JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City

JA Stories of Impact

"Our JA leaders taught us you're never too young to have dreams or set goals for yourself."

De’Na and De’Onta Newborn were first involved with Junior Achievement at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy as elementary students. Over the course of their education, JA volunteer mentors have exposed them to career paths and have helped them define their goals. De’Na’s favorite activity introduced her class to a variety of potential jobs. “Mike from Hallmark brought us all Hallmark notebooks and gel pens. We learned about roles at his company and then played a matching game to pair career titles to the job descriptions we thought they belonged to.” De’Onta especially enjoyed an entrepreneurship activity, “We got a packet that explored how different interests can be turned into businesses. Then we got to market that business and even design a logo!”

De'Onta and De'Na Newborn at the 2019 JA Hall of Fame event.

The twin siblings are now in their Senior year of High School at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Their busy schedule includes volleyball, theater, debate, student council, and choir. Their grandmother, Letta, attests to their drive and passion. “Everything they do they absorb. They are strong in knowing what they want to achieve.” Junior Achievement was also honored to invite De’Na and De’Onta to be presenters at the 2019 JA Business Hall of Fame Celebration last month.

 With college on the horizon, De’Na and De’Onta often field questions about where they would like to attend next fall. Several institutions are being considered, but their JA lessons made an impact here as well, helping them understand the risk of student debt. “We will go to the school that gives us the most money. It’s all about the scholarships!” De’Onta smiled.  

Though they share a birthday and many similar interests, each has separate dreams for the future. These goals have remained constant since their Elementary School JA programs. Deeply impacted by educators and mentors growing up, De’Onta hopes to become an Elementary English Teacher. “Teachers have made such a difference in my life. I want to make sure the literature we learn in schools doesn’t just reflect one side of history. It should reflect all parts and all cultures of our society. De’Na aspires to become a lawyer or substance abuse counselor. JA has fostered confidence about their skills and abilities. When asked what will make her successful in the future, De’Na promptly responded, “My work ethic. When I want something, I don’t take no for an answer. I won’t stop until I get it done.”

De’Na and De’Onta credit Junior Achievement mentors for helping show them that their dreams were within reach. “Our JA leaders taught us you’re never too young to have dreams or set goals for yourself. They showed us that if you aim high, you will get there.”

Quote from De'Onta Newborn

As they move to the next stage of their lives, the pair have wisdom to pass on for future JA students seeking to make an impact in the world around them. De’Na emphasized the importance of preparedness and grit. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you want to do something, don’t go in blind. It won’t be all rainbows and sunshine. Realize there will be challenges. Don’t be afraid of anything. Take it head on.” De’Onta stressed the importance of self-awareness, “As a human, you’re going to make mistakes. But you don’t have to keep making the same ones. Think about your future.”

We can’t wait to continue to watch De’Na and De’Onta grow into their potential and we wish them the best of luck in their studies in their final year of high school! Students who participate in volunteer-led Junior Achievement programs gain the confidence and get the tools to think far beyond what’s right in front of them. When you partner with JA, you redefine preparedness for the next generation. 

"Junior Achievement's commitment and intentionality around diversity and inclusion is amazing.”

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. 

CommunityAmerica Credit Union Makes Historic $1 Million Investment in Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City Kids



The transformational investment will power possibility for students across the metro area.

Kansas City, Missouri (November 18, 2019) — Students across the Kansas City metro area will thrive as a result of a transformational $1 million gift from CommunityAmerica Credit Union. The partnership is longstanding, with the organization’s first gift made to Junior Achievement in 1997. With this latest gift, CommunityAmerica’s lifetime investment in JA totals $1,285,436. CommunityAmerica’s gift is the largest in JAKC’s 64-year history.

“Every child deserves to believe in themselves — and to have the tools to do it,” shared Megan Sturges Stanfield, the President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. “CommunityAmerica’s generous and lasting partnership means we can provide experiential learning like never before, bringing conversations about money, careers and business ownership to life in new and innovative ways.”



To commemorate this historic gift and celebrate the longstanding commitment to Junior Achievement’s initiatives, JAKC honored CommunityAmerica with the Junior Achievement Centennial Award, named in celebration of the historic 100th year for the national organization. Junior Achievement presented CommunityAmerica’s CEO, Lisa Ginter, with the award at its annual Business Hall of Fame event on November 15, 2019.

CommunityAmerica team members began volunteering with Junior Achievement in 2005 and have done so ever since. Over the past two decades, CommunityAmerica has delivered over 45,000 hours of learning and served as volunteers and mentors to more than 6,000 students.

“On behalf of CommunityAmerica Credit Union, we are beyond thrilled to receive the Centennial Award from Junior Achievement,” says Lisa Ginter, CEO of CommunityAmerica. “Financial peace of mind is truly at the heart of our philanthropic efforts, and what we strive to help our members work towards every day across Kansas City.”

JAKC’s volunteer-delivered, K-12 programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire kids to dream big and reach their potential.

“Through our research, experience and work in the community, we know the principles of sound money management must be taught early, and it’s only through partners like Junior Achievement that we’re able to instill those values in local youth,” Ginter explains. “We love this growing partnership and are truly honored to receive this recognition from an organization creating bright futures in our backyard. Our gift is minuscule in comparison to the impact these JA students will make someday.”

During the 2018-2019 school year, JAKC served 24,870 students across the Kansas City metro. The success of JAKC hinges on dedicated volunteers and partners, including CommunityAmerica.

“Without positive professional role models in their lives, it can be challenging for students to dream big and visualize themselves in a professional role someday,” says Megan Sturges Stanfield, President and CEO of JAKC. “But with volunteer mentor support and guidance, our students become empowered. Volunteer role models guide JA students, casting a vision for the future and showing them what it looks like to thrive as a professional. Junior Achievement experiences allow our young people to believe in their potential.”

“It’s never been more important to empower the students in our community,” Megan Sturges Stanfield adds. “Junior Achievement’s programs ignite a spark in students, so they’re equipped to pursue their goals and thrive as the next generation of professionals in Kansas City. And because of CommunityAmerica, we’ll be able to accomplish this in innovative ways. There is so much on the horizon for Junior Achievement, and we’re truly excited about the impact this gift will make on Kansas City.”

"You’re building a legacy for students when you give back to Junior Achievement."

Although Janice Clark is currently retired, she loves to stay busy — and one of her greatest passions is volunteering with Junior Achievement where her grandchildren go to school, at Brookside Charter. “I love this excellent organization,” Janice says. “I enjoy volunteering for Junior Achievement because the role they play in Kansas City is huge. It’s been around a long time and affected a lot of kids.”

Getting involved in her children’s school has always been important to Janice. In fact, in the early 1990s, Janice first volunteered with Junior Achievement when her own children were in school, attending Pinkerton Elementary.

“I remembered Junior Achievement from when I was in high school myself,” Janice says. “So when my children got in school, I wanted to get involved in teaching them about economics and entrepreneurship.”

Janice had noticed how children in the inner city schools were often overlooked when it came to certain educational opportunities. Determined to shift the tide, Janice made it her mission to become engaged as a school volunteer. “It was my goal to make sure that my kids and all the other kids in school were exposed to economics and learned how to be entrepreneurs so they could have that knowledge.” 

After her children grew up and Janice retired, she jumped on the opportunity to volunteer again, this time with her grandchildren. When Janice met the teacher whose classroom she would be working in, they hit it off and enjoyed coordinating Junior Achievement curriculum into the class.

With everything prepared, Janice was ready to re-enter the classroom. “I went in to volunteer for a whole week, an hour per day,” Janice explains. “I was really excited to meet the kids and they were excited to meet me! They really look forward to the Junior Achievement class.”

Because the school semester was nearly over, Janice worried the students would be burnt out, she found the children had a great experience. “They really enjoyed taking time out of their day and experiencing Junior Achievement,” Janice says. “They liked the activities I did and the way everything was set up.”

Through these fun activities, the students learned all about different jobs and career paths they could pursue as adults, with a special focus on communities. They studied zoning laws, city responsibilities and how it all relates to entrepreneurship. Janice watched the children light up right before her eyes. She even witnessed one quiet student come out of her shell and participate by reading flashcards of job descriptions to her classmates.

From experiencing JA herself to volunteering in her children’s classroom and now her grandchildren, JA has always been a family affair. When Janice told her family she would be participating in Junior Achievement again, she was pleasantly surprised when event her niece remembered Janice teaching a JA class in her school! “I had forgotten about that, but she’s 30 now and she remembers that she was in my class!” Janice shares.  

Like Janice, you’re building a legacy for students when you give back to Junior Achievement. 

As part of Junior Achievement, you power possibility.

“Junior Achievement played a significant role in where I am in my life today. It gave me an early start."

Lirel Holt, founder of CARSTAR, has been his own boss since age 21 — and it all started with his JA experience at Raytown South High School. JA inspired Lirel to create and launch CARSTAR and grow it to become the largest network of collision repair professionals in America. After incredible success growing, franchising and later selling CARSTAR, Lirel co-founded U, Incorporated, where he now has online training serving over 200,000 annually in the automotive industry. Lirel shares how JA laid the foundation for his career.



At Raytown South High School, Lirel’s favorite math teacher introduced Junior Achievement. When this teacher announced what was then the JA company program, Lirel was first to raise his hand and sign up. “I wasn’t sure what I was signing up for, but was intrigued to learn more, so I raised my hand,” Lirel remembers. “That year, I was the only student from my school who signed up for JA.”


Though his family wasn’t particularly affluent, Lirel’s dad knew the opportunity JA presented and made sure he got Lirel there, driving him to the meeting every week, to participate in what was then called the JA Company Program. “By the second day of the program, I was hooked. Nobody else was teaching these business concepts,” Lirel says.


“There, I met a mentor who changed the path of my life,” Lirel remembers. “The volunteer was a senior executive at a large department store and offered to be my reference when I applied for a job once I was 16.”


When he started at the store, Lirel was invited to select the department to work in. He jumped at the opportunity to work both in the sporting goods and automotive departments. “I got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an automotive business and that was where my JA program came to life,” he says.


Lirel’s interest in the automotive industry increased as he explored further. While continuing his part-time job, Lirel also started working with his uncle to restore an old Porsche. Here, the JA business curriculum intersected with real-world application. With these wheels turning, history began to write itself as Lirel later founded CARSTAR. 


“I saw a need, took a chance and franchised quickly,” Lirel says. “I saw that there ought to be an industry there. Nobody has done this before. I put a triple mortgage on my home and began to build CARSTAR.”


As Lirel converted car repair businesses into CARSTAR franchises, he realized that these shops didn’t need lessons on automotive mechanics or repair; they really just needed to learn business concepts. While the business operators were passionate about cars, they didn’t know the business skills to make their shops thrive. Once Lirel took over, he never taught a single lesson on repairing a car. Everything he taught was about business — from finance to job costing. 


Within 12 months of launching CARSTAR, Lirel had built up to 100 locations. “That’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a wannabe,” Lirel shares. “There is an amount of courage it takes. You’ve got to have vision to see where it can go.”


Throughout his professional life, Lirel has started numerous companies and brought them to success using critical business concepts and a lot of hard work. 


“Junior Achievement played a significant role in where I am in my life today. It gave me an early start,” Lirel says. “JA means a lot to me and my family. Currently, I mentor other CEOs and businesses and enjoy seeing them on their entrepreneurial journey. JA is helping me help future generations of entrepreneurs, and I continue to pay it forward.”

“It’s a needed service for a community that’s underserved.”

Eli Colmenero’s first experience with Junior Achievement was during a volunteer day at MarksNelson. With his team at MarksNelson, Eli was excited to head out of the office with a group of his colleagues and spend the day making an impact for Junior Achievement kids. While they volunteered behind the scenes, they made a difference on the front lines.  

“It was a neat opportunity to interact with people who work for the same company that I don't get to see every day,” Eli shares. “We piled into my car, went down to the Junior Achievement office and helped prepare the teaching packets that are used in the field by volunteers.”

During his volunteer day at Junior Achievement, Eli learned just how much goes into teaching a classroom of kids. As he and his team helped assemble each packet and put all the pieces together, Eli got a firsthand look into the depth of JA curriculum.

“Knowing the packets will be used by students who are learning life skills they otherwise wouldn't be exposed to was the most rewarding,” Eli says. “That is also serving a population that needs that information the most. This volunteering experience was very enjoyable. The staff was really great, very nice and helpful. We really had a lot of fun.”

Junior Achievement’s volunteer opportunities are many — from front-of-classroom mentoring opportunities to job fairs and events and everything in between. And volunteers like Eli and his colleagues, who contribute behind-the-scenes, make a crucial impact too.

With volunteer work like this that’s outside the school environment, Eli says, “It’s just the fact that this is an organization that helps kids out. Junior Achievement not only facilitates services that go out to the community, but the organization also encourages kids to think about their communities as well. Anytime we can help the community help itself is very rewarding. We might not see the immediate fruits of that investment, but it’s something we all benefit from in Kansas City.”

When Eli gives back to the community, he looks for organizations with two components: an emphasis on children and the opportunity to support an underserved demographic. “That’s what sets Junior Achievement apart in my mind,” Eli notes. “It’s a needed service for a community that’s underserved.”

MarksNelson’s commitment to serve its clients through financial matters is a perfect connection to Junior Achievement’s goals. “As far as interests go, giving back to JA is almost a no brainer,” Eli explains. “MarksNelson is dedicated to giving back. It's been a part of the firm for quite a long time. We really connect with organizations that need volunteers, not just monetary support. Volunteering with Junior Achievement was a very positive experience and I really enjoyed it.”

During the MarksNelson volunteer day with Junior Achievement, Eli was surprised to see just how much of a team-building experience it was for their group. “Here was my group working hand in hand together,” Eli says. “That was happening for my group and I know it will for others in the future.”

When our community comes together, we all rise. And when you support Junior Achievement — no matter how you help! — you support the next generation of students.

“Junior Achievement is bringing in the real-world piece that our kids need.”

In her role as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum for Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools, Dr. Trinity Davis is laser-focused on the educational needs of students across the school district. “Junior Achievement is bringing in the real-world piece that our kids need,” Trinity shares. “Every kid knows about being a doctor, a lawyer and a teacher. But most students are unaware of the countless other careers you can have. Junior Achievement helps our kids understand different career pathways.”

Trinity’s own career began in an elementary classroom in Topeka, Kansas. She later became a professor in curriculum instruction at Pittsburg State University, where she earned tenure. With so much potential on the horizon for the Kansas City, Missouri schools, Trinity was pulled back by her love of the urban core to assist in creating a positive future for the children of Kansas City as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

With her eye on an education that prepares kids for the future, Trinity is always looking for people to come in and help students understand different career pathways. “What I’ve found is that no one organization has the capacity to work with our 24 elementary schools,” Trinity notes. “But Junior Achievement does have the capacity to touch everyone. That made it very important and very easy to say, ‘Yes, this works for us.’”

Equity is important when it comes to supplying curriculum to different schools. “I can’t give five schools one resource and nothing to the others,” Trinity explains. “Junior Achievement gives our students what we need, is committed to all our schools and also aligns with what we’re doing.”

When Trinity looks at potential curriculum partners for her schools, she must ensure that all the pieces fit. “Junior Achievement has a curriculum piece that we’ve been able to include in our teaching units,” Trinity says. “The partnership is so fluid, you can hardly tell where our teaching curriculum stops and JA begins. That really enables our kids to have those connections.”

Not only is JA a fit for curriculum, it’s a fit that’s fun. “Our kids, teachers, and principals love JA,” Trinity says. “That’s not the case for everything brought in, but the feedback is always positive on Junior Achievement.” Trinity sees teachers excited about JA coming to their classroom. “They are engaged in the process too,” Trinity adds. “There’s a welcoming attitude.”

When JA professionals share their experiences in the classroom, students get an opportunity to see careers unlike those they interact with each day. “The professional role models in front of students each day are all teachers,” Trinity explains, but career opportunities for students expand far beyond just the education field. “It’s nice for students to see, for example, what an anesthesiologist does and what they went to school to do. Junior Achievement fills the gap for us of putting real-world professionals in front of our students.”

Junior Achievement is also close to Trinity’s heart because of her own entrepreneurial spirit. “I’ve always had a consulting business,” she shares. “It was my way of growing curriculum instruction throughout school districts. Most recently, my husband and I purchased a laundromat in my hometown. It had closed down and there was nowhere for people to wash their clothes. Now, I’m getting to take that over and help out my community.”

In Junior Achievement, Trinity found a program that works for her entire school district. From the rigorous curriculum to the real-world experiences, JA fills a vital gap in education. When you give to JA, you educate the next generation.

"I feel like I’m going to do better in life now.”

Last school year, as a fifth grader at T. A. Edison Elementary, Ava Guerra participated in Junior Achievement with JA President & CEO, Megan Sturges Stanfield, as her volunteer mentor. “I knew my family and friends believed in me,” Ava says. “Now I know Miss Megan believes in me too.”

As part of their Junior Achievement curriculum, Ava and her fellow students chose their future professions and researched more about the career field, including what it would take to get there. “I picked zoologist,” Ava shares, “because I like learning new things and animals.” Among Ava’s peers, there were future interior designers and lawyers too.

Ava also loved the experiential learning that happened in JA, including the hands-on activities and games. Ava experienced how fun it can be to learn and grow. “We played a lot of games and split into teams,” Ava says. “It was a lot of fun.”

To Ava’s mom, Ashley, the life-changing impact JA was having on her daughter was obvious. “Every day Ava had JA in her classroom, she would come home and talk about it and tell me how much fun it was and all the great things she was learning,” she says. “Ava talked about what they learned and what she wanted to be. She really enjoyed it.”

Ava was both excited and nervous to be chosen as one of several Junior Achievement students to present at the 2018 Business Hall of Fame event. Ava, Ashley shares, is generally not someone who is eager to stand up in front of a crowd. “Ava is very quiet and shy,” Ashley says. “When she was chosen to talk in front of everyone, she was so scared. But all the leaders helped her gain the confidence that she could do it.”

“I got up and talked on the stage after I practiced it,” Ava remembers. “I had to say my name, how old I was and what I wanted to do when I was older. I said zoologist and veterinarian. It was scary going up there, but I learned a lot.”

That one moment of bravery inspired change in Ava’s life. “JA opened Ava up,” Ashley reports. “It’s really changed everything she does in school. She's just more open, she'll answer questions more in class.

“She trusts herself a little bit more. It’s been so nice to see,” Ashley continues. “JA is one of the best programs Ava has ever participated in.”

Now a sixth-grade student, Ava still feels the impact of JA. “I’m more excited about my future because I understand it more,” Ava adds. “I’m ready for after school and what colleges I want to go to. I feel like I’m going to do better in life now.” Through Junior Achievement, Ava discovered the pathway to her ideal future and laid the foundation to take the first steps there.

“Because of my involvement in Junior Achievement, I learned there was nothing I couldn’t do.”

“At the time, I had no idea what Junior Achievement was setting me up for,” Shelley McNair recalls. Today she’s the Director of Sales Support and Account Management at Principal Financial Group — but Shelley still remembers the vital lessons she learned in her JA program years ago as a student. “Because of my involvement in Junior Achievement, I learned there was nothing I couldn’t do,” Shelley remembers. “That’s what Junior Achievement lends to Kansas City today.”

When a classmate asked her to join the JA program that was then twice a week in the evenings, Shelley was excited to participate. Just one problem: she wasn’t quite old enough yet. “But my father worked for John Deere, and he was actively involved as a JA mentor. So he was able to get me involved so I could go and observe my first year!” she smiles.

Once she was eligible to become an active member in high school, Shelley jumped right in. “We had a team of students, plus a sponsor from the manufacturing side of John Deere,” Shelley explains. “Each semester we would choose what our business was going to be and pick a product to sell.”

Each team member had an opportunity to play the CEO role and was tasked with making critical decisions — including getting a loan for startup costs, creating a business plan, navigating the manufacturing process and acquiring supplies. With a product in hand, the team was in charge of implementing their marketing plan to sell all the products.

“We had to figure out how much money we needed to make because we needed to pay our loans back and try to be the most profitable team. The winning team would win a pizza party at the end of the semester, of course,” Shelley smiles.

Shelley’s experience at Junior Achievement was a lesson in the importance of smart decision making. “Everyone was responsible for making decisions,” Shelley says. “You only had so much money to start with and you had to make decisions along the way to pick a price range and sell everything you could.”

While Shelley was having a great time with her friends in JA, she was also building confidence that would serve her for the rest of her life. “It’s not easy to make decisions and take risks,” Shelley says. “Junior Achievement taught me to use logic, understand risk and think through the consequences. That’s a lesson that translates into my business and personal life.”

One of the greatest lessons Shelley took from her JA program was the importance of different perspectives. “I learned that there are so many different departments involved in a product,” Shelley says. “It helped me see that no matter where I worked, I would interact with different players and different perspectives I would need to consider.”

After high school, Shelley earned her degree in Marketing Management from the University of Northern Iowa. She progressed through her career in sales, training and human resources. Today, at Principal Financial Group, Shelley helps develop individuals and sales teams across St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver.

When she came to Principal Financial Group, Shelley was excited to find colleagues who were a part of JA. “Right away, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I was in Junior Achievement! What is Junior Achievement doing these days?’” From her own experience with Junior Achievement, Shelley remembered how beneficial it was to gain knowledge in business and finance and dove right back into the organization as a volunteer.

As a member of Principal Financial Group, Shelley knows how important it is to the company and her team to build the future workforce. “We are very focused on being future ready,” Shelley says. “We know that the generation in high school today is our company’s future. That’s why it is important for us to understand how they think and what their future looks like.”

Shelley sees Junior Achievement bringing hope, confidence and important life skills to Kansas City students. In JA programs, Shelley sees students gain the knowledge and confidence that they can do anything with the support of a volunteer mentor who believes in them.

“Get involved for your personal joy,” Shelley encourages. “It sounds selfish, but everyone needs passion and joy in their life. At Junior Achievement, you can really truly make an impact.” Through Junior Achievement, Shelley strives to share lessons that improve a young person’s life and give them those lessons for whatever they decide to do. “It’s really positive to leave a footprint volunteering and being able to give back of yourself,” Shelley adds. “I’m looking forward to learning as much from the kids of Junior Achievement and am hoping I can offer them something as well.”

When you give back to JA, you empower the next generation with confidence and essential life skills.

“My Junior Achievement experiences have given me an appreciation for what I do now."

Junior Achievement has been part of Kate Hood’s life in so many ways. From being first a JA student, to hosting JA volunteers in her classroom as a teacher, and finally becoming a member of the JA staff here in Kansas City, Kate has seen many angles of Junior Achievement and experienced great positive change along the way.

As an elementary student in Kansas City, Kate remembers a JA volunteer coming to her classroom at The Barstow School dressed in a suit and armed with fun learning materials. “What had the biggest impact on me was knowing that people from the community were interested in coming to share their experiences,” Kate says. “It was just getting a little glimpse of what it might look like when you grow up. I was eager to learn about the outside world and what possibilities there were.” 

Reflecting on her time experiencing the Junior Achievement curriculum, Kate sees what an impact JA volunteers make. “They’re coming in for just a short period of time,” Kate relates, “but they leave a lasting legacy.” 

After attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and earning her degree in elementary education, Kate began teaching in public schools. As a teacher, Kate was excited to welcome JA volunteers into her fifth grade classroom, hoping to give them the same vibrant experience she had as a kid. 

“Anytime a volunteer came in, it was like a celebrity was gracing us with their presence!” Kate jokes. “The kids were so excited to engage with the volunteers and had all kinds of questions. It just meant a lot to the kids, to see that there was another adult out there who wanted to spend time with them.”

While preparing to share the JA curriculum in her classroom, Kate brought in bills and pay stubs to show her students how she balanced it all and made budgeting decisions. From this experience, Kate’s students were able to be a part of the financial success in their homes.

“When parent teacher conferences came around, there were a lot of discussions around this because kids were coming home and applying the lessons they learned,” Kate says. “They were there at the kitchen counter, looking over bills together and working with their parents to figure out how to make ends meet. That was a huge learning experience.”

Resume and job interviewing skills also trickled down from the students to their parents. Kate saw her kids share what they learned to help their parents get a different job or get a job for the first time. “Those were some easy wins that impacted the quality of life for my students,” Kate notes. “What a good ripple effect!”

Today, Kate is thrilled to be a part of Junior Achievement as our Senior Program Manager. Kate loves seeing first-hand how volunteers are vital to grow and change the world of the upcoming generation. “All of my Junior Achievement experiences have given me an appreciation for what I do now, continuing to give kids experiences beyond the traditional classroom setting,” Kate says. “Through JA, kids can grow up to become productive members of society and then give back to the best of their ability. That's the cycle that needs to be in place for our world to work.”

Both as an educator and as part of the JA staff, Kate has seen many kids who aren’t quite sure school is the right place for them. “To see that there is a community behind them, cheering them on and wanting them to succeed, is huge for them,” Kate shares. “They may not get that message at home. To have a new person come in, spend time with them and be that cheerleader shows them all the opportunities that wait for them outside of the classroom when they graduate.” 

For future JA volunteers, Kate recognizes the feeling of hesitancy that comes with stepping foot in a classroom — but the difference volunteers make is far greater than any uncertainty. “The first time a kid makes a connection with you will be your reason for doing this,” Kate explains. “There's nothing better than seeing a kid excited about talking with you, hearing your story and learning from you.” Kate knows firsthand that making an impact on even one child is worth the time and energy it takes to volunteer in a classroom for just a few hours.

In Junior Achievement, students gain confidence and get the tools to think far beyond what’s right in front of them. When you partner with JA, you power possibility. As a part of Junior Achievement today, you have an impact on a student’s future.

"We're going to make JA a regular part of our culture."

As a parent of children on their way to adulthood, the mission of Junior Achievement resonated with Jon Pahl instantly. “As a dad, I’m making sure my kids are prepared for life in a lot of different ways from their career to interacting with people and being good citizens. Schools just can’t get to that all the time and that’s where Junior Achievement fills such a gap,” he says. “And so I fell in love with the mission of Junior Achievement.”




Jon, who serves as the President of the Midwest operation of Nabholz Construction, loves bringing the many lessons he’s learned throughout his career to third grade classrooms around the community — and he’s brought his team at Nabholz along with him.


Jon’s first JA experience was in a third grade classroom. “The third grade JA curriculum talks about entrepreneurship, the value of money and even sales tax,” Jon shares. “These are lessons parents ought to be teaching their kids, but they don’t always know how. It’s important for kids to hear this message, and they’re hearing it in the JA classroom.”


During one of Jon’s JA classroom sessions, the lesson plan centered around creating a restaurant. In small groups, kids named their restaurant, established a menu and developed a pricing structure for the food they had to deliver. “It’s fun to watch the dynamics of these small groups,” Jon relates. “Their products were super creative. It’s awesome to see what concepts they come up with and how they present the end product.”


Through interactive lessons like this, Jon sees students experiencing lightbulb moments when the curriculum really clicks. “The cool part is you can see that moment of understanding,” Jon explains, “but it's also a moment of pride. They're proud that they actually grasp the concept and have come forward in their education. That's the rewarding part for me. They walk away knowing they can approach that problem for life.”


Jon was pleasantly surprised when the session ended with a line of hugs. “I was a bit intimidated when I first walked in,” Jon admits. “As a stranger, I wasn’t sure if I would be welcomed, but it was fun. The second day I came back, the kids were so excited to see me and when I left, I got a bunch of hugs!”




Because one key focus area of Nabholz’s work is K-12 education construction, Jon was eager to bring his employees into the JA classroom. “We are creating these places where education and change happen,” Jon notes. “And so it's rewarding to see some of our folks raise their hands and say, ‘Put me in that experience and let me see firsthand what happens inside the spaces we build.’”


When his employees come back from volunteering with Junior Achievement, Jon sees the joy they experience seeing these kids and connecting the dots between building schools and facilitating the important things that happen there.


Becoming a part of Junior Achievement has been beneficial to the culture of Nabholz construction. “People don't leave companies, they leave people,” Jon explains. “We have to develop relationships and make sure we're all compelled by the same culture and the same purpose. When JA came and told us about their mission and vision, we got to soak that up together as a team and bounce ideas off each other.” Through interacting with Junior Achievement, Nabholz team members got to experience something together, share fun stories and talk about what lessons they learned.


“The volunteers who have done JA raised their hands to do it again,” Jon shares. “We're going to make JA a regular part of our volunteer experience and part of our culture. Part of our purpose statement as a corporation is to build our communities, and Junior Achievement is a beautiful picture of how we can build communities and invest in that next generation.”



Nothing frustrates Jon more than complaining about a problem without bringing forward a solution. While he’s heard many people complain about the next generation, he doesn’t see them offering to help. “JA is such a great solution,” Jon says. “It's an easy way to make a difference on a big scale. With a room of 20 kids, you get to share about what it is to be a good citizen and a good adult. You really can make a difference using the JA curriculum.”


“In my opinion,” Jon adds, “we’re going to fail as a company if we don’t prepare the next generation of builders, professionals, carpenters, engineers and project managers. If we don't prepare those people to be good citizens and good role models, we’re going to fail. We owe it to our future to prepare this next generation and make sure they hear the lessons they need to hear.”


Take the responsibility to prepare the next generation. Teach students today what it means to be a good citizen and a good person in the world. Your help is needed! Become a part of Junior Achievement today and make a difference.

"Junior Achievement established the foundation that I’m still building on today."

Today, Tremaine Duarte is a Trust Officer and Relationship Manager at UMB Bank — and he can pinpoint where his career aspirations started: right in his own Junior Achievement classroom. As a freshman at Northeast High School, his economics teacher utilized the JA curriculum. “That opened up my eyes to an opportunity in the banking industry and helped me identify the career that I was interested in. I don't believe I would be in the position I am today, both personally and professionally, if the Junior Achievement program was not available in the urban school district.”

What contributed to such a lasting impact on Tremaine’s life? “The volunteers that work with Junior Achievement brought real-life experience that really touched me,” Tremaine says. “It wasn't like Mom and Dad telling you, ‘Hey, read these documents when it comes down to personal finance.’ But this was speaking from experience. I began to notice the heart and the desire that the JA volunteers had for young people and that encouraged me to take special note of what they were saying. That really helped me establish the ground for my success.”

Motivated to give today’s students an experience like the one he had, Tremaine has stepped back into Junior Achievement as a volunteer — at the very same high school he attended, Northeast High School. Located in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood, 100% of the school’s students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Coming from a single-parent home himself and facing financial challenges as a child, Tremaine has made it his mission to encourage young people from the same background. “The opportunity was available for me not only to encourage the young people, but also to shine light on the fact that I've gone down the same path that these young people are on,” Tremaine says.

“Just because you're on this path now doesn't mean you have to stay here,” Tremaine says. “I use my story to let the students know that today is the starting point. I give them a holistic view of my life and am very transparent in the hope of grabbing their attention. I can say, ‘Hey, I may have started at Northeast High School, but you can go through high school, you can go to college, and you can really make great strides in your career, but start making the right decisions at school today.’”

Tremaine was saddened to hear high school students in his class reflect on their school and circumstances. One student captured their uncertainty of their potential this way: “You don’t graduate from Northeast High School.” While stereotypes and certain systems may discourage these young people, Tremaine was able to be an example of success.

“I talked to them and told them of all the opportunities I had at Northeast High School, from National Honor Society and my grade point average of 3.8,” Tremaine recalls. “And hey, I’m an African American male. Some of those stereotypes cause them to think that sort of achievement can’t be true when I told them that I graduated from Northeast High School. My hope is that these young people can be reminded that there is hope if they stay on the right path.”

One aspect Tremaine admires about JA is the focus on urban demographics. “That made me smile,” Tremaine shares. “Because some of the districts in the urban core may not have the test scores or may not have access to various resources. JA is taking more real-life stories to those young people to let them know that there is a future for every single one of them. I just love the way that Junior Achievement has anchored their vision in encouraging and educating and preparing young people, starting at the smallest children up through high school.”

“Junior Achievement established the foundation that I’m still building on today,” Tremaine says. “Being able to take what I've learned and share it with the community, it's reminding myself of those things I've learned and the significance of being very consistent with my decisions in life and finances while I'm encouraging young people to do the same.”

Tremaine also values the big vision Junior Achievement has as an organization. “My hope and prayer is they're able to grab ahold of as many volunteers as possible to make this vision come to fruition. I like to say, ‘If the vision is not bigger than you, it's not big enough.’ Junior Achievement has developed an extremely valuable vision and goal that's way bigger than them and I believe it will be a blessing to many generations to come.”

To future volunteers, Tremaine encourages putting yourself in the shoes of a student who may not have access to the same resources as other students in Kansas City. “It takes a community to help to build a community,” Tremaine says. “We have to get in the trenches together. The tree might not grow immediately, but as long as we're planting little seeds, we can trust that sometime in the future that tree will grow nice and tall and strong.”

Giving to Junior Achievement challenges the cycle of poverty, giving students a new vision and new directions. When you give to JA, you show students that there are no limits to their potential.










JA Volunteers Help Take a Student to the Next Level



Architecture and design firm Gould Evans is known for their projects with Cerner and Garmin — but their team in Kansas City is also focused on education. “Our goal is to try to shape and mold good futures,” says Jay Currie Campbell, Gould Evans associate. And the team at Gould Evans continues these efforts by volunteering with Junior Achievement.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to engage in different classrooms with different people across the city,” Jay explains. “Junior Achievement is a natural opportunity for us as a firm to commit the time and effort to support students, because we’re supporting education. It’s great to see a partner that’s taking education to another level.”

Jean Stoverink, a senior associate at Gould Evans, teamed up with Jay for a Junior Achievement career fair. “We set up a booth and brought models and drawings to introduce the kids to architecture as a career path,” Jean says. “We had a really good experience there, and the students did too.”

During the career fair, Jean and Jay were both pleasantly surprised when a high school freshman from the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts showed impressive interest in their careers. “We didn’t have anything cool to give away, so we gave away our business cards,” Jay remembers. “A few days later, he reached out to Jean about a job shadow!” Soon after, this student and his uncle were at the Gould Evans office for a tour.

With just a little self-initiative, this freshman got an inside look into Gould Evans. “He got to walk around and meet some of our great people, explore some of the projects in the office,” Jay recalls. “That was really awesome for him. Having set foot in the door, now someday he'll feel confident applying for a job here.”

“Think about the bravery it takes for a kid to call up an adult who they only just met,” Jean adds. “He seemed to really appreciate the walkthrough and he asked more questions than his uncle did. When he left, I said, ‘If you're ever interested, we occasionally do internships and you’re welcome to come for a full day of shadowing.’”

After this exciting experience, Jean decided to volunteer in the classroom for a six-week Junior Achievement program at Comanche Elementary School. “Again, I had a great experience,” Jean says. “I grew up in an arts and theatre family, so I didn’t learn these finance terms until I was working a full-time job. It felt good for me to teach those concepts to kids at a younger age because it’s something I didn’t have access to at that age.”

Jean began teaching her JA class with a personality survey, to help students uncover their interests and skills. The students then considered how those interests and abilities might lead them on a career path. With their futures in mind, the students then learned about insurance, deductibles and budgeting to build the financial foundation they need.

“Each week I came back I would ask, ‘Who remembers what we did last week?’” Jean shares. “They always had the answer. They were very engaged, always raising their hands.”

Jean specifically remembers a session where she asked students the difference between an associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree. She was shocked when no student knew the answer. So Jean taught them what was required for each degree and why someone might choose to earn one. When Jean returned for the next session, she was impressed: the students could confidently explain the value of each degree. “I felt like I really taught them something meaningful,” Jean says. “They were absorbing so much . . . they were like sponges!”

At the end of the program, Jean received grateful hugs from several students. “I just had so much fun doing it,” She remembers. “The kids were really responsive.”

Jay reflects that, as a child, he didn’t always enjoy being at school. “I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t enjoy sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. So that’s why I think it’s really important to note how Junior Achievement approaches this with their programs. I’ve seen the impact it has. It affects the children, but it also affects the adults just as much.”

“I never took a personal finance class or learned any sort of bookkeeping. These kids have an opportunity to really get ahead in that way and it's extremely important,” Jay says. “Junior Achievement is lifting people out of whatever situation they're in with real-life skills that are extremely important,” Jay adds.

For Jean, Junior Achievement was the most direct way she could have an impact on Kansas City students. “You’re actually engaging one on one with the students, unlike other organizations where you don’t have that direct human connection,” Jean notes. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to have to volunteer for 7th grade next year, and then 8th grade after that, so I can keep following these students. I got really attached to them by the end of the six week period.”

Jay enjoys seeing lightbulb moments. “The most rewarding aspect is seeing the children's faces light up whenever they understand or ask questions,” Jay says. “I've had sixth graders and freshmen both ask amazing questions. These kids are asking really poignant questions that could shape their futures, and that’s rewarding for me.”

Jean and Jay aren’t the only people in their organization to benefit from their Junior Achievement experiences. “Our colleagues have gotten a lot out of it as well,” Jean says. “We talked a lot about outreach in our office and making architecture more visible to communities of students who may not be even aware that a potential career in architecture exists. The more we can make ourselves visible, the more we can start to include and diversify our profession. In the long run, this will benefit the communities we're designing for.”

Jay sees how volunteering with Junior Achievement has brought their company closer together. “It’s provided an opportunity for a group of us of at all ages and capabilities,” Jay says. “We'll go to these career fairs and come back to the office talking about what we saw and what experiences we had. It really creates a better sense of community in our own office.”

Jean and Jay’s experience with Junior Achievement keeps them coming back. “Junior Achievement offers so many different levels of engagement,” Jay says. “If you only have a little bit of time, there’s a way for you to get involved. If you have more time, you can devote a couple of hours a week or a month. Whatever level you can give, there's a place for you.”

Jean, Jay and their colleagues at Gould Evans are making a lasting impact on Kansas City students. Your time and experience are valuable. When you support Junior Achievement today, YOU inspire the next generation.

“Having that opportunity to mentor is instrumental”

Serving as a mentor to young women is close to Joelsette Hernandez-Jones’ heart — because she knows what it’s like to grow up without one. “When I was growing up, I didn't have any mentors,” Joelsette shares. “I came from a broken, abusive family. My goal was to always help my mom with my sisters in any way I could.” So she jumped at the chance to volunteer as a mentor at Junior Achievement’s Future Women’s Leadership Forum (FWLF). “What I've accomplished, given all that I had gone through growing up . . . it captures my heart when I see these young women.”

After a decade in IT consulting, Joelsette founded her IT and engineering staffing firm Pharos Partners in 2014. And she’s in the process of building a second company — Pharos Solutions Inc., a construction management services firm. Particularly in her field, successful female role models can be hard to find. So when a friend invited her to volunteer as an FWLF mentor, she was excited to participate with an organization she knew to be one of the most impactful in Kansas City.

Future Women’s Leadership Forum pairs young women from high schools across the KC metro with professional female mentors for an impactful day of empowerment, mentorship and learning. “I feel like Junior Achievement creates this collaborative, safe place for these girls, that allows them to foster relationships, and integrate themselves in a room even when it’s hard to walk in a room at that age.”

Once she was assigned her mentee, Joelsette was ready to see what the day would bring. When she noticed her mentee was particularly shy, Joelsette encouraged her to talk with other girls and the pair soon made a group of friends. “It just created this very safe, collaborative space for them,” Joelsette shares. “There was this moment where she felt this level of comfort. She literally took a breath and just engaged. The next thing I know, we couldn't get her to stop talking.”

In only a few hours, Joelsette began to see her mentee transform. “By the end of the day, the mentees were exchanging numbers because they went to different schools,” Joelsette says. “They were taking selfies and laughing together. Even the mentors were laughing! This day brought us all together and we walked away with new friendships.”

One special moment for Joelsette was sharing her passion for construction with another mentee. “I shared that I’ve started a second company, Pharos Solutions Inc., that’s a construction management services firm and one of these girls came up to me and said that she loves construction,” Joelsette remarks. “She told me that her friends think that’s odd, for a woman to be interested in construction, so she reached out to me and asked if we could continue talking because she was in a space where there were not a lot of women.”

This connection from a day of mentorship evolved into so much more. “She and I continued connecting through several calls and texts,” Joelsette says. “One of her goals is to own her own construction management firm someday, so she was trying to learn everything she can asking me questions about how my business was going.”

“I encouraged her to not get discouraged if people don't understand why a young girl is interested in construction,” Joelsette shares. “I encouraged her to learn as much as she can about how to manage your own business.”

Connecting with a budding entrepreneur was a uniquely uplifting experience for Joelsette. “I loved the opportunity to show these girls that in 20 years, this is what you can accomplish,” Joelsette shares. “Having that opportunity to mentor is instrumental.”

Joelsette could see herself in the young women at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum. “I look like them,” Joelsette says. “They look like me. That fills my heart up. I loved seeing the diversity in the mentees and the mentors as well.”

What does a mentor get out of volunteering with Junior Achievement? “It is equally beneficial for the mentor as it is for the mentee,” Joelsette remarks. “It's so awesome to connect with all of these different women. I found that extremely inspiring. They have this energy level and this drive and this curiosity that just gave me so much energy.”

Becoming a mentor can be a truly uplifting experience. Volunteer role models guide Junior Achievement students, casting a vision for the future and showing them what it looks like to thrive as a professional — because every child deserves to believe in themselves, and to have the tools to do it.

“It’s really rewarding to see JA students who have real questions”

According to a study by the Bank of America, only 16% of youth ages 18-26 are optimistic about their financial future. Amanda Campbell, Financial Advisor at Waddell & Reed, is taking a hands-on approach to changing this statistic by volunteering with Junior Achievement.

“I see in my day to day people come in who haven’t learned basic budgeting and credit skills,” Amanda explains. “They don't understand how much that's going to impact them down the road.” From getting a degree to launching a career, making big purchases and saving for the future, the consequences of those decisions carry on for a long time.

At Van Horn High School in Independence, Missouri, Amanda and her co-worker volunteered with JA and taught an open forum class on basic financial literacy — and the lessons prepared students to make ideal financial choices in their future. In just one day, Amanda was able to inspire a positive financial future for the high school students she met. “It’s really rewarding to see the students who have real questions,” Amanda relates. “I mean, they had a lot of questions. When you’re at that age and you have a question on anything that has to do with basic financial literacy, it's benefiting everybody that's listening because they're all now learning about that.”

“Because they were older kids, it was really fun,” Amanda says. “I had a young lady in the class who was living on her own and was interested in banking. We helped connect her with a bank and set up her first checking and savings account.”

Equipping students with the financial tools they need to thrive has never been more important. In fact, recent studies show that 44% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency with cash, 43% of student loan borrowers aren’t making payments, and 33% of American adults have $0 saved for retirement.

“I’m talking a lot about student loans and credit card debt with the people who come in to work with me,” Amanda says. “Once I give them a roadmap and they’re willing to put the work in, we’ll get to a point where they can start building emergency savings and then some sort of retirement savings and wealth. But it’s all about the foundation and that’s why I like Junior Achievement.”

Volunteering in the classroom gives Amanda the opportunity to mitigate the disparity of generational wealth in our country. “Regardless of where you started, you can move forward instead of getting over your head, which is very easy to do as a young person who doesn't know any better.”

Coming into the classroom as a woman and financial expert is how Amanda sparks real change. “It’s empowering,” Amanda shares. “This is something where somebody can really take the knowledge they get and build upon themselves.”

Furthermore, Amanda has seen the impact of Junior Achievement on youth as her own children, Issac and Jocelyn, participated in the program at their school, Académie Lafayette. “They already knew I volunteered with Junior Achievement, so when it came to their classroom for the first time they really loved it,” Amanda says. “Both of them were very excited to participate and wanted to talk about it when they came home.”

The Junior Achievement experience was especially impactful on Amanda’s daughter, Jocelyn. “She probably talked about it even more than Isaac!” Amanda relates. “She loved it.” The hands-on activities of Junior Achievement made Amanda’s kids feel “like grown-ups,” she smiles, and helped them understand more than they did before. They were thrilled to come home with their packet of financial tools and continue to play with the pretend money and checks.

Amanda’s experience as a Junior Achievement volunteer inspires her to come back and donate her time year after year. “The thing that made it easy for myself and other folks I know who volunteer is how organized Junior Achievement is,” Amanda says. “You have everything you need when you walk into the school. It's not a lot of extra time or something you have to come up with. You have all the tools.”

To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Amanda says, “There's nothing you can mess up or be nervous about. In the end, it's super rewarding and the kids have so much fun. You just might get more out of it than the kids do themselves.”

Volunteers, like Amanda, are challenging the cycle of poverty and creating opportunities for future financial security for kids right here in our community. With Junior Achievement’s help, and your support, students have the tools they need to thrive.

Newest JA Board Member Helps Build Connections in the Classroom

When a co-worker and JA advocate invited Wendee Peres and all of Mobank to volunteer with Junior Achievement, Wendee enthusiastically accepted. Since then, Mobank has become a cherished Junior Achievement partner — and Wendee, Corporate Trust Officer and Vice President at Mobank has signed on as a director of the JA Board. But it is not just Wendee making a difference, it’s a company-wide effort, with Mobank associates regularly sharing their time, expertise and gifts with JA students..

Mobank employees have “adopted”  Stony Point South, in Kansas City, KS for their JA investment of time and support. “It’s our plan to continue at that elementary school. We’ll be doing it until they don’t want us to!” she smiles. The days Mobank spends at Stony Point South are full of lightbulb moments, Wendee explains.

“One of the biggest reasons I love second and third-grade curriculum is that it's tied to my job,” Wendee says. “In corporate trust, our biggest clients are cities and school districts because they're mostly the ones issuing bonds. In that curriculum, you’re really tying how important that community is to taxes and government jobs. I am passionate about that because I can relate it to what I do and the students can hear the real world perspective on that. That’s when it really comes to life for them.”

As part of this curriculum, Wendee has each student pretend to own their own business in an imaginary city. “When they get paid as business owners, they have to pay their taxes,” Wendee explains. “The first time we have to take some of their money away, they always get so upset!” But then it clicks for the students — in that same curriculum, there’s a fire at the restaurant they own and no firefighters to put it out.

“That puts it into perspective,” Wendee shares. “When I show them taxes are paying for police officers, firefighters and teachers, that switches on the lightbulb in their head. They see there is a purpose for our city and what it does.” Suddenly, those taxes take on a real, meaningful significance.

As a volunteer and donor, Wendee sees the Junior Achievement experience solidifying what teachers seek to teach in the classroom. “I love that the curriculum complements what students are learning every day,” Wendee says. “It reinforces everything they’re learning. The kids can enjoy it and have fun with it and still learn something. That’s absolutely fantastic.”

Volunteering with Junior Achievement brings together co-workers at Mobank. “The last time we volunteered at Stony Point together, we were sitting at lunch and having a good time while we shared what was happening in our classrooms. It builds camaraderie. Every year when it comes up, everybody is so excited to be a part of it.”

With a mix of new and seasoned JA volunteers at Mobank, there are always opportunities for colleagues to come together and learn from each other. “It really puts everybody at ease that there are people who have already done it and gone through it,” Wendee shares. “We make it a point to have at least two people in every classroom when we do JA so that everyone has a wonderful day.”

At Mobank, financial literacy is a core pillar. “Junior Achievement plays right into that,” Wendee notes. “Coming from any type of business, if you’re wanting to pursue volunteer time, this is a great team builder, being able to experience this [JA] together.”

Mobank’s unique commitment to KC’s entrepreneurial community is also a reason the company supports

JA. “For any startup business, JA is one of those opportunities to share how they started and all the pitfalls,” Wendee notes. “What a great experience as a business to engage kids and let them know that Kansas City has all these great businesses that started and were built for the community. That act of sharing stories with the next generation is really important for a business.”

One of the most exciting aspects of volunteering with Junior Achievement as a company, she says, is seeing colleagues after their first experience in the classroom. “I love being able to bring new people in,” Wendee says, “I have so many co-workers who’ve said it’s so nice to get a hug from the kids and who really embrace that experience. We have a really good time with it. I love seeing people enjoying and being fulfilled from volunteering.”

Even beyond her personal and corporate connections to JA, Wendee has seen the impact that’s happened within her family too. Wendee isn’t the only one passionate about JA curriculum in her household: her oldest daughter loves learning what her mom teaches. “It really has connected the two of us together,” Wendee relates. “I’m able to share with her what we learned in the classroom and that makes it very relevant to my family. I can share the stories from JA with my family and it helps them understand how important financial literacy and entrepreneurship are. I love that.”

When you support Junior Achievement, you give back to the students who need it the most. Volunteer in a classroom, make a gift and share your experience. Your partnership with Junior Achievement makes a lifetime of difference.




JA Helps Create a Ripple Effect in the Community

As both the Principal of Tomahawk Elementary School and Executive Director of the Cloud L. Cray Foundation, Brian Watson greatly values financial literacy and economic education for kids from grades K-12. “Every kid, every family needs to learn about commerce, finance, and how money works and can work for them,” Brian says. It’s this passion that drives the commitment to Junior Achievement.

When JA President & CEO Megan Sturges Stanfield approached the Cloud L. Cray Foundation several years ago to share her view and vision for Junior Achievement, Brian was excited to get involved and work together to support financial literacy.

It’s important to Brian and the Cloud L. Cray Foundation to help children learn to save effectively, stay away from predatory lending and avoid credit card debt. “We feel as a foundation that if we can teach our kids at a young age how to navigate the waters of finance, it will lift all of society,” Brian shares. “Junior Achievement checks that box and we’ve always felt like it’s been a good opportunity for us as an organization.”

With two children who are now adults, Brian knows the challenge that comes with educating your own children on important principles. “It’s kind of like teaching your kids how to swim,” Brian relates. “It’s really, really hard. It’s always positive to have students hear from someone else and learn from them how to manage their bank account, save for college and future needs.”

The statistics on financial literacy in America clearly show that this education must become a top priority. “Junior Achievement brings a ripple effect,” Brian says. “When a student learns a lesson and goes home to share that with mom, maybe they’re able to make smart choices as an adult and end the cycle of poverty. That child sparks a ripple effect.”

“Junior Achievement is making a difference in that capacity,” Brian adds. “I have lots of parents come up to me at Tomahawk Creek Elementary and thank me for bringing Junior Achievement to the classroom. They don’t talk about finances with their kids at home as much as they’d like to, and they value this education.”

As the Principal of Tomahawk Elementary School, Brian sees the impact of JA firsthand. “Their strong curriculum works really well,” Brian says. “These kids are like sponges, so when someone from the community comes in, it’s another perspective and voice for them to hear. I feel really positive about having volunteers in the classroom.”

Brian had a special experience as he watched his sixth graders go through the JA It’s My Future program. The sixth graders were visiting University of Missouri - Kansas City, learning from college kids and touring the campus. “This young man said, ‘Mr. Watson, thank you for setting that up. Nobody in my family went to college and now I'm going to go. It looks like so much fun,’” Brian relates. “He was very enthused about seeing a college campus . . . and that wouldn’t have happened without the Junior Achievement program.”

“What I appreciate about JA is the fact that they utilize volunteers in the community to deliver this information to kids,” Brian notes. “We're counting on organizations like Junior Achievement to deliver meaningful experiences to these kids.” For Brian and the Cloud L. Cray Foundation, Junior Achievement has become an extension of their mission to provide financial literacy instruction and financial freedom to kids in the Kansas City area.

To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Brian says, “Just try it out. These kids will look up to you and they will see nothing but positive.” Besides bringing priceless education to the classroom, volunteers have an impact far beyond that. “You’re having a positive influence on the next generation of kids when they’re not getting many positive outside influences,” Brian adds. “This is a chance to go into the world and have a positive impact.”

At Junior Achievement, volunteers and donors empower the next generation with financial literacy education that makes a difference. As a part of Junior Achievement, you have a positive impact on kids across Kansas City.

“JA has ignited the fire in me to step up and be an influencer to young women"

Underground Social member Caylee Knox calls her Junior Achievement volunteer experience “one of the best I’ve had so far in life. I truly believe in the importance of mentoring young women and showing love and support in hopes they will pay it forward someday.”

Caylee’s first foray into JA was as a mentor through the Underground Social and JA partnership event, “Success Suits Her.” The event paired professional women mentors with high school students and empowered the young women with donated professional attire. Caylee felt uncertain walking into Crossroads Academy this spring as she launched her Junior Achievement volunteer expereince. “I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she reflects. “It can be tough to stand in front of a group of high school girls.”

But it all changed when she met the teens. “When the girls walked in, they were excited to see us. They just radiated.”

Despite obvious nerves, the girls at the Success Suits Her Event were all energy. “As soon as you start working with them one on one,” Caylee shares, “complimenting their taste, asking questions about who they are, what they're interested in, they opened up so quickly.”

Caylee enjoyed seeing the girls light up as she coached them to find a professional outfit that would complement their personality. “I could see their confidence grow as we picked up clothes they loved and that they were going to look great in them,” Caylee adds. “They were all complimenting each other, coming out and showing us. That was so much fun to watch.”

Caylee’s own experience with mentorship taught her how priceless the connection could be. “Mentorship has been huge for me,” Caylee shares. “Looking back, my own mentor took me under her wing. I understand the importance of mentorship from a standpoint of shaping you and making an impact that’s lifelong.”

While fortunate to have walked the path that led her to become Client Success Manager at the Coffman Group, Caylee recognizes that many young women don’t have the knowledge they need to achieve their dreams. “All they need is someone to look up to that they respect and admire to encourage them to make better decisions or go for their goals,” Caylee notes. “Another shining light in their lives can give them the support and encouragement to go for it. That was really attractive to me about Junior Achievement.”

Caylee brings a personal touch of kindness to each event she attends. When one of her mentees finally found the perfect blazer with a small tear, Caylee knew what to do. “She didn’t know anyone who could sew, so I just took it,” Caylee remembers. “I was like, ‘Are you okay with me taking it to my tailor and she’ll just fix it?’ She beamed and gave me a hug. When I gave the repaired blazer to her at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum, she was glowing. It was adorable on her. It was probably one of the sweetest moments ever because she was so appreciative.”

While interacting with the Junior Achievement young women at Crossroads Academy, Caylee was impressed by their focus on the future. “I was very moved by my mentee, Nola,” Caylee says. “Her maturity and her drive were impressive. She had already planned her summer jobs and was nervous about her savings plan. She really opened up and had such an open mind about what to do with her money. I was impressed that by her age she had that kind of mindset.”

Caylee’s Junior Achievement experiences have had an impact on her entire life. “It's ignited the fire in me to step up and make it a priority in my life to be an influencer to young women,” Caylee shares. “I'm passionate about bringing up future women because we need to turn this ship around.” Through Junior Achievement, Caylee builds meaningful relationships that motivate her to continue being a leader.

“Every person I've met at Junior Achievement just radiates integrity, support, love, passion, and encouragement,” Caylee adds. “It's just there naturally. Nothing's forced. You have a mission and you live it. You can feel it as soon as you meet everyone in the organization. It's definitely contagious.”

As a mentor, YOU inspire the next generation like Caylee. Giving back to Junior Achievement builds relationships that make a difference in the world.

“All of us left that day feeling like we had an impact."


When Myron King’s entire ad agency shut down for a day of global service, he seized the opportunity to partner with Junior Achievement and spend the day volunteering in a sixth grade Kansas City classroom. And the day was life-changing for Myron and all his colleagues at VMLY&R.

“When I received the packet of information we’d be sharing with the students, I was at first intimidated by the sheer density,” Myron remembers. “How will we be able to master the curriculum? But when we showed up at the school, it was such a warm experience. The JA staff welcomed us with open arms and lowered our anxiety level quite a bit about being in a classroom with kids. They told us to rely on what we know as successful professionals and as individuals with a unique story.” And it worked.

Myron’s mission for the day was to open up to the students and help them embrace the content. Using the tools and preparatory materials JA provided, and his own experience as a Managing Director at VMLY&R, Myron was able to facilitate an amazing learning experience.

Before he knew it, Myron was surrounded by kids engaging in mergers and acquisitions, watching as they embraced the subject matter wholeheartedly. “We were maybe there for seven hours, but it felt like three at best,” Myron says. “We were able to bring some of what we do in our digital profession into the classroom and had the students all build marketing plans for businesses they wanted to build.”

“All of us at VMLY&R left that day feeling like we had an impact,” Myron shares. “So of course, we decided that we wanted to stay involved with Junior Achievement.”

Every kid deserves someone in their corner. “Junior Achievement provides access to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a person like me,” Myron says. “Junior Achievement should be credited for creating this conduit between individuals that have accomplished and overcome and achieved certain things in their lives and the individuals who would be motivated by their lessons.”

As he got ready to volunteer in the classroom, Myron put himself back in his own sixth grade shoes. “Imagine what it would have meant for someone like you — your future self — to come back and tell you things that would help you later in life. It's literally the closest thing you'll get to a time machine,” Myron says. “That's one thing that makes Junior Achievement unique. You’re able to share your experiences and impart wisdom. The students may not remember your name, but they will remember what you said and how they felt when you said it.” Junior Achievement ignites a spark in young people.

Putting the JA business curriculum into play, Myron split the sixth-grade into groups as executive leadership teams of their own companies. And Myron’s fears that the sixth graders would be a tough crowd? He experienced the very opposite: sparks flew. “The whole classroom lit up at times,” Myron remembers. “It was an electrifying sort of experience. I kind of get chills just thinking about how that went.”

For the whole team at VMLY&R, giving back to JA means building their creative pipeline for the future. “I’d like to facilitate these kinds of opportunities so that we are both helping with the mission of Junior Achievement and also extending our recruitment of populations that are underrepresented,” Myron says. “Those voices and perspectives are going to help sustain our industry in the next 5, 10, 15 years.”

For professionals considering volunteering with Junior Achievement, Myron has some inspiration. “Don't underestimate the value of your experiences. Don't underestimate the impact just an hour of your time could have just in sharing your story or your time with the kids who wouldn't otherwise hear it.”

When you give back to Junior Achievement, it’s your chance to ‘travel back in time’ and empower the next generation to reach their full potential. Your advice and encouragement is priceless — because every child deserves to believe in themselves, and to have the tools to do it.

"I learned what I need to do to plan for my future.”

For Martin City Elementary fifth graders, just one day in JA built new ideas for their future and new confidence to accomplish their dreams. And it all happened when volunteers from Fishtech, a Martin City-based company with a global footprint, volunteered in their classroom. “I feel pretty inspired because I learned so many new things,” says fifth grader Daniel Gamboa. “Now I know what I need to learn to have a career like theirs. I learned what I’d get to do in my dream job! I learned what I need to do to plan for my future.”

While learning JA curriculum focused on careers, Martin City Elementary students discovered new career paths and the education they would need to get there. “I really didn’t know these types of jobs existed,” Daniel says. “But JA helped me pick what I want to have as a job.” And with Fishtech’s office just minutes away from Martin City Elementary, it was easy for children to visualize themselves working for the company someday.

Fishtech’s Vice President of Human Resources, Johnna Meyer, was part of a team that taught this curriculum. “We talked to the students about career options and how to get to their final destination,” Johnna remembers. “We tried to encourage them as well, to think about things they enjoy doing and how they can apply that to what their lifetime career selection might be.”

“I'm really into the scientific stuff,” Daniel reflects. “I would be interested in being a scientist, biologist, marine biologist and archaeologist.” The digital aspects of Fishtech were especially intriguing for Daniel.


For Johnna, getting to know the students individually was a highlight of the experience. “These kids were so excited to investigate their options going forward,” Johnna says. “We even started talking about entrepreneurship.”

The lesson extended beyond exploring different career paths, when students learned how to actually get the jobs they wanted. As they discovered what it takes to succeed as professionals, students put the puzzle pieces of their career path together. “It was interesting to learn how you get a salary and what you need to learn, like a master’s degree or medical degree,” Daniel adds. “I learned what type of degree I need to get so I can plan for my future.”

Fifth grader Khari Spaulding also felt inspired to create her vision of the future. And what she learned in JA empowered her. “I know more about what I want to set on for the future,” she explains. “What if I want that job? I was scared that when I got to that point, I wouldn't know what to do. But now, I feel pretty confident.”

Johnna loves seeing the look in a student’s eye when the curriculum just clicks. Students begin to see their future in a new way. “Some of those kids really got into it,” she remembers. “Being able to see that you can make a difference in somebody's life is rewarding.”

Jennie Hanna, Fishtech’s PR and Communications Manager, sees how volunteering with Junior Achievement gives their company a unique opportunity to educate an upcoming generation. “Working within cyber security, we have a real interest in helping to build the pipeline,” Jennie notes. “There are projections that there will not be the talent to fill the number of jobs available in even 10 years. It's fun to be able to talk to kids and say, ‘You can do this.’”

Learning about careers available at Fishtech gave Khari a look into new possibilities. “Those guys have pretty cool jobs, I'm not gonna lie,” she smiles. “I want to work with technology. I could work at Fishtech. I could work at an engineering company, whatever I want, because I’ve got a good hold on STEM.”

And partnering with a school in their own backyard was especially meaningful, Jennie explains. “When I was able to tell the students where I worked,” Jennie says, “there were a couple of little gasps of recognition, like, ‘Oh, yeah, I know, that building. I drive by it.’ I was able to say to them: I walk by your school when I go for a walk at lunchtime. We are neighbors.”

Volunteering with Junior Achievement was an exciting team-building activity for Fishtech. “Everybody was so excited that day, it was just this buzz around the office,” Johnna remembers. “It was great to see the teams working together to prepare for the day.” Fishtech took the opportunity to encourage people from different departments to work together, build relationships and unite as a total organization. “It was great to share our stories at the end of the day and say, ‘Okay, how did you feel like you made an impact today?’ Everybody was just happy and excited.”

To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Johnna says, “It's not only developing a relationship with the students and seeing that they really appreciate you coming there and talking with them, but it's also developing a relationship with the teachers. They appreciate the fact that you are coming in and sharing your life experiences with these kids and giving them something that they can look forward to someday,”

Every kid deserves to believe in themselves — and to have the tools to do it. When you give back to Junior Achievement, you give kids like Daniel and Khari the chance to envision a new future for themselves and the world.

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  • "Junior Achievement exposed me to different careers and opportunities and it was very inspirational."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Students in my classroom often say that one of their most memorable activities from the year is JA. They love it!"

    -Junior Achievement Teacher
  • "Junior Achievement has shaped my dreams. They have prepared me for what's out there."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Every time I came back into the classroom the kids were always so excited about the activities and mentioned their favorite ones."

    -Junior Achievement Volunteer

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