Author: Erika O'Shea
Published: Friday, 21 Feb 2020
Emily Brown participated in Junior Achievement programs as a young girl in her hometown of Dallas, Texas. “I was in the 3rd or 4th grade when Junior Achievement came to my classroom. I also participated in a JA summer camp. I vividly remember being so excited for JA every month” The tools and skills she learned in those programs help inspire a passion for entrepreneurship and social change in young Emily.
Fast forward to the present and now she has created a nationally recognized non-profit to champion representation and access in the food allergy world. After moving to Kansas City ten years ago with her husband, she became a preschool teacher and mother. The new family faced an early food allergy scare when her daughter had a reaction to peanuts. The expense of specialized allergen-free food quickly turned into a large financial burden. Emily reached out to programs for assistance but discovered that food stability resources for individuals with allergies were severely lacking. “I couldn’t get what I needed from food pantries and it wasn’t available through the federal nutrition program. There is a huge gap in our safety net system for allergies, which are a common medical need.”
With more than 32 million Americans with food allergies, Emily decided to take the opportunity to create change for her family and others challenged with nutritional security in the face of food allergies and founded the Food Equality Initiative. “Changing large-scale policy, like the WIC food packages, may take the rest of my life. That is where the idea of having a solution to help people now came from. In the Spring of 2015, we opened up the nation’s first allergy friendly and gluten-free food pantry.”
Emily’s passion for inclusion extends beyond her profession. She is also an engaged community volunteer and JA Champion. As a mentor at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum (FWLF), Emily reengaged with Junior Achievement as a role model for high school students. “I want to encourage young women to pursue business as an option. I think social entrepreneurship, business as a force for good, is where it’s at.”
Being involved with FWLF allowed Emily to reflect on why JA is one of her causes of choice. “It was a full circle moment. I learned a lot from my time as a student through JA in Dallas, but I distinctly remember there not being anyone who looked like me. In Kansas City, there were so many professional women of color at the JA Future Women’s Leadership Forum and the students were also predominantly women of color.”
Emily continued, “It was inspiring to see. It encouraged me to continue to engage with the students as they grow and explore career opportunities. Junior Achievement of Greater KC’s commitment and intentionality around diversity and inclusion is amazing. I have not seen that in any other setting.”
Emily also appreciated the diversity of background represented at the forum, “There were a wide range of leaders and entrepreneurs present. I saw the entire spectrum of the entrepreneurial journey represented. I love that they highlighted different ways you can come to entrepreneurship. It’s important to show the next generation that there are many paths up the mountain.”
Through Junior Achievement and the Future Women’s Leadership Forum, Emily continues the tradition of mentorship and guidance she herself experienced in JA programming as a kid. By bringing her own entrepreneurship story and passion for inclusion to the table, she is helping students understand their limitless potential. Volunteer-driven JA mentorship experiences expose students to leaders with whom they can identify and learn crucial life lessons. When you partner with JA, you empower students to recognize their potential and give them the tools they need to seize opportunity.