Sarah Ford | May 20, 2014

Making Impact: An Interview With Junior Achievement of New York’s President, Joseph Peri

This week, we have the privilege of introducing you to Joseph Peri, President of Junior Achievement of New York (JA New York), the local affiliate of Junior Achievement USA® (JA).  JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.  JA’s volunteer-delivered, K-12th grade programs foster college and career-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.  The programs also use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential.  With the help of more than 5,000 business and community volunteers, more than 67,000 NYC and Long Island students develop the skills they need to experience the realities and opportunities of work and entrepreneurship in teh 21st-century global marketplace.

Q&A With Joseph Peri:

What attracted you to this job & particular cause?

Making Impact: An Interview With Junior Achievement of New York's President, Joseph PerezI was attracted to the opportunity to lead an organization in the New York City area that focuses on the development and economic empowerment of youth. I have always had a deep interest in economic education and youth development, In my previous position, I served as Acting President and Chief Executive Officer for The Council for Economic Education (CEE), a leading international economic education organization.

Walk us through a “typical” day in your shoes. How are you making an impact through your work?

A typical day in my shoes starts with a daily check-in with my direct reports to make sure they and their teams have the resources necessary to meet performance objectives. I also monitor results of our collective efforts. I then connect with various board members and key supporters to identify strategic opportunities that give us a competitive advantage. One of our top priorities is to develop and acquire resources required to meet the goals of our mission. I work with our programming staff to constantly evaluate the quality of our programs as they shape and influence the young people we serve. I see it as an important part of my role to provide the best support possible for our program quality and delivery. Relationship cultivation and management is also important. We need to keep our partners and supporters informed  and inspired, especially when they invest so much of their time and resources to improve the performance and the lives of NYC and Long Island students.  Lastly, I spend time with staff to find out what they are working on, and to address questions and issues they are grappling with.  I want them to know that I am there to support them.

What do you find most rewarding about your job at the end of the day?

At the end of the day, what I find most satisfying about my job is seeing kids achieve. There’s nothing better than supporting and guiding young people to dream big and discover opportunities to learn, grow and be successful. Ultimately, this job is about changing the lives of the kids we serve.

If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ or advice you’d give to anyone with a similar position, what would it be and why?

This is an interesting question. If I had a list of best-kept secrets, what would I recommend to someone in a similar position and why? Well, one of the first things I would share is to have an endless well of patience. Secondly, I would underscore the importance of developing active listening skills. To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. One of my favorite quotes is by Peter Nulty, former editor of Fortune Magazine: “Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable—and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.”

Secondly I would advise seeking opportunities to build consensus, especially among employees who depend on collaboration across the organization to meet goals and expectations. And then there is the need to build consensus among our partners and investors by developing a vision that inspires, excites and motivates them to action.

In terms of books – I would say, read widely and often. Become a voracious consumer of current events, news and trends that have some connection to the world we work in.

Finally, always remain positively focused. Keep faith with what you do – even in the face of challenge – and good things will happen.

Looking out 3 to 5 years, beyond the obvious trends, what do you think will be the next big change in your industry?

In the next 3-5 years, I think there are two big changes in the education and the non-profit industries that will change what we do and how we do it.

The continued growth and application of technology in K-12 education will transform education delivery, and ways of learning. Eventually it will break down the walls of the traditional classroom for kids and educators. We have to continue innovating with our program content, format, and delivery channels  in anticipation of these changes.

In the non-profit sector, we can also anticipate more growth and with it, competition, for funding resources.  That means delivering higher quality outcomes and proof of impact in the communities we serve. Program evaluation and metrics will be the deciding factor for  those institutions and programs that attract funding and those that do not.

Our thanks to Joseph Peri, JA New York’s President, for sharing his time and expertise with us!  To learn more about the impact Joseph and his organization are making, visit their website and connect with them at  Click here to support JA New York’s work with a donation.

The primary goal for any nonprofit is to get people to support that nonprofit’s cause so they can make an impact. But, behind each of those causes are hard-working individuals, actively involved in making that impact happen. Through our Making Impact Blog Series, we’re going behind the scenes with America’s Charities member organizations to learn how they’re making impact happen and share insights and advice from the staff and volunteers supporting these initiatives.

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