Jeremy Race – President & CEO – Leadership
Experience before JA: Graduate School
Education: B.A. in History, Fairfield University; M.S. in Elementary Education, Central Connecticut State University
What I like most about JA: The mission is powerful. What could be better than helping young people dream big about their futures and teaching them the strategies to achieve those dreams.
What I like most about my job: The majority of my time is spent strengthening existing relationships with JA supporters, establishing new partnerships, developing new programs, and working strategically to grow JA's base of support. Knowing that all of these endeavors will allow our organization to serve more young people and create even more intensive JA experiences year after year is both satisfying and inspiring.
Favorite story about a JA student: Each year, I have the pleasure of working closely with several JA students in preparation for their speaking roles at JA's annual Partners in Achievement breakfasts in Hartford and New Haven. I was so proud to watch Josslyn, a student from New Britain who at one point was on track to not graduate from high school, stand up in front of 400 guests and state that thanks to JA, "I will graduate high school. I will attend college. I will be successful." It was a moving moment I will never forget.
Jeremy is a board member for the Connecticut Jump$tart Coalition, is on the American Savings Foundation Scholarship Committee, and is on Southern CT State University’s Business Advisory Board. He also serves on JA USA’s HR Committee.
Misty Amarena – Director of Operations – Leadership
Experience before JA: Executive Director of Backyard Harvest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing fresh produce to those most in need
Education: B.A. in Secondary Education, English and Speech Communications, University of Idaho; M.Ed. in Secondary Education, University of Southern California
What I like most about JA: Through JA, we are agents of change, making active and impactful changes in the lives of the students, volunteers, and companies we engage to carry out the JA mission. Together, we are ensuring young people in our state have the knowledge, skillset, attitude and opportunity to thrive. JA inspires and prepares the next generation for success and I love being a part of that.
What I like most about my job: The majority of my time is spent strengthening existing relationships with JA staff and supporters, providing the best special event experiences for our attendees and sponsor partners, working to raise the visibility of the JA brand, sharing our successes with the community, and developing systems to better track and communicate our impact. I love all of these aspects of my job because they will allow our organization to provide more meaningful and inspiring experiences for young people and pull our adult partners in to experience the magic of the JA mission!
Favorite story about a JA student: Each year, I have the pleasure of working closely with several JA students in preparation for their speaking roles at JA's events. Recently, we had a student from our Entrepreneurial Academy join us for his first public speaking engagement. Listening to Dev develop his confidence as we practiced and revised his script was exciting. Then, seeing him on the stage in front of a crowd of 400+ business people not only executing his speech, but being dynamic and bringing humor in his comfort was truly inspiring. Getting to continue to build a relationship with Dev as he continued his involvement with JA was icing on the cake – he continued to grow, learn, and demonstrate the power of JA each time we were together.
Tomeka Cole – Director of Philanthropy – Leadership
Experience before JA: With nearly 20 years within the United Way network, primarily with United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.
Education: A proud graduate of Weaver High in Hartford, with studies at the University of Hartford, Hartford College for Women
What I like most about my job: I find joy in building relationships with donors and understanding their motivations for supporting JA. Having spent many years with another nonprofit, I appreciate the unique opportunity to collaborate with educators. It aligns with the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” JA empowers students to shape their futures, a philosophy I am passionate about.
Favorite JA story: One of the most inspiring moments in my JA journey was during the Cap Gemini Entrepreneur Challenge in collaboration with The Hartford. Witnessing the incredible creativity and dedication of the participating students left a lasting impact on me. These young minds showcased remarkable innovation as they presented their sustainability projects. From conceptualizing eco-friendly solutions to addressing real-world challenges, the students demonstrated a level of enthusiasm and commitment that exceeded expectations. Their ability to think critically, collaborate effectively, and present compelling ideas was truly impressive. It was not only a testament to the impact of JA’s experiential learning but also a reminder of the immense potential within our youth when given the right opportunities. The experience affirmed my belief in the power of education to nurture future leaders and change-makers, shaping a generation that is not only aware of global challenges but actively engaged in finding solutions. This particular event highlighted the importance of fostering creativity and entrepreneurship among students, and I am proud to be part of an organization that contributes to their growth and development.
Tomeka currently serves as the Board Chair for Angel of Edgewood, showcasing her dedication to community engagement and leadership beyond her role at JA.
Nicole Diorio – Director of Education – Leadership
Experience before JA: Customer Service
Education: B.S. in Liberal Studies, Southern Connecticut State University
What I like most about JA: JA is for everyone. Communities throughout the state of Connecticut vary in population, culture, resources, income; regardless JA is a partner to all. We make no assumptions, we focus on the student and connect their classroom education experience with opportunities that await them. From kindergarten to the moment they cross the stage with diploma in hand, JA focuses on the essential life skills that empower young people to not only own the choices they make, but to identify the choices that will set them up for success.
What I like most about my job: For more than a decade I have dedicated my time to a meaningful mission, a mission that hits home in more ways than one. As a first generation college graduate, career planning and personal finance is something that came later on in life. I proudly find myself in a position to offer guidance and connect students to a world outside of their own through the mission of JA. I have the privilege of collaboration; collaborating joining forces with dedicated educators and community partners who understand that time is priceless, yet with no hesitation they give as much as they can.
Favorite story about a JA student: My favorite story stems from my favorite program, the JA Entrepreneurial Academy, a program that guides students through the start up of their very own company. Over the course of 12 years, I've witnessed countless young people transform through the program. One young woman in particular will forever take up residency in my mind. She joined the Entrepreneurial Academy her Junior year of high school. Although she was brilliant, she was shy and uncertain of herself. Through the guidance of JA and her volunteers, and despite her internal fears, she took on a leadership role as president of the company. Throughout the duration of the program she gained confidence in herself and her abilities, and she gained the respect of her peers. This young lady took full advantage of this opportunity. At the conclusion of the program her parents approached me and with tears in their eyes thanked me, and thanked Junior Achievement for helping their daughter see the potential that they had always seen in her.