Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting evolution of regional educational systems, Junior Achievement of NEPA announced it will move its work readiness and business leadership program online.

The redesigned Virtual Junior Achievement of NEPA will officially launch March 1. Students can access courses and experiences from their homes or in a group setting when students return to the classroom.

Ginny Crake, president of Junior Achievement of NEPA, said in the past, students would come in groups to the Junior Achievement facility in Pittston Twp. to learn about career options and financial literacy.

Now, she said Junior Achievement will “come to them wherever they are and deliver the same interactive experiences in an educational format which they’ve adapted to over the past year.”

“There is no question that COVID-19 has changed education for our young people and the safest, most effective way to reach them is by providing an engaging virtual experience,” Crake said.

Amid the move to online programming, Crake said they will no longer use the Junior Achievement Mericle Family Center for Enterprise Education building at 1122 Oak St. in Pittston Twp.

She said it has been an “incredible resource” but the physical space is no longer practical in delivering a “great student experience while adhering to government guidelines for social distancing and safety.”

“The good news is that the incredible relationship between Junior Achievement and the Mericle family and Mericle Commercial Real Estate, which has been a driving force in our success, will continue,” Crake said.

Jim Cummings, vice president of marketing for Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, applauded Junior Achievement of NEPA for its leadership role in educating area children about career options and financial literacy.

He said Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services will continue to provide support to Junior Achievement, including new office space for its staff in one of its office buildings in the Greater Wilkes-Barre area.

The building on Oak Street in Pittston Twp. will transition to another local nonprofit which will use the facility on a year-round basis to provide “much needed services to our local communities,” he said.

Cummings would not yet say who the new occupant will be. He said the final details are still being worked out but will be a “highly regarded Northeastern Pennsylvania-based nonprofit.”

Student interaction will be advanced in the coming months with additional interactive features, including a virtual career fair which will expand learning beyond the confines of the traditional Junior Achievement Center.