JA Alumni Story: John Fung

Posted in: Alumni Stories

“JA taught me that if I set my mind to it, I can achieve anything.” From JA student to board member, John Fung’s journey has taken him through every aspect of the Junior Achievement experience. But where did it all start?

John and his family immigrated from Hong Kong to Tucson, Arizona, when he was just 12 years old. His parents barely spoke English and knew very little about the world of business and finance. However, that did not stifle John’s interest in the industry from a young age.

In 1979, as a sophomore at Tucson High School, John recalls a volunteer coming to his classroom and presenting an opportunity to get involved with Junior Achievement. “At that time there was the JA Company Program,” John notes as he reflects on his experience. “Other students talked about how great [the program] was and so I immediately signed up.” And so, for one night each week, John would travel to a center where 10-12 kids from different high schools would meet to participate.

The JA Company Program was run by four advisors, all volunteers from local businesses. With their guidance, students would start and run their own businesses in small groups, each with a different role in the company. John remembers running for office and becoming President of a student-run company that sold t-shirts. Fortunately for John’s team, the presiding sponsor of the program, Southern Pacific Railroad, elected to purchase shirts from John’s company, grossing them over $12,000 and breaking the record for largest sale in JA history in Tucson.

When he returned for the spring semester, he once again participated in the program as an elected officer and was acknowledged as one of the top presidents in the program at the annual Future Unlimited Night. Because of his dedication, hard work and exemplary attendance record, he was chosen to go to the National JA Conference in Indiana.

By the end of his senior year, John had gone through the semester-long program six times and had received a scholarship to participate in the Dale Carnegie leadership training which focused on public speaking and human relations. He was chosen as the JA Achiever of the Year in 1982 and recalled traveling to Pennsylvania on a learjet with some of the local executives. “I had asked a friend of mine to meet me at the reception in Pennsylvania, and these adult professionals couldn’t believe that I was traveling on a jet and already had a date set up when I arrived,” John laughed as he relived the details of the experience.

After graduating, John volunteered to come back and teach a JA class at his high school as well as assist advisors with the JA Company Program. He enjoyed getting to be on the other side of the JA experience. Since then, he has been an advocate for JA, attending events, volunteering regularly, and ultimately sat on the JA Southern Arizona Board of Directors from 2018-2022.

“JA taught me business skills like good eye contact, firm handshakes, all the things you can’t learn in a regular classroom,” said John. “I had a wonderful experience in JA and it gave me a solid foundation of all the skills that I need [today] – public speaking, self-confidence, and understanding of our free enterprise system. That’s what sets JA apart.”