, chairmanship and also added a new member to the prestigious group of Thompson S. Baker "Solid As A Rock" award recipients.

Students who participate in JA programs were the emcees for the event and kept the program moving. Ariana Cobb, an eighth-grade student from James Weldon Johnson, said this was her seventh year participating in JA. Her co-emcees were Dekari Long, a second-grader from R.L. Brown Gifted and Talented Elementary, and Christian Savin, a 10th-grade student from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

The students gave out the first awards of the day to the top three companies who provided the most hours of volunteer service to JA. Florida Blue came in at number one followed by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. Citi rounded out the top three. The Richard Maxwell Award for Volunteerism was given to Shehani Ranadewa of Deutsche Bank. Ranadewa was chosen for not only being an exemplary volunteer but for working to increase volunteer participation by others.

The program was interrupted briefly for some breaking news from JA Chair-Elect Steve Kelley. He announced Alana Simmons, a student from Paxon School of Advanced Studies, was the 750,000th student to complete a JA program since JA of North Florida started in 1963. Simmons is a graduate of JA Financial Literacy, JA Personal Finance, JA Career Success and JA Work$. She will be sharing her knowledge with others as she volunteers to teach JA programs later this week.

JA of North Florida President Steve St. Amand presented the Chairman's Gavel to Bob Wall, who is the immediate past chair of the JA board of directors. Wall, who is vice president of business operations for Guidewell Health, served from 2016 to 2018 and oversaw the creation of the JA Financial Literacy Center in New Town. Wall then came back on stage to say a few words about this year's recipient of the big award of the day, the Thompson S. Baker Award. Darnell Smith, Florida Blue's market president for the North Florida region, is this year's honoree.

"Darnell Smith is legendary, truly legendary," said Wall. "He cares deeply about people and that comes with high expectations for himself and others. He is all in all the time. He sees the future. He is an honored partner and we are honored to present him with this award. We all benefit from his leadership. He is a special person and a great leader."

Hugh Greene, the 2015 recipient of the Thompson S. Baker Award presented the award to Smith, who is the 21st recipient of the award. He joins a list of outstanding community leaders that include Preston Haskell, Tillie Fowler, Bill and Eloise Gay, David Stein, Harry Frisch, Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, Laurie DuBow, Blake Wilson, Gary Chartrand and Shahid Khan.

"I am humbled, overwhelmed and so thankful for this award and I accept it in the name of our Lord and Savior," said Smith. "I am honored that you recognize me for the work that I do in his name. I thank my wife and my colleagues. This is really a team award and I accept this on behalf of you for all you do for the company and the community. It takes a village to raise a child and Junior Achievement is an importation extension of school. The children served in JA today will be the powers of tomorrow. JA is a game changer. It helps children see beyond their neighborhoods and dream big so they may be solid as a rock one day. Their future is our future."

Junior Achievement USA is celebrating its centennial this year and today JA of North Florida announced their 100 kits for 100 classrooms donation drive. Each kit is equipped to teach 32 students in the various JA programs. To help make an impact, donors can text Janfl to 50155 or visit janfl.org.

About Junior Achievement of North Florida
Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. Junior Achievement of North Florida has been operating in Jacksonville since 1963 and includes a satellite office in Tallahassee. Through an innovative partnership between the business community, educators and volunteers, Junior Achievement of North Florida helps young people connect with relevant learning and the importance of staying in school. This collaboration resulted in 59,439 students reached during the 2017-2018 school year. To learn more about Junior Achievement of North Florida, visit www.janfl.org.