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Pam and Les Muma give record $5 million to Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay

TAMPA — As the newly appointed mayor of Junior Achievement's Muma JA BizTown, it was 10-year-old Jada Clayton who got to announce Thursday a new donation from philanthropists Pam and Les Muma.

"It's $1 million," Jada said as a room full of elementary students in green "I love Pam and Les Muma" T-shirts whispered to one another in awe.

The adults chuckled. Actually, the Mumas donated a record $5 million that will help Junior Achievement start a program to teach eighth-grade students about personal finance.

"Wow, really?" said Jada, a fifth-grader at Palm River Elementary School.

It's the largest individual gift ever made to Junior Achievement Tampa Bay, said board chairman Robert Mossbacher, an executive with Bank of America.

The Mumas' donation will help pay for a new building that will house the personal finance program next to the organization's Bill Poe Family JA Center at 13707 N 22nd St., located off E Fletcher Avenue.

The new home of the eighth- grade program will be called Finance Park.

"Finance Park is all about how to make personal finance decisions," Mossbacher said, "everything from balancing a checkbook to what kind of income you might make in certain careers and how to budget.

"It teaches you how to save and build for a future."

Pam Muma said the nonprofit teaches students lessons they'll need one day.

"In the whole United States, there are not many schools that are actually giving economic education anymore," she said. "They're depending on Junior Achievement nationwide to provide that."

The nonprofit already teaches elementary and middle school students about how government and businesses operate by role-playing at Muma JA BizTown.

A similar program, called JA Finance Park Virtual, is taught to high school seniors across the bay area and incorporates lessons on career building with its financial planning curriculum. In Pinellas County, the Gus A. Stavros Institute Finance Park offers a similar program that teaches students to build a personal budget while considering expenses like transportation, investments, health care and education.

The Mumas have spent decades working with Junior Achievement. Thursday's $5 million donation brings the couple's total contributions to the nonprofit to $6.2 million.

The couple also has been generous to the University of South Florida, donating a total of $41.2 million. But their relationship with Junior Achievement goes back decades.

It started 29 years ago, when the couple moved to Milwaukee and Pam Muma was looking to keep busy. She heard about the work done by the local Junior Achievement chapter and decided to volunteer for a few committees. Soon, she was chairwoman of the Junior Achievement of Wisconsin's Women's Association and Les Muma was sitting on the board of directors.

Pam Muma now sits on the board of directors of Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay. Education is important to the family, she said, and the record-breaking donation to Junior Achievement was simply "the right thing to do."

It's not the first time the couple made history with donations. In 2014, the Mumas donated a record $25 million to USF, the largest donation in the university's six decades. That's why the USF Muma College of Business on the Tampa campus now bears their name.

The couple is especially proud of how Muma JA BizTown has taught students about finance.

"They'll come out of here knowing so much more about government, business, free enterprise — and that's key. That's our country," Les Muma said. "You can't imagine how many kids go to college and don't know how to write a check."

Pam Muma said their gift will ensure that kids like Jada continue to build upon the hands-on skills they're learning through the Muma JA BizTown.

"It's fun and it gives children hands-on work so they can realize what the real world is," Jada said. "I learned what my parents are going through like how to save, how to bank, how to write checks, and it's given me more skills."

Pam and Les Muma give record $5 million to Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay 05/12/16 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2016 9:40pm]
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