Author Archives: Stephanie Lough

About Stephanie Lough

PR specialist in the Arcadia neighborhood.

AmTrust Shop 2

Kids run branch of AmTrust Bank

AmTrust Bank, a division of New York Community Bank, is opening a new branch, but this one is unlike any of the others: It will be run entirely by children. The latest location will be a part of Junior Achievement of Arizona’s (JAAZ) educational facility, JA BizTown. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place on Tuesday, September 10 at 3:30, at the JA BizTown facility at JAAZ’s headquarters in Tempe.

AmTrust Bank has a broad partnership with JAAZ, including more than 45 volunteers, five-year sponsorship of events and representation on the board of directors.

“Junior Achievement is thrilled to add AmTrust Bank to our JA BizTown community,” said Joyce Richards, president of Junior Achievement of Arizona.  “We have had a close partnership with AmTrust for the past five years and this is a wonderful way to commemorate that partnership.”

Students who participate in the JA BizTown program will obtain a better understanding of how important it is to manage finances. They will have the opportunity to “work” in the branch, learn what it takes to provide quality customer service and to support customers that are making important financial decisions for themselves and their families.

Doreen Rast, Senior Vice President, Retail Banking Regional Executive  of AmTrust Bank, a division of New York Community Bank,  said, “It is our privilege to make this happen for the youth of Maricopa and Yavapai Counties.” Our relationship with Junior Achievement has evolved over time and with that, so has our commitment to their programs.  On Tuesday we will celebrate, not only a five year financial commitment to JA, but also the development of The AmTrust Bank Branch joining the other businesses in JA’s incredible BizTown.

“We are honored to support the efforts of Junior Achievement in Arizona,” added Michael Fields, First Vice President, Community Reinvestment Act Officer of New York Community Bancorp, Inc. of which AmTrust Bank is a division.  “JA’s mission to inspire and prepare goes hand-in-hand with our mission to excel in all we do for all we serve.  When it comes to supporting the communities we serve, enhancing quality of life through education is a major component of our outreach efforts.” JA BizTown is an elementary school program for students in grades four through six.  The program combines four-week in-class learning sessions with a day-long visit to the JA BizTown facility, where students have the opportunity to run banks, manage restaurants, read utility meters, write checks and even vote.  It is a fully interactive, true-to-life, simulated town where students learn the fundamental relationship between academics and life beyond school.

BGC Thrift - African Display

Give a Little, Get a Lot at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale Thrift Shop

It’s not often a store has something for everybody.

But between the shelves of fine antique crystals, the display of vintage handbags and racks of dog-eared books, you’d be hard pressed not to find something that tickles your fancy at the seemingly small thrift shop just South of Thomas on Scottsdale Road. Once you step instead, you can feel that this shop is different.
“We’re not like your other ‘thrift stores’ or second-hand shops,” manager of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Great Scottsdale Thrift Shop and fashion industry veteran Kathleen Smith, said. “People don’t just come in looking for a bargain – they are looking for something one-of-a-kind. We are a specialty shop. Our inventory is always unique and always changing.”
Maybe it is the constantly moving whimsical displays and the seasonal collections of items that have been waiting for their turn in the store’s window exhibits, some of which have been compared to that of Barneys and other high-end department stores.
Maybe it is the eye-catching contrast between a classical, generations-old violin and an unusual Australian didgeridoo, which sits opposite a bright table of cornucopias.
Or maybe it is the fact that everything in the store – from $10,000 designer dresses to $1 Groucho Marx glasses – is donated, and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the nine branches of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale to help provide a positive environment, quality programs, healthy lifestyles and lifelong learning skills for school-age youth in Scottsdale and the surrounding communities.
According to Smith, supporters of the BGCGS constantly bring new stock. Some benefactors even leave entire estates to the Clubs, resulting in complete furniture sets, clothing collections and other large-ticketed items that would make a bargain hunter’s dream come true.
The store is run primarily by volunteers, some of whom are members of the fundraising Auxiliary Club, as well as BGCGS members who participate in the Keystone Club, one of the leadership programs the Thrift Shop supports. Former Keystone Club kid and Heartly & Ruth Barker Branch member Nestor Martinez knows firsthand the positive affect the Boys & Girls Clubs can have on youth and the impact the Thrift Store has. Martinez joined the Club in 5th grade and never looked back, becoming a Youth of the Year finalist, a designation, the highest honor given to a club member, in 2007.
Now, as a college student, Martinez works both at his former branch and part time as the store’s social media manager.
“It is amazing what he has done for the store,” Smith said. “He has us on all the social media sites, and helps bring in fresh, young ideas.”
In addition to the Scottsdale location, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale Thrift Shop sells items all over the country through their eBay store “UniqueBourtique1.”
The biggest challenge of running a volunteer-based store? According to Smith, it is really no different than managing other retails stores.
“The key to running a successful retail shop is all about customer service. The only difference is we change so often, a volunteer may come into work and the whole place looks different!” Smith said with a laugh. “With volunteers, you have workers coming in a few times a week to once every few weeks. They’ll come in to a whole new store every time!”
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale Thrift Shop is located at 2626 N. Scottsdale Road and accepts donations year round. For more information, including how to donate, call 480-949-5787 or visit the Thrift Shop’s Facebook, Twitter @BGSCThriftShop or Instagram @BGCSThrift.

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Summertime Cancer Risk – It’s Not What You Think!

You slather on sunscreen with high SPF, don a floppy sunhat and shield your eyes with shades – all great defenses against skin cancer, especially in the sunny summer months. But despite your best efforts to avoid harmful cancer-causing UV rays, chances are you are still overlooking one major cause of many kinds of cancer: your fruity, sugary summertime cocktail.

“Perhaps just as common at pool parties as swimsuits themselves, summer cocktails like daiquiris and margaritas are high in sugar and alcohol, two of cancerous tumors’ favorite cohorts,” said Dr. Coral Quiet of Arizona Center for Cancer Care.

We unknowingly consume a lot of sugar through beverages. According to a recent study, if you include sodas and sports drinks along with mixed cocktails, drinks make up 20 percent of our sugar intake. And sure, we all know sugar can lead to weight gain and diabetes, but not many people know it can actually feed certain types of cancerous tumors.

“An estimate one third of cancerous tumors have insulin receptors – including breast and colon cancers,” says Dr. Quiet. “These receptors pull sugar in from the bloodstream, which not only feeds the tumor, but prevents muscles and other organs from getting the insulin they need.”

According to Dr. Quiet, while often overlooked, sugar – especially the kind in alcohol – is a leading cause of cancer in the United States. A leading reason why – we often don’t realize how much we are indulging in.

For example, one margarita (and you know you have more than one!) made with store-bought mix has more than 24 grams of sugar. A strawberry daiquiri can have upwards of 35 grams. To put that in perspective, according to the American Heart Institute, folks should only have the following added sugars in their diets, meaning above and beyond natural sugars like fruits:

  • Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Men: 36 grams or 9 teaspoons
  • Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Women: 20 grams or 5 teaspoons
  • Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Children: 12 grams or 3 teaspoons

But that’s only half of a cancer cocktail. Alcohol comes with its own risks. Just like with sugar, there are obvious pitfalls to consuming alcohol – weight, memory and long-term risk of disease.168718391

But the fact is, alcohol is a carcinogen, meaning there is sufficient evidence to show its connection to cancer.

“In the United States, alcohol may play a role in more than 20,000 cancer deaths each year and has been linked to breast, esophagus, colorectal, liver, stomach and ovarian cancers,” says Dr. Quiet.

Luckily, cancerous tumors develop and grow over extended lengths of time, so it’s okay to sneak a fruity, frilly cocktail once in a while, just be careful not to over indulge. Also, be sure to have regular check-ups for cancers with your physicians. The earlier tumors are detected, the greater the chance of survival.

For more information please, visit the Arizona Center for Cancer Care.


Junior Achievement, Microsoft Prepare Valley Students

Junior Achievement of Arizona (JAAZ) and Microsoft announced a new collaboration as part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative to help local students explore careers in the technology hardware and software industries.

Through Microsoft YouthSpark, students from GateWay Early College High School, Girls Leadership Academy, Mesa High School and Skyline High School participated in the JA Job Shadow program, including teacher-led classroom instruction around key work-readiness skills such as leadership, teamwork and how to conduct a successful job search. The students visited a Microsoft Retail Store for a day-long mentoring experience giving them a first-hand glimpse into the world of work and the opportunity to apply their classroom learning.

“We are thrilled to partner with Microsoft to help students develop and enhance skills needed for future career pursuits,” said Joyce Richards, president of JAAZ.  “Through JA Job Shadow, students will learn resume writing, job interviewing and decision making, to help position them for success in the workforce.”

Students in the Phoenix-metro area join youth in 49 other communities across the United States to participate in the effort.

Ann Weaver Hart

U of A President to Speak At AAED Luncheon

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart will be the speaker at the Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED)’s May luncheon on Tuesday, May 7 from 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Phoenix Country Club, located at 2901 N. Seventh St. in Phoenix.

Hart will discuss the university’s role in economic development throughout the state.
The cost of the luncheon is $40 for AAED members and guests and $50 for non-members and late registrants.  To register, visit For more information, call AAED at 602-240-AAED (2233) or visit  The registration deadline is Monday, April 29.  Vegetarian meals must be requested in advance.

AAED was originally founded in 1974 as the Arizona Association for Industrial Development (AAID).  The organization, which was dedicated to expanding the industrial and economic base of Arizona, changed to its current name in 1991 to better reflect its broader mission.

The strategic vision of AAED is to be the leading advocate of responsible economic development for all of Arizona by leading the facilitation of public/private cooperation and fostering teamwork to address the growth and quality of life issues that face Arizona.  For more information on AAED, visit or call (602) 240-2233.

hearing loss

Listen Up! Hidden Danger In Popular Toys: Hearing Loss

Toys come with a lot of warnings: Not suitable for children under three years; small parts may present choking hazards; use under adult supervision. Labels on electronic toys list the voltage while others confirm non-toxic materials. If a toy proves to be harmful, it is quickly recalled as toy manufacturers make safety a priority.

Or do they?

One thing toy warning labels don’t tell you is if the product is too loud, compromising your child’s hearing.

Noise-induced hearing loss is the No. 1 type of hearing loss, and the number of children with this condition has doubled in recent years. In fact, one in five children under the age of 12 has some degree of hearing loss. Much of it can be attributed to loud toys; but how do you know when loud is too loud?

Sherri Collins, the executive director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH), says 85 decibels (dB), which is about as loud as an alarm clock, is the maximum volume a child should be exposed to and for no more than eight hours. Decibels are a unit of measurement to gauge volumes and used in several industries, including construction and engineering, to ensure safety.

Sounds over 100 dB — equivalent to the volume of a motorcycle while riding — can damage hearing in less than 15 minutes of exposure. According to the Sight and Hearing Association, 12 of the top 20 most popular toys sold this holiday season tested above 100 dB when held close to the ear — and dangerously close to the 85 dB max when held at approximately arm’s length. The problem is kids don’t always hold their toys away from their ears, and some are even intended to be held near the face.

The top five most harmful noisy toys this year are:

  1. Disney Pixar Toy Story Talking Figure Buzz Lightyear by Mattel, Inc.: 111 dB near the ear, 81.6 dB at arm’s length
  2. Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leonardo’s Electronic Sword by Playmates Toys: 109.2 dB near the ear, 81.6 dB at arm’s length
  3. Dora the Explorer/Dora’s Desert Friends by Publications Int’l., Ltd.: 108.2 dB near the year, 80.4 dB at arm’s length
  4. Barbie Little Learner Laptop by Oregon Scientific – 108 dB near the ear, 83.8 dB at arm’s length
  5. Playskool/123 Sesame Street Let’s Rock Grover Microphone by Hasbro: 107.3 dB near the ear, 79.3 at arm’s length

And that’s just for children’s toys. Video games and MP3 players, all of which can produce decibel levels that exceed safe limits, can, over time, cause hearing loss. The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing suggests monitoring your children when watching TV or listening to music and advise them not to go past a certain volume or spend more than a few hours being exposed. If you can hear your child’s music while he or she is wearing headphones, his/her music is much too loud.

In addition, children should be regularly screened for hearing loss — something that is not done by doctors during a yearly check-up. By detecting the early onset of hearing loss, appropriate measures can be taken to prevent further damage.

For more information about hearing loss, please visit


Valley High School Students Compete at JA Stock Market Challenge

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and more than 400 high schools students from nearly 20 Arizona schools will come together for Junior Achievement of Arizona’s Sixth Annual Student Stock Market Challenge, in which teams compete to see who can grow their mock-stock portfolio and create the highest net worth. The event will be held at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 1.

Mayor Stanton will sound the closing bell at the event and congratulate the winning team.
Students have been preparing for the Challenge the past two months by participating in lessons designed to help them grasp the concepts they’ll need in stock trading, led by Junior Achievement (JA) volunteer instructors and our partner teachers. The JA Student Stock Market Challenge gives students a chance to practice those skills in a fun and dynamic environment. Particularly pertinent is that lessons learned during the Challenge are the focus of reflection exercises that will help today’s youth make smart financial choices as adults.

“Bestowing financial knowledge into high school students is crucial for our economic future,” said Joyce Richards, president of Junior Achievement of Arizona.  “Through the Stock Market Challenge and other JA programs, students are learning lessons on which to build effective personal financial habits for life.”

The Sixth Annual Stock Market Challenge is sponsored by: The Charles Schwab Foundation, Title and TruWest Credit Union, Champion of Hope.
For more information, visit

Junior Achievement JA You’re Hired! Challenge 2011

Junior Achievement JA You’re Hired! Challenge Teaches Students Workforce Skills

Hundreds of Valley high school students learn workforce skills, compete for internships at the Junior Achievement of Arizona (JAAZ) JA You’re Hired! Challenge at the Tempe Center for the Arts

According to a 21st Century Skills study, 42 percent of employers rate the overall preparation of high school graduates for entry-level jobs as deficient. On March 29, more than 350 Valley high school students will defy this statistic at the Junior Achievement of Arizona (JAAZ) JA You’re Hired! Challenge at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

The JA You’re Hired! Challenge is a part of a three component, award-winning program created by JAAZ in partnership with the University of Phoenix to develop high school students’ work-readiness skills, many of which are not addressed in a normal high school curriculum.

“We realize that even some of the best schools lack the ‘real world’ lessons that are needed to transition from student to employee,” says Joyce Richards, president of JAAZ. “JA You’re Hired! teaches students those skills and does so in a realistic, competitive environment to help them make smart academic and economic choices.”

The first component is a rigorous curriculum led in class by Junior Achievement volunteers to prepare them for the JA You’re Hired! Challenge. Over the course of a few weeks, students learn proper interview techniques; work to improve their writing, language, math and critical thinking skills; and how to apply what they learn in the classroom to real life situations.

These skills are then put to the test by nearly 50 Phoenix area hiring managers who will be on-site the day of the JA You’re Hired! Challenge. They will be testing the students on their abilities through mock interviews, marketing pitches and public speaking exercises.

Some of the hiring managers will be offering summer internships. Students selected will continue to the third component of the program, which is comprised of successfully completing a paid internship with regular correspondence between the employer and Junior Achievement advisors.

“What is truly unique about this program is that it goes beyond lessons and workshops,” Richards says. “Students actually go through the hiring process and apply everything this program has taught them. And like the real world, not everyone gets the job, but at least now they are prepared for whatever challenges they may face in the job market.”

This year’s JA You’re Hired! Challenge program is made possible thanks to the generous support of University of Phoenix and community partners, such as Phoenix Suns Charities, Triton Technologies, Crexando, FedEx, Allstate, bluemedia, Charles Schwab, Manpower, SHRM and others.

For more information on Junior Achievement or ways to get involved, please call 480-377-8500 or visit

About Junior Achievement of Arizona
Junior Achievement is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization which believes that every child deserves an education in economics and finances in order to inspire and prepare them for success in a global economy. Serving Arizona’s youth since 1957, JA prepares young people for the real world by showing them how to become self-sufficient, how to create jobs which make their communities robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Junior Achievement of Arizona reached nearly 83,000 students during the 2010-2011 school year.