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Freshman embodies positive impact of Junior Achievement

A high school freshman’s authentic remarks at the 2019 Adopt-A-School & Community Partners Breakfast Reception captured the spirit of Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass, which educates young people about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and basic financial matters. 

“I’m better equipped, and JA is such a benefit to students of all ages,” Henry Clay’s Grace Melton told the audience at JA’s facility on Spurr Road. She has learned how education influences careers and income levels as well as the importance of credit scores and household budgets, making informed purchases, and limiting the risk of financial loss. “JA prepares us for how to successfully get a job and how to save money,” Grace said. “They go in-depth instead of just talking and telling.”  

JA celebrated the year’s achievements and handed out its annual awards at the April 17 event. Teacher of the Year honors went to Shawna Petke, a social studies instructor at Jessie Clark Middle School since 1999, who was nominated by JA volunteers Susan Leemhuis of Lexmark International and Vivian Moore of Kentucky Utilities. 

“Junior Achievement addresses many of the economics principles I teach throughout the year and has always given my students and me a platform for discussing the truly interconnected world we live in. I value my JA volunteers because each of them brings different expertise and life experience that enhances their delivery of the content,” Petke said. “In addition, I am committed to civic participation, and each of my volunteers shares my commitment and demonstrates the importance of selflessly giving to others.”   

The Volunteer of the Year award went to Amanda Nielsen of Park Community Credit Union, who was nominated by teacher Jessica Sauls from Yates Elementary. Nielsen has served for two years, led nearly 30 classes, and assisted with JA BizTown events. “I really love this program,” she said. “It teaches students things they may not always learn in the normal classroom curriculum.  For instance, in some of the first-grade classes, we talk about our communities -- what they look like and why it is OK that they look different, recognizing all the beautiful things that make up where we live, work, and go to school.” Nielsen also values the BizTown component for fifth-graders. “It allows them to understand the real working world and apply the things that they have been learning in the classroom,” she said. “It is amazing to see the students get stressed about paying back their hypothetical business loan and the joy that their paycheck brings them!” 

JA board member Scott Navis presented the third award, Volunteer of the Year (Outlying County), to Ava Steele of Bechtel Parsons Bluegrass. She was nominated Rita Denief of B. Michael Caudill Middle School in Madison County. 

In JA’s Adopt-A-School program, companies provide student materials and volunteer training for a particular school. Other partners support the financial literacy programs and JA curriculum. Each has invested at least $5,000.   

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