JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Abilene

JA is Really Newsworthy!

Junior Achievement, Citi Foundation and OneMain Financial Offer Teens New Online Experience to Explore Their Futures

This article was originally posted on the official site of Junior Achievement USA®, www.ja.org.

Colorado Springs, CO - Junior Achievement USA® (JA) unveiled an online experience today that is a one-stop shop for teens and their parents in helping them make decisions that will affect their futures. The new interactive web experience, called JA My WayTM, is made possible by a grant from the Citi Foundation and OneMain Financial.

“Now, more than ever, teens need ideas, guidance and direction when it comes to determining their futures. JA My Way is designed with today’s teens in mind, using the latest web design and gamification to help them explore their futures and find ‘their way’ in life,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “Junior Achievement is grateful to the Citi Foundation and OneMain Financial for their generous support of this resource.”

JA My Way is an online destination for teens to learn about careers, starting a business and managing money. The experience combines games, rewards, information and social media to help teens explore these topics in a fun and exciting way. The target demographic are teens between the ages of 13-17. The experience is interactive, highly visual, and includes relevant information for teenagers, such as the costs that go along with owning a car, how much money needs to be saved for college, and what is on a W-2 tax form.

The free online experience is mobile responsive and draws teens in by having them take short visual quiz personality test. After they see which of 10 pre-determined personalities they are most aligned with, JA My Way guides them down a track geared toward their interests. Depending on the responses to these questions, the user will go through a pathway to explore potential careers, working with money and starting a business.

Teens can customize the site by creating login information. They can create and save resumes and save jobs that they would be interested in working at some day. Through a rewards system, teens have the opportunity to gain badges that can eventually be redeemed for real-life rewards.

JA of Abilene Awards $88,000 Among 15 Big Country Students

Pictured: JA Scholarship recipients from Clyde High School Preston Loudermilk & Allison Watson with JA of Abilene Executive Director Evan Simmons following the 2015 Clyde High School Award Ceremony.

This post originally appeared in the Abilene Reporter News.

ABILENE, Texas - Junior Achievement of Abilene recently presented 15 area students with scholarships totaling $88,000 for upcoming school years.

Monetary value for the awards were broken up by future university attendance, as well as the trust providing the scholarships.

Abilene Christian University granted $10,000 each to Logan Burke and Megan Lavallee of Jim Ned High School and Naudia Collier of Abilene High School.

Hardin-Simmons University provided $6,000 awards to Brittany Hector of Eula High School, Preston Loudermilk of Clyde High School and Landri Thompson of Jim Ned.

McMurry University also provided $6,000 scholarships to Hayleigh Owens of Jim Ned High School and Ashley Phelps of Eula High School.

The Willie I., Wanda, W.F. Martin Charitable Trust also supplied $4,000 each to Maggie Branch, Makenzie Noland, Holly Noles and Karsten Pippens of Jim Ned High School; Garrett Deel and Kara McIntire of Baird High School; and Allison Watson of Clyde High School.

Junior Achievement of Abilene, which served more than 5,000 Big Country students in 238 classrooms this past school year, provides young people with access to knowledge and skills needed to plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.

Junior Achievement exists to empower young people to own their economic success,” Evan Simmons, Junior Achievement of Abilene’s Executive Director, said. “We grant these scholarships to area high school seniors who have participated in a Junior Achievement program and excelled academically while in high school.”

JA Abilene Board Member - Changing the World One Kick at a Time


Chip Townsend is a lot of things: 14-time ISKA (International Sport Karate Association) World Title Holder, business owner in Abilene, Texas, and sought after public speaker. Along with his wife, he is also a proud member of the Junior Achievement of Abilene Board of Directors. Chip recently had the opportunity to give a "TED" Talk at ACU encouraging his audience to change the world "one kick at a time." While the owner and operator of Team Chip Tae Kwon Do Centers performed a martial arts stunt, he taught of principles that allow all non-martial artists to better approach the barriers in their lives. This powerful 12-minute TED talk is a great representation of the passion that drives Chip, his business, and everything he touches. Thankfully, Junior Achievement of Abilene is one of the organizations who benefit greatly from his passion and drive to empower Abilene's future!

Chip is no stranger at encouraging people to be the best versions of themselves. It is this determination that draws him to Junior Achievement programs. We were able to catch up with Chip and ask him what it is about JA that keeps him so involved despite his busy schedule. Watch his TED talk above and be inspired by his thoughts concerning JA below!

How Were You Introduced to JA?

During one of my last semesters at Abilene Christian University working on my undergraduate Business Mmanagement degree, I had an entrepreneurship class with Dr Phil Vardiman who required the students during that semester to volunteer for one JA session at a nearby elementary school.

Now, as a non-traditional student with a family, business, and competitive career, I thought to myself that this guy must be crazy! I don’t have time to volunteer! But it was required for the class and had to be done. Dr Vardiman had arranged for all of us to volunteer in a 4th grade class at the time ... and it was a BLAST! I had so much fun that I went back and started volunteering every chance I had after that experience despite the time I was afraid of sacrificing. As I studied through the material that I was to present, I realized that this was a GREAT program!

Why Do You Consider JA to be "GREAT"?

The leadership principles taught and demonstrated through the program are timeless and RELEVANT! You can never start teaching leadership too early to young people. They are our future!

The opportunity for a local person, community leader, or business leader to come in and show the children why the children's education will be so important to them is huge. I remember sitting in classes as a kid and thinking to myself…”why do I need this? Will I ever use this?” And, the answer is a resounding YES on many of those counts! Getting the opportunity, as a local leader, to communicate to these young minds, and help them understand WHY they need to be in school, from an outside of academia perspective is massively important. Showing them concrete examples of how I daily use the things they learn in the classroom is a unique and empowering opportunity!

What Keeps You Motivated in Continuing to Serve the Abilene Community through JA?

As I’ve taught JA for a few years now, I periodically run into young people that will say things like…”I remember you, you taught my JA class!” or they will say, “I remember that JA lesson you gave on financial responsibility, and it has stuck with me,” or “Because of your JA session, I decided to start saving, planning ... for my future!”

It also serves as a great way for our staff and young instructors in our martial arts business to volunteer with JA. In doing so, they experience servant leadership while positively affecting our community, growing in personal leadership, and are challenged to teach in a “different” venue than their norm.

JA Thanks Hero for Memorial Day

Junior Achievement likes to think of all of our volunteers as heroes,  but it is really special when a true hero walks into a classroom with JA. Every day, men and women risk their lives to preserve the values our nation holds dear. It is very special when they also volunteer their time to empower the future.

Recently, Captain Anh-Vu Nguyen with the United Stated Air Force volunteered in Mrs. Ann Nickell’s third grade classroom at Wylie Intermediate School. Captain Nguyen had never been in a classroom with Junior Achievement and learned from the experience that “kids are very bright and full of creative ideas and dreams. The kids’ reactions to the JA activities were very positive. They had a lot of fun and were actually able to internalize a lot of the lessons that were taught.” One example of this is when the kids struggled with the definition of “entrepreneur” upon the initial challenge, but 100% of the students were able to provide the definition verbatim following the lesson.

Mrs. Nickell, in her twenty-second year at Wylie (and no stranger to having Junior Achievement in her classroom), said that the kids were excited as soon as they saw Captain Nguyen, a B-1 pilot, in uniform. His good-humor, interest in the kids, and ability to communicate well made him a very enjoyable and effective communicator. Mrs. Nickell stated that “with a JA volunteer, students have a new face in front of them. They can expect and receive a different type of instruction, information, and energy from the volunteer. It’s new, interesting, and fun for the students.” She found this especially true with Captain Nguyen.

When asked about his experience and whether he gained a better appreciation of teachers, he insinuated that they be considered the true hero: “My takeaway from this experience with JA is that every single kid has the desire to learn. I believe that with the right teacher, every student’s potential can be brought to the highest level. Being an educator is a very difficult job. Trying to keep the students focused and motivated while preparing them to perform at a specific level is no simple task, especially day in and day out. Being a teacher requires commitment. The experience with JA gave me more appreciation as to the job that they do. Mrs. Nickell was extremely helpful. She would help ‘translate’ my instructions into a language that the students would understand. She kept the kids in-line, focused, and on a structured time schedule.”

Perhaps there are many ways to be a hero. This Memorial Day, be sure to thank the heroes in your life. As for Captain Nguyen, you represent the best of the heroes Junior Achievement of Abilene is proud to call our volunteer base. Thank you for your service to our country! Thank you for empowering the future.

Survey Reveals Startling Disconnect Between Teens’ and Parents’ Views on Paying for College and Other Personal Finance Topics

Junior Achievement USA® and The Allstate Foundation survey also indicates girls are not being talked to as much about money management and see themselves with lower potential earning power Junior Achievement USA® and The Allstate Foundation survey also indicates girls are not being talked to as much about money management and see themselves with lower potential earning power.

Junior Achievement USA® (JA) and The Allstate Foundation today release startling findings from the 2015 Teens & Personal Finance Survey, which expanded to include parents in the personal finance discussion for the first time in its 16-year history.

The 2015 survey reveals that nearly half of teens (48 percent) think their parents will help pay for college but only 16 percent of parents (of teens) report planning to pay for post-secondary education. Junior Achievement USA has commissioned the Teens & Personal Finance Survey for the last 16 years, partnering with The Allstate Foundation since 2005. The 2015 study was conducted online on Junior Achievement’s behalf by Harris Poll in January 2015 among 801 parents of teens ages 13-18 years old and 800 teens ages 13-18 years old.

“Based on this year’s findings, it is obvious that parents and teens need to have honest conversations about money management, including paying for college,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and chief executive officer of Junior Achievement USA. “Together as a family, it is important to develop a plan for life after high school – whatever that looks like for your family. As an organization that strives to empower all young people to own their economic success, JA will continue to help open these channels.”

The survey also reinforces that parents serve as teens’ biggest teachers when it comes to money management skills. Eighty-four percent of teens report looking to their parents for information on how to manage money, but more than a third (34 percent) of parents says their family’s approach to financial matters is not discuss money with their children and “let kids be kids.” Millennial parents, ages 18-34, are the least likely to be confident about explaining money management to their kids: 60 percent report feeling confident, while 76 percent of parents ages 35-44 and 79 percent of parents ages 45-54 report feeling the same.

When parents are talking to their kids about money, they are leaving girls out of the conversation more frequently. Teen girls are more likely than boys to say their parents don’t talk to them enough about money management (40 percent to 24 percent) and paying for college (34 percent to 23 percent). When asked about their future earning power at their first “real” job, 24 percent of teen girls think they will make $15,000 or less, while only 16 percent of boys feel the same. Moms also are significantly more likely than dads to say their child will earn $15,000 or less (26 percent to 17 percent). 

Since 2005, Junior Achievement and The Allstate Foundation have partnered to provide students with valuable information about personal finance in the classroom and help them apply it in their lives. The JA Economics for Success® program, created in partnership with The Allstate Foundation, has helped more than 1.2 million students set personal goals about money and make wise financial choices. The program also helps empower students to develop, plan and set goals to help protect them from unexpected financial pitfalls.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Interest in community college is on the rise. When asked to consider the rising cost of college, a larger number of teens in 2015 are considering attending a local community college instead of another college or university: 22 percent in 2014 rose to 29 percent in 2015.
  • The gender gap continues in personal finance lessons from parents. Teen boys are more likely than teen girls to report that their parents help them keep track of money (31 percent to 20 percent). Teen boys also are more likely than teen girls to report they learned to take care of money from parents (88 percent to 80 percent).
  • The number of teens who think their parents don’t spend enough time talking to them about managing money significantly rose (21 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2015).

An executive summary of the 2015 Junior Achievement USA/Allstate Foundation Teens & Personal Finance Survey is available at www.ja.org.



This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Junior Achievement between January 12-30, 2015, among 801 U.S. adults aged 18 or older, who are the parents of teens aged 13-18 and 800 teens aged 13-18. Each group had an oversample of 200 Hispanics. The 2014 study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll and included 712 teens aged 13-18. Figures for age, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income were weighted for parents where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. For teens, figures for age, gender, race, parent’s education, region, and school location were weighted. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

** This post was originally posted to the Junior Achievement USA® website. **


Big Country “JA Kid” Returns to Junior Achievement as JA Volunteer & Board Member

It has likely been quite some time since someone described Josh Greer as a “kid.” A 1998 graduate of Wylie High School, Josh is now the Lead Account Executive for Major Accounts at Abilene Reporter-News. While at Wylie Middle School, Josh received a Junior Achievement program and has since become a JA volunteer and recently joined the Junior Achievement of Abilene Board of Directors (Fall 2014). Josh recently shared with us how JA impacted him as a teenager and why he serves Big Country youth through JA now.

Tell me about your experience with Junior Achievement. How old were you? Where? What specifically do you remember from your JA program?

“I was introduced to Junior Achievement as an eighth grader at Wylie Middle School. Our class volunteer was Jack Rentz (then with ABCO Boilers).  At first, as may often be the case, the significance of JA was the change from our mundane history class.  There were activities and a new face, so it was exciting! Yet I quickly leaned there was much more to it. One activity, in particular, really stood out then and has stuck with me even now. It was an exercise in efficiency and team work. We broke into two teams and each team was given the same task of assembling click pens.  The pens were separated into all the individual parts: ink cartridge, spring, top, bottom, and the parts of the click mechanism.  As the two teams went to their assigned area on either side of the classroom, Mr. Rentz gave one last bit of instruction, “Team one would assemble the pens individually as team two would be allowed to work from an assembly line.” The teams got ready, the clock started, and off we went. After the contest the results were tallied and team two had totaled many more pens than team one. The lesson was clear: teamwork leads to efficiency and efficiency leads to profit.”      

What do you do now in your current job?

“At Abilene Reporter-News, I am responsible for proposing and then managing the advertising plans for the newspaper’s largest accounts. The daily responsibility mainly consists of assuring that the advertisements, inserts and internet placements that have been planned run as scheduled and that new revenue plans are pursued.”

How have the principles learned through JA impacted your life as an adult?

“The principle of being efficient has been of major importance to me. I have thought about that simple eighth grade lesson and how, in some way, it helped prepare me for business endeavors. In my career prior to my time at the Reporter-News, I managed the outside contracts for Goodwill West Texas. When I began working in that position I realized that major strides could be made in efficiency and margins could be increased.  Being part of a period of major growth for the non-profit was an honor.  In my current role at Reporter-News, being able to delegate and work as a team is essential in order to limit mistakes and maximize revenue.”

What made you want to serve area youth as a JA volunteer and now as a JA Board Member?

“Realizing that JA was part of my education experience that has shaped me into who I am today is a major part of my desire to serve. Life experience is another motivator.  JA teaches skills that many in today’s work force seem to lack.  My work in the non-profit sector revealed to me first-hand what the lack of training in work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy can mean to a person.  If something I can do can help others avoid that pitfall, then I want to give it my best.”

What would you tell someone else who was thinking about volunteering with Junior Achievement?

The reward far outweighs the time commitment. 

"First thing: being in the classroom and helping students through the activities is entertaining. Second, imagine providing a bit of knowledge that you have that may help shape a student’s life! The most rewarding things may never be known to you as you volunteer, but what you do in the classroom could truly change someone forever.  For instance, giving someone a hint on how to answer an interview question may lead to a perfect first job. That opportunity, in turn, opens doors to a whole new career opportunity that may have never crossed that student’s mind. Being part of that is special and something that is well worth the hour per week spent out of the office.”     

Request information about becoming a JA Volunteer here.

7 Reasons to Be a JA Volunteer




Written by Evan Simmons, Executive Director of Junior Achievement of Abilene.

Note from Author:

Prior to becoming the Executive Director of Junior Achievement of Abilene, I spent 6 years as a dedicated volunteer with Junior Achievement! The energy and production from my experience as a volunteer is what led me to want to help other adults find the joy that teaching students about financial education brings. Below you will find “7 Reasons to Be a JA Volunteer.” But remember, it just takes one: it’s always about Empowering the Future!

1. You Might Just Enjoy It

Based on a 2011 survey and analysis by True Impact, 99.5% of JA volunteers had a satisfying experience. It is always a powerful experience when I ask a new JA volunteer about their experience and prior to any information about programming or content, they say, “That was fun!” Local Abilene volunteer, Taylor Cockrell (Youth Minister at Hillcrest Church of Christ; pictured right), had this to say after his first JA classroom experience at Craig Middle School, “Had an awesome experience volunteering with JA of Abilene last week. The students were very involved and extremely interested in what I had to say. The JA curriculum is excellent and relevant to the 8th graders I was working with. Great experience!” Do you want to have a great experience during the middle of a work week? Join Taylor and volunteer with JA!

2. It Could Help You Increase Your Current Job Satisfaction

According to this article by Forbes Magazine, the majority of Americans are unhappy with their current job situation. In fact, this has been the statistical reality in the U.S. since 1987. Regardless of how you fell about your job, 75% of JA volunteers cite their volunteer experience as a positive contributor to their job satisfaction.

One of our volunteers from Brownwood said, “JA reminds me of why I like working at my company. It rejuvenates my passion for what I do when I get to tell others about it.”

3. Improve (or learn new) Job-Related Skills & Self-Esteem

65% of JA volunteers express an improvement in job-related skills. 52% of these volunteers said that they not only felt that they had improved previous skills, but that they discovered an unknown talent! For example, Theresa Edwards (Controller at Abilene Diagnostics Clinic and JA of Abilene Board Member), said that she has never been comfortable with public speaking. But after volunteering at Wylie Elementary school, she says, “I feel so confident and capable of speaking to the children. There is absolutely a connection there … and I was doing it!”

Similar to Theresa’s experience, 13% of national volunteers experienced a new level of self-esteem while 53% felt more comfortable with public speaking following their JA experience.

4. Gain Better Appreciation & Understanding for Educators

“JA in a Day” is a delivery method of JA programming in which volunteers visit a school on the same day and teach the entire program in one day. As a volunteer myself, I never left a classroom following a JA in a Day program without nursing a sore throat and throbbing feet, thinking “how do teachers do this all day, every day?” One JA volunteer put it this way, “Experience teaching in public school classrooms is valuable and eye‐opening ... everyone should do it to better understand how challenging it is to be a teacher and to keep students engaged.”

5. Positive Impact on Your Organization

Look at the graphic (right) to see HR Executives’ survey results when it comes to the impact they experienced when their employees volunteered through Junior Achievement. Ultimately, volunteering with JA will help your organization by (1) improving the organization’s footprint and reputation and (2) sharpening the employees’ skill-set. Executives at First Financial Bank of Abilene collectively agree that they appreciate Junior Achievement as a solid volunteer opportunity for their employees.

6. Gain a Sense of Purpose

Mike Fernandez (Senior Vice President & CFO at Texas National Bank; pictured left) is a JA of Abilene Volunteer & Board Member and volunteers annually at Clack Middle School and Jim Ned High School. Based on his volunteer experience, Mike says, “Most students have no idea what awaits them after high school, so to inform them of job opportunities, career paths, interview skills, resume writing, personal finance, leadership qualities etc., is a privilege for me. I feel strongly about the importance of financial literacy, work readiness, and the power of education.  Junior Achievement allows me to share my knowledge and experience with students, and it gives me an opportunity to make a positive impact on a young person’s life.” Join Mike in finding a purpose and passion for educating students in something so important: their economic future.

7. You Will Empower the Future

Planting a seed in a child’s mind about responsibly managing their finances, preparing for work, and starting a creative business concept is the reason Junior Achievement exists. We exist to empower young people to own their economic success. But our secret ingredient to accomplishing this is the volunteer. You are what sets us apart! 2014 JA Volunteer of the Year, Misti Collier (Mortgage Loans Assistant, Abilene Banking Center), has this to say about volunteering with Junior Achievement: “Junior Achievement is such a fulfilling experience for students and volunteers alike. It's such a privilege to work with young people and make a difference in their future! I'm so grateful I get to be involved as a volunteer!”

Join Misti in empowering the future and become a JA volunteer today!

Former JA Scholarship Recipient Says "Thank You"

Each year, Junior Achievement of Abilene is thrilled to offer multiple scholarships to area high school graduates who had received Junior Achievement programming during their high school career. In 2010, Junior Achievement of Abilene was excited to offer ACU-bound Abilene High School graduate Travis Kern with a $6,000 scholarship paid over four years. Five years later, Travis is motivated to say “thank you” in a public way.

Now, an Abilene High School teacher (Integrated Physics & Chemistry) and coach (football & basketball), Coach Kern credits JA for helping him achieve an important goal: “Junior Achievement promotes financial responsibility and one of my goals was to graduate from college with little to no debt. With the help of my JA scholarship I was able to meet this goal. Junior Achievement is dedicated to helping students continue their education by providing these scholarships. Thank you!”

Often times, students wonder how what they are learning will affect them outside the classroom. Coach Kern remembers his JA volunteers to be professional, knowledgeable, and encouraging! Moreover, he remembers the JA volunteers for being relevant and “bringing ‘real life’ into the classroom.” To this end, he credits a Personal Finance program offered through Mrs. Sarah Fambrough’s Senior Economics class with lessons that he continues to put into practice regarding saving habits as opposed to accumulating debt.

In addition, Travis said, “I believe the skills and lessons I learned in the Junior Achievement programs offered at Abilene High prepared me for a successful career and taught me how to manage my finances, work with others, and contribute to my community. Thank you.”

Like Travis learned in 2010, Junior Achievement wants to help high school graduates obtain higher education while promoting financial responsibility. The JA office in Abilene is currently seeking students who have received JA programming at any point in their high school career to apply for one of our varying 4-year scholarships. To learn more about our scholarship offerings, visit the Junior Achievement of Abilene scholarship information page.

Mrs. Kelly White - JA of Abilene's 2014 Educator of the Year

During the 2013-2014 school year, Junior Achievement volunteers spent their time with nearly 5,000 students in nearly 250 public school classrooms of 6 Big Country school districts by teaching Junior Achievement’s principles of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Publicly, Junior Achievement often focuses on the volunteer and their dynamic interaction between the volunteers and students in the classroom. Still, without a healthy partnership with educators, Junior Achievement has no audience. We are incredibly grateful for the existing relationship we have with Big Country educators and look forward to a long affiliation.

This is especially true for Junior Achievement of Abilene’s Educator of 2014 recipient Mrs. Kelly White. Mrs. White is an 8th grade Career Connections teacher at AISD’s Clack Middle School and has supported Junior Achievement in her classroom during the entirety of her tenure in this position. Kelly was selected for this award because she goes above and beyond in her willingness to work with Junior Achievement, has a positive attitude regardless of the situation, and conducts herself as an educator who sees her role in these students’ lives as an adult who prepares and inspires these students for readiness in the “real world.” Rachael Frazier, Junior Achievement of Abilene’s Education Manager (2012 – January 2015), says, “Mrs. White prepares her students for the real world with a smile on her face. Her students respect her and, in turn, show great respect to our volunteers. Because they know she cares about them, her students go the extra mile in her classroom. Mrs. White constructed an environment in her classroom that was conducive to learning. She also prepares her students for the JA discussion prior to the volunteers’ arrival and, on occasion, even has supplementary lessons to go with what JA volunteers were teaching in her classroom. Basically, Mrs. White makes the volunteers in her classroom look really good!”

Mrs. White said this about the power of having JA Volunteers in her classroom: “JA has brought some great people into my classroom at Clack Middle School. The students like to have the volunteers in class and are disappointed when, on occasion, a volunteer has to reschedule. The greatest volunteers are the people who accept the students for who they are and the circumstances in which they live. I also appreciate when volunteers share their personal stories and experiences with the students. This helps the students understand that the volunteer is a real person and not just a guest speaker.”

Junior Achievement is blessed to work with several incredible teachers across the six school districts with which we have a partnership in the Big Country!  Ultimately, Junior Achievement strives to empower young people to own their future economic success. Mrs. Kelly White allows and helps Junior Achievement to accomplish this in her classroom! Be sure to comment on this article or email Junior Achievement of Abilene’s Executive Director, Evan Simmons, with other great stories or comments about educators who inspire, prepare, and empower young people within their classrooms.

Meet Misti Collier - 2014 JA of Abilene’s Volunteer of the Year

Over 200 adults volunteer their time each year with nearly 5,000 students in the public school classrooms of 6 Big Country school districts by teaching Junior Achievement’s principles of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. By sharing their personal and professional experiences and skills with students, volunteers help students understand the skills they will need to succeed in life and proactively manage their finances. The dynamic interaction between the volunteers and students in the classroom is what sets Junior Achievement curriculum apart from others as the information is brought to life. Junior Achievement is a fulfilling experience for students and volunteers alike.

This is especially true for Junior Achievement of Abilene’s Volunteer of 2014 recipient Misti Collier. Professionally, Misti is a Mortgage Loans Assistant at the Abilene Banking Center operated by Coleman County State Bank. Misti volunteers with JA in multiple classrooms on multiple AISD campuses each school year. Upon being asked about what keeps her going back to volunteer time and time again, Misti shared, “I keep volunteering with JA because I’ve seen students’ walls and barriers come down and their excitement toward a vision of seeing themselves as successful adults build up!” It is no surprise that Collier has seen this reaction in the classroom due to her approach that she described as “… I give all of myself to the students every time I teach with JA.”

Clack Middle School’s 8th grade Career Connections teacher Mrs. Kelly White commented about Misti’s involvement in her classroom: “Misti did her best to engage the students and found multiple ways to form a bond with the class. She would turn the classroom activities into competitive challenges and also added a reward system to the JA curriculum which got the students involved. Misti showed her deep commitment to the students by spending her own money on these rewards. I recall Misti assuring the students she would miss being at Clack when JA was over.”

Junior Achievement has so many amazing volunteers like Misti!  Ultimately, Junior Achievement strives to empower young people to own their future economic success. For as little as an hour per week (for 5-8 weeks), local volunteers can inspire and prepare young people to achieve their economic success in the Big Country! Click here to sign up to be contacted about volunteer opportunities through Junior Achievement of Abilene.

Junior Achievement of Abilene Announces New Executive Director

Junior Achievement of Abilene announced that Evan Simmons will become its new Executive Director on January 5, 2015.  Evan is currently the Director of Youth Ministries at Hillcrest Church of Christ.  He is replacing Shaun Martin, who has accepted a position with another company.  Kevin Bredemeyer, JA Board Chair, announced the appointment at the annual JA Breakfast on December 10.

Bredemeyer stated, “Shaun Martin brought strength and stability to Junior Achievement and we thank Shaun for his outstanding service to JA.  We are excited to have Evan join JA as our next Executive Director and lead JA to even greater success.”

Junior Achievement is a nonprofit organization that empowers young people to own their economic future.  Each year, over 4,800 students in the Abilene area participate in a JA program.

Click here to view the Press Release in the Abilene Reporter News.

Sixteen Big Country High School Seniors Are Awarded Scholarships.




Sixteen Big Country High School Seniors Are Awarded Scholarships By Junior Achievement of Abilene.

ABILENE – (June, 2014) – Junior Achievement of Abilene is proud to announce the awarding of sixteen four-year scholarships to benefit area high school seniors pursuing higher education. With a combined value of $94,000, the scholarships were made possible through partnerships with Abilene Christian University, Hardin Simmons University, McMurry University, First Financial Trust & Asset Management along with  the Willie I., Wanda, W.F. Martin Charitable Trust.

“The purpose of Junior Achievement is to help prepare and inspire today’s youth to succeed in a global economy and empower them to own their economic success,” said Shaun Martin, Executive Director of Junior Achievement. “We grant these scholarships to area high school seniors who have participated in a Junior Achievement program.”

The following scholarships have been presented to these students:

  • Abilene Christian University for $10,000 each to:

    • Courtney Barton – Jim Ned High School
    • Braden Smith – Jim Ned High School
    • Korbin Ancell – Wylie High School
  • Hardin Simmons University for $6,000 each to:

    • Matthew Brothers – Eula High School
    • M’Lee Graham – Jim Ned High School
    • Alexandra Richardson – Wylie High School
    • Corey Footer – Cooper High School
  • McMurry University for $6,000 to:

    • Cutter Smith – Eula High School
    • Sydney Franklin – Abilene High School
  • Willie I., Wanda, & W.F. Martin Charitable Trust for $4,000 each to:

    • Hunter Gibson – Jim Ned High School
    • Conrad Day – Jim Ned High School
    • Bailey Turner – Wylie High School
    • J. Morgan Smith – Jim Ned High School
    • Leddy McBride – Jim Ned High School
    • Whitney Humphrey – Abilene High School
    • Wyatt Gambrell – Jim Ned High School

“Junior Achievement of Abilene is pleased to have awarded these scholarships to the deserving Abilene area students,” Martin added.  “These latest scholarships demonstrate our continued commitment to empowering today’s youth with the means to further their education, while our programs in schools teach them about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness.”

For more information, refer to the Junior Achievement website at www.jaabilene.org



Starting a Small Business in Abilene

Are you dreaming of becoming a small business owner? Do crave to be your own boss, or just have an idea that you know will succeed if you can just pull it all together? Starting your own business, even in a thriving economy, can be challenging on many levels but there are many resources to help you along the way.

Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that to successfully get your small business up and running not only takes preparation, it takes financial smarts.

A good first step is to make a business plan, a realistic outline of your plan of attack. It should include the summary of your business (what it will do), the objectives, personnel, the market it is aimed at, a financial outline (including the month you expect to break even), products and services, how much funding it’s going to require to get up and running, and as many specific details as you can include.

From there you’ll need to request an Employer Identification Number from the IRS, register with
the State of Texas to pay taxes and obtain a sales tax permit, and comply with employee regulations by registering for unemployment with the state and providing worker’s compensation insurance.

Aside from these practical first steps, the overall consideration you will need to be considering is the financial structure of your venture. The foundation of any business is money. Do you have start-up capitol or will you need to apply for loans and look for investors? If you’re like many of us, having a comprehensive understanding of the financial side of starting your own business can be a daunting task. This sort of intellect doesn’t come naturally to all of us, and that is why there are many local organizations dedicated to help getting entrepreneurs on track. Here at Junior Achievement, we try to reach people while they’re still young, to instill in them a firm understanding of financial preparedness and the ntellect for how to use their money wisely. Many of the youth we mentor go on to become business owners.

Abilene is a good place to start your new business as there are is a great support network in place and encouragement for residents to shop locally. Recent Abilene small businesses such as Abi-Haus, Barley Hoppers and the Mill all started with a plan, found appropriate spaces geared towards the service they were offering, and got the financial smarts to get their business going.

Although starting a small business can often be an uphill struggle, it can also be a rewarding, successful venture for those who are prepared for the challenge.

Our Future For Youth Education In Abilene Texas

Wouldn’t you agree that our youth, both boys and girls, have a right to education? Would you believe that our youth are neglected? Educating our youth is not just about being ready for a job. Education helps us understand so much more. Education teaches us about our rights. When we are aware of our rights we make sure that our rights are respected. Our rights are the choices that we make. Understanding our rights allows youth to make choices and take advantage of their rights into adulthood.

The Big Picture for Education

Our future for youth education in Abilene Texas comes from our parents, teachers, schools, churches, and volunteers. These people help shape the minds of our community like molding a piece of clay for the future. Education is more than a job. If a student learns about personal health then this knowledge can be passed onto the family. The family that receives this knowledge can then act upon this knowledge. You see, education is not just about a job, it’s about knowing what choices we have available.

The World Wide Web provides access to large amounts of knowledge. Google, a very powerful search engine, allows us access to this knowledge. It is said “Knowledge is Power” and the knowledge that we can research is very powerful indeed. It connects us more to the global world view, allowing us a richer understanding of what is happening around the world. However, learning from a real person with real experiences is critical. Learning from real people does several things for us. It helps us learn about emotions, feelings, and how people communicate. Knowing how to communicate is just as important as the education that we receive. Not only do we need to learn about being healthy, but also we need to know how to communicate this to other people. This is why parents, teachers, friends, family, and mentors are so important.

Education from real people and mentors

When we learn from real people vs. Google we have a far more powerful and memorable experience. We are able to catalog this memory along with emotions. This helps us recall what we have learned, but also how to implement this knowledge in the future. Since our choices can be based on our feelings this is important. Mentors provide a view into their experiences and their life experiences. Often times these experiences are a mix of learned lessons and how to make better choices. This is critical for when you stand at the cross roads to understand your choices. You are able to think back to what was learned from a mentor. This allows us to have a clearer understanding of our future without having to throw caution to the wind. Mentors have been a very important part of business for hundreds and thousands of years. They provide us not only knowledge, but also wisdom to make virtuous choices.

Education is not about finding jobs. Education is about functioning in the world, understanding our past, present and future. It helps us develop our wisdom and vision of the world so that we can make better choices. There is only a few ways to gain this view and that is through the eyes of the people we encounter. The more people from around the world that we communicate with the more developed our wisdom and vision becomes. Think of this like looking through different lenses. Each lens gives us a different view. This is why being a Mentor for the youth is so important. It gives others a view of the world that they may someday need to be successful when making their choice. Consider being a mentor today for Junior Achievement of Abilene.

Junior Achievement Volunteer in Abilene

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Junior Achievement Volunteer in Abilene?

It’s a loaded question. Are we talking about talent, patience, wisdom, free time or all of the above? The truth is, there is no one answer. There are so many different values you could possess that would be useful in becoming a Junior Achievement volunteer. First and foremost, you have to be willing. Willing to take the time to make a difference in a child’s life and to help them learn life skills that will equip them to navigate the rocky path in to adulthood. Maybe one day with these tools they too will become a Junior Achievement volunteer.

How many of us wish there had been someone in our adolescence who would have shown us how to balance a checkbook, teach us what it means to be an entrepreneur, or give us the tools we needed for critical economic and management decisions?

You can be this helping hand for curious, developing minds. Junior Achievement offers programs for elementary, middle school and high school aged youth and is always in need of volunteers just like you.

What qualities should you possess?

We need your enthusiasm, life experience and most of all, a willingness to teach children about what it took for you to succeed in life. The job is fun, flexible and rewarding. Junior Achievement provides volunteers with everything they need to be successful in the classroom, including:

  • Choice of elementary, middle or high school close to home or work.
  • All the classroom materials needed to teach the program including a step-by-step lesson plan.
  • Training on how to use the JA materials as well as teaching and classroom management tips.
  • Connection to a teacher to coordinate when you teach the JA program – you will go one day per week for 5-7 weeks for 45 minutes to one hour per visit.

What Difference Will You Make?

Results are in and they’re conclusive: JA students understand more about personal finances and budgeting compared to students in general. In addition, they have a more positive self-concept and higher self esteem. They’re more likely to graduate high school (94% versus 70%), and are more likely to attend college (73% versus 60%).

Junior Achievement works around the world helping students realize the importance of entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy – and also helps improve behavior and critical thinking.

JA bridges the gap between school and the real world. It brings life to the things kids learn in academics and makes school relevant to what they are going to do after it is over. This motivates them to learn and become better prepared for the world or work. You can be apart of this transition!

Ready to Volunteer?

Please consider becoming a Junior Achievement volunteer in Abilene today. You can contact us at (325) 677-3557 for more information or you can fill out the volunteer form here. The difference you’ll make will be inspiring!

Now Accepting Nominations - JA Business Hall of Fame

Laureate induction into the Junior Achievement of Abilene Business Hall of Fame is a lifetime achievement award for individuals who have made a major, positive impact on the Abilene and Big Country Region through the private sector economy.
To be considered as a Laureate Candidate, the Inductee’s  records of achievement must demonstrate and meet the following criteria:
• Business Excellence
• Courageous Thinking and Actions
• A Visionary and Innovative Leader
• Community Involvement
• Positive Role Model
Through these accomplishments, Laureates serve as role models for the next generation of business leaders, many of who are currently Junior Achievement students.
To nominate an individual for consideration as a Laureate in the Junior Achievement of Abilene Business Hall of Fame, please complete this nomination form and mail, email or fax to:
Junior Achievement of Abilene
Attn:  Laureate Selection Committee
500 Chestnut, Suite 1715
Abilene, Texas 79602
Office:  325-677-3557
Email:  smartin@jaabilene.org
Fax:  325-677-4644
Please include any additional biographical information or attachments you believe will help us with this very important selection process.

Download the Nomination Form >>>

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  • "Junior Achievement has given me a sense of what adults go through with budget issues."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Junior Achievement reinforced concepts for me to remember later in life."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "I thought the experience was amazing. The presentation was unlike anything I've seen."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "I liked how the Junior Achievement volunteer explained his job to us."

    -Junior Achievement Student

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