Ann Arbor Jaycees: A Beacon of Growth

A person smiling for a picture.

In 2024, Kelsey Luha will serve as president of the Ann Arbor Jaycees (AAJ), a nonprofit organization and community-based group for professional and leadership development. She says their goal for this year is the same as years prior, striving to improve all of the Washtenaw community. 

The Ann Arbor Jaycees are one of the Washtenaw area’s best-kept secrets. With its history dating back to the 1930s, The AAJ’s mission is simple: to provide opportunities that encourage positive change for young adults. 

AAJ is a regional chapter of the Junior Chamber International, a nonprofit international organization with members and regional chapters in nearly 124 countries.

Luha, a Jaycees member of four years, said the organization is a beacon of growth for members because it offers programs, conferences and networking opportunities for those between 21 and 40.

“People within our group receive jobs because of who’s in the organization,” Luha said. “It’s great networking. We offer training sessions, job interviews and resume building to help you professionally and get where you want to be after college.”

Although the organization offers its members these opportunities and events for professional development, what AAJ does in terms of work around Washtenaw County is multifaceted.

Beginning with its work with other nonprofits, AAJ works with organizations ranging from Ann Arbor Pride to Habitat for Humanity.  By providing sponsorships for numerous events through sending financial support and volunteering manpower for shows to go on without a hitch, AAJ has found its niche in helping organizations through a help-anyway-we-can level of support.

“We try to do one (event) monthly and hit every different area,” Luha said. “We are always open to working with anyone in the community. Last year, we tried to reach out even more than we had previously. We are always looking for different people to collaborate with.”

Apart from their collaborative work, AAJ has hosted major Washtenaw area events, such as the Fourth of July Parade, an annual event since 1993. As well as the Bountiful Baskets program, a personal favorite of Luha, where AAJ provides Thanksgiving meals to over 180 families in the community.

This year, AAJ plans to collaborate with more nonprofits like Ozone House and the Delonis Center to assist in their fight against homelessness. 

Luha said they have already begun planning a route for the annual Fourth of July parade, which shifted to a festival in 2023 due to construction, but will return to its parade format this year.

“It motivates me to make a difference, especially within our community,” Luha said. “Getting to see what we do to make an impact and knowing that we are making an impact within our community. That drives me. I want us to keep getting greater and creating more of an impact.”

While AAJ only allows its Presidents to serve a one-year, one-term sitting, Luha said that she sees this year as an opportunity to bring the organization to new heights, stating that she will do her best to ensure the organization enhances the Ann Arbor area. 

“Growth is the biggest goal. More outreach and becoming better than we were last year,” Luha said. “We always reevaluate what we are doing every year and the needs of the community.”

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Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.