Junior Achievement honors insurance executive Darnell Smith

The Florida Blue North Florida Region market president is the 21st recipient of the annual “Solid As a Rock” award.

Ronnie Fussell, Duval County Clerk of the Circuit Courts; Baptist Health President and CEO Hugh Greene; and Darnell Smith, Florida Blue North Florida Region market president.
Ronnie Fussell, Duval County Clerk of the Circuit Courts; Baptist Health President and CEO Hugh Greene; and Darnell Smith, Florida Blue North Florida Region market president.
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Florida Blue North Florida Region Market President Darnell Smith accepted the Junior Achievement of North Florida Thompson S. Baker “Solid As A Rock” award.

The award “celebrates the accomplishments of individuals who have shown outstanding leadership through civic and philanthropic deeds that have positively influenced business and education in the Jacksonville community.” Baker is the founder of Florida Rock Industries.

Smith told the more than 300 participants that Junior Achievement is a game changer, “not just for the individuals, but for our community.”

Junior Achievement provides volunteers to help teach elementary, middle- and high-school students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

“For those children will one day spend money, buy homes, and lead. We have more diversity in our state than ever before. We need to take care of our diverse children to compete,” Smith said.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but the long-term impact will be felt by industry and business and ultimately our economy,” he said.

Smith said the program benefits the schools, students and volunteers.

“JA expands our idea of what education is. The lesson plans are intricate and exciting, and truly engage both students and volunteers,” he said.

Smith said there is demand for volunteers. “We leave 3,000 students behind each year whose teachers have requested programs but for which we do not have the volunteers.

“If you don't already volunteer, I hope you will consider it, and consider it today,” he said.

Students who participate in JA programs served Tuesday as masters of ceremonies: Ariana Cobb, an eighth-grade student from James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School; Dekari Long, a second grader from  Richard Lewis Brown Elementary Gifted and Academically Talented Academy; and Christian Savin, a 10th-grade student from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

The annual Hall of Fame event at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront marked 100 years of Junior Achievement, which also gave awards for volunteerism, corporate volunteerism and chairmanship

The top three companies who provided the most hours of volunteer service were Florida Blue, No. 1, followed by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and Citi.

The Richard Maxwell Award for Volunteerism was given to Shehani Ranadewa of Deutsche Bank. 

Junior Achievement Chair-elect Steve Kelley with TIAA Bank announced that Alana Simmons, a student from Paxon School for Advanced Studies, was the 750,000th student to complete a Junior Achievement program since JA of North Florida started in 1963.

JA of North Florida President Steve St. Amand presented the Chairman’s Gavel to Bob Wall, the immediate past chair of the JA board of directors. Wall is vice president of business operations for GuideWell Health.

Retiring Baptist Health of Northeast Florida CEO Hugh Greene, the 2015 recipient of the Thompson S. Baker Award, presented the honor to Smith, who is the 21st recipient.

Previous award honorees 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 Shad Khan.

Junior Achievement is a nationwide organization founded in 1919. It is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Junior Achievement of North Florida includes a satellite office in Tallahassee.

The organization said that Junior Achievement, through a partnership between the business community, educators and volunteers, helps young people connect with relevant learning and the importance of staying in school. 

It said it reached 59,439 students during the 2017-18 school year. The website is janfl.org.




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