The day my son came home with information about Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown from his school, I was instantly taken by his excitement towards the program. He described how his class had been learning about balancing checkbooks and career choices. Admittedly, I came to understand that his enthusiasm was not so much around the fiscal lessons, but instead the opportunity to participate in running the business of the Columbus Blue Jackets for a day at JA BizTown. He told my wife and I that he needed to interview for the position he wanted, so his mom volunteered to interview the students for their desired job roles. My wife came home impressed with how enthusiastic the kids were and how some of them even dressed in suits for their interviews. She told me that the school was looking for parent volunteers to accompany the children to JA BizTown and I thought this opportunity was far better than a typical Zoo field trip.
I received information to review prior to my arrival at JA BizTown. As I was reviewing the videos and documents, I became excited for the day to arrive. The program appeared to be an immersive experience for kids, where they were put in charge of a small economy for the day with varying business entities and responsibilities. The group of students I was assigned to mentor for the day immediately took to their roles.
The amount of pride and accountability that the kids exhibited with their role for the day, whether it was CEO or an individual team member, created a fun and positive environment for everyone.
If someone were to ask my favorite part of the day, it would be difficult to define, there were so many moments I saw that brought confidence and excitement to the kids. The public speeches during lunch by the company CEOs, or the look of terror when one of the kids realized that they had left their “kid” at soccer practice would all rank high on my list. However, the one moment, if I had to choose, would be at the end of the day when the CFO and I were working to get the last payments into the general ledger to pay off the bank loan. He had a purpose and drive to complete the job he started and it was exciting for me to be a part of that for one day.
Following my day at JA BizTown, I found myself speaking to everyone about my experience and encouraging them to participate with their children when they had the opportunity. I quickly realized, however, that many parents and children did not have the opportunity to attend JA BizTown. To help, I spoke with Pete Crozier at Junior Achievement of Central Ohio and set up the opportunity for my company to sponsor a school. We coordinated a team to volunteer our time, mentoring kids during a day of JA BizTown. As I saw my co-workers throughout the day, they expressed how impressed they were with the program and wanted to ensure that I let them know the next opportunity to volunteer. This past September I signed up for another JA BizTown session and added support for a JA-In-A-Day session as well. Many of the same people, but several new, have already committed to supporting both opportunities to volunteer their time and talents.
Junior Achievement has given me the opportunity of moving from a parent volunteer to a JA Champion.
I plan to continue supporting Junior Achievement in the community by exposing others to the volunteer opportunities within JA. I also have selfish reasons for working to support Junior Achievement. The first being that I have younger children who I want to ensure will have the opportunity to participate in the programs that Junior Achievement offers. The other reason is that being a Parent Volunteer is something I have always enjoyed with my kids and Junior Achievement programs provide me a great alternative to the dreaded field trip to the Zoo.