JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Central Ohio

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Dream Big

As a child, Jack Frencho dreamed of being a dentist. Either that or a professional golfer.

Ultimately, his professional aspirations moved in other directions. Building a career in financial services, today he enjoys success as a wealth management advisor for U.S. Bank. However, through his volunteer work with Junior Achievement, Jack also helps empower students in Central Ohio to explore their own passions just as he did – inspiring them to dream big and giving them the confidence to pursue those dreams.

Jack has served as a JA In-Class volunteer since 2011. He especially loves working with the younger grades, perhaps recognizing a bit of himself in the enthusiasm, energy, and inquisitive minds these students bring to his JA sessions. He recently shared an experience teaching in a 2nd grade classroom, in which one young boy expressed his dream of becoming an entrepreneur, starting his own company, and then selling it after it became successful.

“To dream like this in second grade! I continue to be amazed every day by these students. It gives me confidence that we – teachers, volunteers, parents, and guardians – are doing the right things for our children.”

JA volunteerHonored in 2014 as Junior Achievement of Central Ohio’s Volunteer of the Year, Jack has personally worked with over 300 students. “Jack is an incredible individual,” says JA In-Class Program Manager Stephanie Patton. “Whether he is in a suburban or inner city school, whatever the setting, he has the unique ability to connect with every one of his students. It’s telling that every teacher he has ever volunteered for has requested to have him back.”

In addition to his teaching, Jack has found ways to impact even more students with JA programming, serving as a guest trainer to help prepare new volunteers for their experience in the classroom. He also currently serves on JA’s Volunteer Champions Committee, through which he actively recruits other volunteers at U.S. Bank and other organizations.

He credits U.S. Bank for their support of his involvement with JA.

“U.S. Bank has been a terrific supporter of JA in allowing me the flexibility to teach multiple classes. As a member of U.S. Bank’s Employee Development Network, I have a platform from which to share my experiences and engage colleagues to participate. Today’s environment offers multiple options for employees to share their time, talent, and treasure, and I continue to promote JA as one to always consider.”

U.S. Bank has also been generous in their financial support through the U.S. Bank Foundation and sponsorship of the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame event.

Jack is emphatic that he gets as much out of his volunteer experiences as do his students. “Each time I teach a class, I learn something new and fresh, and it usually comes from the students themselves. My experience with JA reinforces that being a teacher of children is critical to everyone’s future. The “real” teachers are amazing, patient, and compassionate, and I’m grateful to contribute to the learning that happens in their classrooms.”

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From Classroom to Boardroom

Although many who serve on Junior Achievement’s (JA) Board of Directors can claim experience in the classroom as a JA Volunteer, only one has also served in the role of Educator.

Retired in 2015 after 31 years teaching in Dublin City Schools, and currently serving as a Program Specialist in the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Educator Effectiveness, Board member Dee Anna Chickerella brings a unique perspective to her leadership role with JA. Her ability to view programming through the lens of a teacher and her personal knowledge of program implementation from inside the classroom brings immeasurable value to JA.

Dee Anna has worked with JA for almost two decades, first helping to bring JA BizTown to her Chapman Elementary classroom in 1998. She quickly recognized the potential of the program, then called Exchange City, to augment her own teaching and jumped at the chance to serve on JA’s local advisory board and help write program curriculum. She subsequently used JA programming to introduce an extended marketplace project with her school community, one that continues to raise thousands of dollars each year and has supported The Dublin Food Pantry, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Kids ‘n Kamp, and other local nonprofit organizations.

In all, more than 1,800 Chapman Elementary students experienced JA BizTown with “Mrs. Chick.” Today, conversations with former students, many now adults themselves, often center on fond memories of the program.

“Every 5th grader that ever went to BizTown always left with a sense of pride in the work they had done and the accomplishments of their business. Years later, they always want to remind me what job they had, how much they learned about money, and how grown up they felt,” said Dee Anna.

In her Board work today, Dee Anna is guided by her understanding of the challenges teachers face on a daily basis. Time to teach curriculum while being part of a high-pressure, high-stakes education system is at the top of the list. A tireless advocate for the classroom, she understands the importance of ensuring teachers are comfortable with program content and aware of its alignment with national and state academic teaching standards.

“JA teachers understand that our programs offer authentic learning, open doors for students to learn about careers they might never have known existed, and help them benefit from time with business mentors and role models to whom they would otherwise not have access.”

A role model herself, Dee Anna was named JA’s 2014 Educator of the Year at the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame, where attendees had the opportunity to hear from a few former students about the impact she made on their lives. Students shared memories of their experiences in the classroom and at JA BizTown, but most importantly, about the love of learning she had instilled in them, both in and outside of the classroom.

Today, Dee Anna brings that same level of commitment to her work with JA’s Board and on its Development Committee. President Mike Davis comments,

“Dee Anna is a valuable addition to our leadership team. The insight and experience she brings has helped guide decisions at the most strategic level and ensures that student learning is at the forefront of everything we do.”

Dee Anna is equally motivated by her fellow Board members.

“I’m inspired by the commitment and passion demonstrated every day by my fellow board members. My time has been filled with learning, engagement, and advocating for a program about which I am passionate. I believe our work is important, and I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling or a better way to help bring critical educational opportunities to students in Central Ohio.”

JA Alumni - Kate Pelini

Why I Give Back

January is JA Alumni month, so we asked Kate Pelini, a JA Alumni and volunteer, to share her experience. Read Pelini's account of her 5th grade JA experience and learn why she gives back now as an EY employee.

As a fifth grader participating in Junior Achievement almost 12 years ago, I will never forget the feeling of craving information that seemed so relevant to real life and what it would be like to be a “grown up.”  The JA program in which I participated focused on entrepreneurial skills – we were learning how to start a company that would make green and yellow car-shaped erasers.  At the end of the program, I remember how receiving that tangible object “our company” was producing was a proud moment for all of us that participated.

That was also the first-time business sparked my interest as a possible career path – at that point in time if someone had suggested to me that I would be an accountant, I don’t think I would have believed them.  But looking back, this was the first exposure I had to anything business-related while in school and it all seemed so logical to me and I looked forward to my time with JA each week.  That is why when the opportunity to be a volunteer with JA presented itself, I was eager to help.  Having such fond memories of my own experience, I hoped I would be able to give a young student the same enthusiasm that I developed over the course of just a few weeks.

The first lesson as a volunteer was somewhat nerve-wracking.  As the time came closer I ey-volunteer-kate-helping-studentrealized I had no idea how I was going to make topics such as credit, budgeting, and insurance seem interesting to 7th graders.  I think the inherent belief, when it comes to these kinds of topics, is that students find them boring, or do not know anything about them, and we as volunteers must start building their skills from the ground up.  It was such a pleasant surprise, and a reminder of how I felt during my own experience, to see so many students get excited about more than just our weekly game, they also had so much of their own knowledge to add to our discussions. They know that things such as budgeting and insurance are real topics that their parents, siblings, and teachers deal with on a regular basis.  It is refreshing to see the students want to be able to participate in those discussions.  It made all the difference in the world for me as a volunteer and I looked forward to each week’s new perspectives.  I can’t wait to teach a new group of students and see more of their passion about taking control of their own finances and futures!

Volunteering and its Effect on Office Culture

Volunteering is more than giving time and money at EY – it is their culture.

Their tagline, “Building a better working world”, encourages community involvement. Volunteering with organizations such as Junior Achievement (JA) is one of the ways they connect to the community.

“Volunteering is a daily thing at EY and whenever I talk to someone who has volunteered for a JA In-Class program they always have a big smile on their face as they describe how much they connected to the kids and the kids connected to them,” said Matt Napier, Assurance Senior at EY and JA Volunteer Champion.

How to engage employees in volunteering

Matt started at EY two years ago and heard of JA through the office’s weekly email which communicates different volunteer needs along with office updates.

“I volunteered for the Economics for Success JA In-Class program and I loved it so much I approached Tammy Izzo [EY Central Region Government and Public Sector Leader and JA Board Member] on how I could get more involved,” said Matt, “So I joined the JA Volunteer Champion Committee and became the JA Office Champion, meaning I am responsible for dispersing any information about JA as soon as possible to EY staff.”

An office volunteer champion is a common model for offices to maintain nonprofit relations and promote volunteerism among employees. EY has also incorporated several other tactics, through Matt’s help, such as hosting lunch and learns with JA staff, making sure JA opportunities are consistently in their weekly email, providing incentives for financial giving, e.g. jean day, and including JA volunteer opportunities on employee onboarding days.

[caption id="attachment_226" align="alignnone" width="1024"]ey-volunteers EY employees volunteer to help get JA BizTown ready before students start to attend.[/caption]

EY also sponsors the annual "EY Connect Day" where employees from each EY office spend one day in their community volunteering at a variety of different nonprofits. For JA this could mean participating in JA In-A-Day where volunteers team up and teach all five sessions of a particular JA Program in one day or helping in the administrative offices at JA.

Benefits of having employees volunteer

Studies have shown that volunteering can potentially increase employee productivity, company pride, gratitude in the work environment, and ethical behavior.

One EY volunteer, Alex Criss, described her experience as very rewarding.

“Teaching the JA class helped me develop a number of skills. It was good practice for how to prepare for and give a presentation to a specific audience. I also gained time management skills by managing how to fit each session’s materials into a 45-minute class period,” said Alex.

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There are also team building benefits to volunteering for a JA In-Class program. A new JA campaign initiative, Bring-A-Friend, encourages volunteers to co-teach by either teaching sessions together or splitting the sessions between themselves. EY Volunteer Jesslyn Patel volunteered with her co-worker Kate Pelini [hyperlink to Kate’s article] and commented,

“It was a great way to get an opportunity to bond with a fellow EY member that does not serve in the same service line that I do. I don’t see my friend Kate often, but knowing that I could see her once a week was always exciting!”

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So moral of the story, volunteer!

“I’m so glad I took this opportunity.  It was something I always looked forward to each week, and it was always a nice way to change up the work week! You’ll learn a lot more about yourself than you think through the way you teach, and getting to share life skills with them and see the wheels turning in their minds makes it so worthwhile.” – Kate Pelini.

My Journey from Parent Volunteer to JA Champion

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.

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  • "I can't think of a better gift for kids than to prepare them for success in the real world." - Aaron Bahe, Columbus City School Teacher

  • "I loved being the mayor of JA BizTown. I now have a good understanding of how busy business can be." - Gabbie Schneider, JA BizTown Student

  • "I loved my job as the CFO! It was so much fun. If I did this everyday it would be great!" - JA BizTown Student

  • "Kids are capable of more than we know. JA is a great way to demonstrate the real life skills they will all need." JA of Central Ohio Volunteer

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