Angela Armstrong

For Angela, moving to Winnipeg in grade 11 meant entering a new high school where she was unfamiliar with the city and people. Hearing about the Junior Achievement program piqued her interest. She recognized that it would be a great way to make new friends and get to know the city. By her second year in the program, she was president of her student business group and had lots of great friends.

As a result of her leadership and her team’s hard work, Angela was named President of the Year during her grade 12 year. She then went on to receive a nomination to the Junior Achievement national conference in Ontario, had an opportunity to come to a conference in Edmonton, was a keynote speaker at an inductee lunch for the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, and was profiled in a feature article in MacLean’s magazine. After graduating from high school, she maintained her connection to the program by working in the Winnipeg office as a summer student and also volunteered during university as a liaison between advisors and Junior Achievement before going on to become a mentor herself.

Even throughout university, Angela always imagined herself entering law. It was, however, her participation in Junior Achievement and the numerous opportunities it offered her that focused her energy into business. She was constantly inspired by the passionate mentorship she received. Her first mentors, Nick Laping and Jo Magnifico, among others, are still invested in her success and always willing to help her in any way possible. Through the robust network she developed in Junior Achievement, Angela was recruited into her first career position, which would ultimately lead her to Edmonton in the role of branch manager by the age of 25. Currently, Angela spends her days as the president of Prime Capital Group.

The Junior Achievement program pushed Angela to think differently and identify areas to work on and ways to improve herself. By identifying shortcomings in a safe environment, she was able to try new approaches to problems that she would otherwise have been unable to try. Discovering that successful businesses require leadership to be a collaborative process involving dedicated teamwork is one of the greatest takeaways that Angela attributes to her time with Junior Achievement. It was a different approach to leadership that she had not considered before.

In addition to the dedicated and passionate mentors, Angela believes that a major strength of the Junior Achievement program is the innovative and holistic approach it takes to business. With the future in mind, Angela hopes the program stays current by focusing on recognizing and developing different work styles. With young generations experiencing evolving primary and secondary educational programs based on alternative learning styles, she hopes the program continues to evolve to accommodate this variability.


Nicole Janssen

Nicole is a well-decorated alumna of the Junior Achievement Company Program. Today, she spends her time working as the co-founder of Stratus Holdings Inc. and principal of Janalta Interactive Inc., but in 1999 her focus was on something much different: piggy banks and back-scratchers.

Nicole’s first contact with Junior Achievement was in 1996, when she learned about the popular Company Program. Like a lot of kids, she first heard about Junior Achievement in the classroom. Thinking it would be a fun way to meet people, learn something new, and try her hand at what both her parents filled their days with as entrepreneurs, she signed up. During her first year in the program, she and her company manufactured and sold a line of piggy banks shaped as bears. She took on the role of VP administration and spent the year watching, experiencing, and getting a feel for what it meant to run a successful company.

With one successful year in the bank, Nicole came back for more. Taking on the role of president in her second year, she aimed to lead her team and their company into record profits. It was a feat she accomplished unequivocally.

In 1998, she was named top salesperson of the year for Northern Alberta. It would be the first award of many. In the months that followed, Nicole was chosen as President of the Year, was the first person out of Alberta to be selected as Most Valuable Achiever for all of Canada, and was a finalist for the Award of Distinction at the Alberta Chamber of Commerce.

Today, Nicole and her husband run a few businesses together, and being an entrepreneur is what her life is all about. Looking back on her time in the Company Program, she’s quick to recognize that the benefits have been far-reaching. Aside from connecting her with her first employer, it was her first opportunity to lead people and her first exposure to just how many responsibilities come along with business ownership. Nicole continues to give back to Junior Achievement as a member of the board of directors and as a major donor.

“People have this view of being an entrepreneur,” Nicole explained, “that it’s all these flexible hours and you can go on vacation whenever you want. But it’s a lot of hard work. You’re never on vacation because you’re the one people need to contact. It’s always on you wherever you are. JA’s Company Program is a really great opportunity to give people a taste of what entrepreneurship is like before they take a big bank loan out and learn that lesson the hard way.”

With all the success that Nicole’s been able to realize since her two years in the program, she’s excited about the future of the program and what it can mean to today’s youth. Recognizing that Alberta is an ideal location to be an entrepreneur, she hopes the program becomes even wider-reaching to expose as many kids as possible to the opportunities it offers.


Ian McDonald, FCA

Growing up in Edmonton, Ian had always imagined pursuing a career in law or politics, but it wasn’t until he entered the Junior Achievement program in high school that he began to consider a different path. Junior Achievement introduced Ian to a wonderful group of caring and committed business-minded people who opened his eyes to the opportunities in the world of business. After two years in the program, Ian went on to complete a degree in commerce at the University of Alberta.

Today, Ian is a partner at Grant Thornton LLP, a leading Canadian professional accounting firm. He also uses his business acumen as the owner of a number of small businesses in the oilfield service and real estate sectors. Looking back, Ian attributes his interest in business directly to his participation in Junior Achievement.

In 1988, thanks to Ian’s strong leadership in Edmonton’s business community, Junior Achievement approached him about becoming a volunteer. He was eager to be involved because the program had been so influential in his life. Since that time, Ian has been an active and dedicated volunteer, sitting on the board from 1988 to 2007, and acting as board chair from 2006 to 2007. During his time as chair of the board, Ian was one of the founding funders for a fundraising campaign to establish and move the organization into the Junior Achievement Centre in the World Trade Centre, the organization’s current home.

As a Junior Achievement volunteer, Ian has spent countless hours in Edmonton’s classrooms since 1991 delivering enthusiastic programming to get youth excited about business. For over 20 years, he has partnered with same teacher, Darien McConaghey, to reach hundreds of students. A highlight of his participation has been watching the program expand into younger classrooms and seeing the excitement the elementary school children bring. Reaching younger generations is Ian’s major focus; he hopes to engage and excite them and encourage years of participation in Junior Achievement and the business world after graduating.

Ian believes the program excels in teaching students the basics of business so they leave with real-world skills. In the classroom, Junior Achievement students are presented with real-life case studies in which they solve problems, balance budgets, design marketing programs, and much more. “The only difference between a student business and mine is a few zeroes,” Ian explains.

Looking back on his time in Junior Achievement, Ian appreciates how beneficial it was to have a safe environment in which to learn and fail. He notes that he learned the most from his student businesses when they were failing, because that experience taught him to deal with adversity and work through hard times.

Ian is excited about the future of Junior Achievement and hopes to expand the program so it can reach and influence every student. He has big dreams of making the student experience even more robust by creating a realistic student commerce centre where students can learn to trade, invest, and work together in a real-world environment.