Training for adulthood and leadership
JCC’s Future Leaders in Business introduces teens to businesses
Photo: FLIB
“The J’s program is unique in that it affords teens the opportunity to ask questions and delve deeper as they begin to consider their own career paths,” said Melissa Plaskoff, who met with the J’s Future Leaders in Business in March. (Left to right) Abbii Cook, Melissa Plaskoff, Avery Levy, Max Weinstein and Ike Kassanoff

By Deb Silverthorn
Applications are out for teens in grades 10 to 12 to participate in the 2019-2020 Future Leaders in Business program. Students from throughout the Metroplex will have the opportunity to meet community business leaders and entrepreneurs and tour headquarters and offices — all in the spirit of empowering teens to explore possibilities for their futures.
“This is an opportunity for teens to learn from the best and brightest. It represents best how the J networks with Dallas’ community leaders — many of whom grew up in our gyms, and participating in our many programs, and are still doing so as adults,” said Artie Allen, chief executive officer of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas. “We’re very proud of the lifetime connection the J builds with its members and throughout our community.”
The program, partnered between the JCC’s J on Wheels and its Youth and Teen department, will accept applications until Aug. 21, 2019. Future Leaders in Business will meet this year on Sept. 4 and 19, Oct. 27, Nov. 3 and Dec. 1. Beginning in 2020, the group will meet on Jan. 12, Feb. 9, March 8, April 26 and May 3.
The program, now in its second year, was created by Jewish Cultural & Outreach Coordinator Adina Weinberg and then-Director of Youth and Teen programs Abbii Cook.
“The parents have been very supportive of the program and we are also very fortunate to have leaders from the community step up and volunteer their time. The teens are able to build relationships with these community leaders, opening avenues for possible future networking and internships,” said Cook, now assistant director of Hillel at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who handed her reins to Rachel Wagner.
Wagner, the daughter of Bruce and Sharon Wolpert and wife of Mark, first walked into the JCC as a preschooler, and was a camper and then a counselor throughout her teens.
“The Future Leaders in Business will let students see what’s out there — careers and opportunities they might never have considered. At the same time, at this early age, they will have the chance to make some connections that might be long-lasting,” said Wagner, who is the JCC’s Youth and Teen Services director.
A Plano West Senior High School and University of North Texas graduate, Wagner was also a member of BBYO’s Ginny Weinstein chapter. “I’ve grown up at the J and it has been the center of most of my life,” she said. “The chance to come back and work here, and help influence the next generation, is something I’m very proud of and excited for.”
Participants are required to sign a Statement of Professionalism, promising professional conduct throughout the program, ensuring they will miss no more than two of the two-hour sessions; arrive on time when present; serve as positive role models; leave all electronic equipment turned off during sessions; and comply with the business-casual dress code. Greeting professionals with appropriate manners and displaying genuine interest to all programs is also required.
“It’s important to us to provide the teens with hands-on experience,” said Melissa Plaskoff, co-founder and president of ON-AIR MEDIA, which participated in last year’s program. “Visiting our studios gave them a chance to see how podcasts — like their favorite shows on YouTube — live online forever. We talked with the students about the power of words and communication. In this age, personal reputations and professional resumes are affected by not only what we post, but how we respond to others’ posts. The J’s program is unique in that it affords teens the opportunity to ask questions and delve deeper as they begin to consider their own career paths.”
Other community leaders and companies participating last year included Art Signo and Jeffrey Schussler of Baylor Scott and White Hospital; Dunia Borga of La Duni Latin café; Jay Lieberman of RBC Wealth Management; Jared Sandler, on-air personality for the Texas Rangers; and Angela Horowitz of Stevens Transports.
In addition, a human resources panel took place, featuring Kari Brandenburg with On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina; Monte Hurst of the law firm of Hallett & Perrin, PC; and Susan Zetley with Stanley Korshak.
Openings are available this year to companies and executives interested in having the group visit their place of work.
“I signed up to be in the Future Leaders in Business group because I really wasn’t sure yet what I am looking for in a career,” said Leah Bernstein, who is going into her senior year at Plano West Senior High School, and who participated in last year’s program. “Through the program, I learned about many different options from human resources and hospitality, to medical, transport and more — from touring the inside of a transport truck and seeing how drivers live at Stevens, to holding a real heart in our hands at Baylor Scott & White. I don’t think that, on my own, I would ever have been able to visit the places we did or make connections with the people we met. I got the feeling that most of them would be willing to offer advice in the future and I appreciate that.”
“We are fortunate to have some of the finest business leaders in our Jewish community,” said Allen. “And their willingness to serve as role models sets our future leaders on the path to success.”
For more information, to apply, or to recommend your business as a host to the FLIBers, contact Rachel Wagner at 214-239-7189 or

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