TEP employees volunteer to teach Junior Achievement programs to elementary school pupils, compete in bowling tournaments and help high school students learn job skills – all to support the development of youth in Southern Arizona.

TEP’s longstanding partnership with Junior Achievement, or JA, is a major part of our support of education in the community, one of TEP’s philanthropic focus areas.

JA provides children with programs to improve financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship, supporting workforce and economic development efforts in our community. JA’s Southern Arizona chapter serves more than 8,000 students each year.

“TEP understands the impact that Junior Achievement has across generations,” said Chuck Zaepfel, Director of Junior Achievement of Arizona’s Southern District. “This partnership is a shining example of true caring about the future of Tucson.”

Here are five ways that TEP supports JA:


TEP’s employees serve as leaders in the organization.

When Frank Marino moved to Tucson in 2013, he was looking for a way to get involved in the community when he learned about an opening on the board of directors of JA’s Southern Arizona chapter.

Now a TEP Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Marino volunteers on both the state and Southern Arizona District boards.

“I’m an accounting and finance guy. Their whole mission of financial literacy attracted me to Junior Achievement,” Marino said.

Gilbert Robles, TEP Information Services Project Manager, received the JA Volunteer Award in 2018 for his work with high school and elementary education programs.

As a student at Cholla High School, Robles was involved in Junior Achievement as a vice president of marketing in the student group, so he wanted to give back. “It made an impact on me. Ever since then, I had a fascination with Junior Achievement,” Robles said.

Southern AZ JA You’re Hired Programs

TEP financially supports JA You’re Hired programs, which are designed to help students prepare for jobs.

TEP provides funding for the JA You’re Hired program in 10 classes at Star Academic High School and Higher Ground youth center, which both serve students who are economically disadvantaged.

In addition, TEP sponsors the JA You’re Hired challenge event, in which high school students compete in career skills and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) contests.

During the event, TEP volunteers assist as judges and during the speed-networking sessions. The top-performing students in the Interview Challenge are eligible to be hired as interns at TEP and other local businesses.

JA Day at Blenman Elementary School

For the sixth year this spring, about 40 employees spent a day teaching lessons about finances to kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Blenman Elementary School. More than 80 percent of the school’s 400 students are classified as limited income.

Employees spend a day in the classrooms teaching financial literacy concepts using lesson plans developed by JA, said Julie McCollom, a Senior Financial Analyst, who organizes JA Day for TEP.

Marino has taught a different grade each year, starting with kindergarten and going a grade up every year. “What’s really impactful is that it’s a lot of content that students normally don’t get in the school system,” Marino said.

This year, for the first time, employees organized a school supply drive ahead of JA Day so they could bring items to donate at the event, said Lindsay Poole, Supervisor of Accounts Payable, who organized the drive.

Blenman teachers say JA Day is an important part of community building at the school.

“JA Day has taught our students how to solve real-world problems through interactive projects,” said teachers Annette Bejarano and Julia Birdman. “Students are able to enhance their team building skills, as well as develop a sense of community through these projects. We are truly honored to participate in JA Day each year.”

As a “thank you” to the Blenman staff, TEP provided messenger and computer bags.

JA Bowl-A-Thon

For the past two years, TEP has sponsored a bowling fundraiser for JA, bringing in eight teams to compete. Last year, the company partnered with employees from Caterpillar.

TEP’s teams raised more than $9,000. Before sponsoring our own events, volunteers previously participated in other JA bowl-a-thons.

“TEP has really taken off. JA really liked our model for fundraising and used us as an example for other companies seeking to participate in bowl-a-thons,” said Donye’ Bonsu, Lead Tax Analyst, who organized the bowling events.

JA Finance Park

Seventh and eighth graders from Imago Dei, Higher Ground and Math and Science Success Academy (MASSA) participate in a technology-driven financial literacy program, thanks to a TEP donation.

Students learn about saving, budgeting and spending through the program.

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