Craig's Story Taking the Plunge
Even though Craig was a JA alumni, he was nervous about teaching. "I had some trepidation in the beginning," he said, but he remembered participating in the company program when he was a student. So when a list of charitable opportunities came to him from Bank of America where he's worked for 6 years, JA rang a bell. The school they were volunteering at was close by and he'd have the chance to help kids from economically challenged families, which was important to him. "Gotta take the plunge!" he thought. Craig and his fellow volunteer Monica were assigned a 4th-grade class.
Craig and Monica spent some time getting to know the kids and getting everyone comfortable before they began the lessons. "The teacher was awesome," he said, "she had amazing chemistry with the class, and made our jobs that much easier." After a few minutes, Craig and Monica were able to pick up on the teacher's cues and manage the class environment easily. "The kids really surprised me," said Craig, who felt like the material was surely more advanced than 4th grade and that not every student got it right away. Still, the volunteer instructions and activities for the kids were impressive to him. The material caught the kids' imagination and gave him as a volunteer a step-by-step guide for what topics to cover and how to talk to kids about them while giving some freedom to use his own personal experiences to enhance the lessons. Craig and Monica were teaching the JA Our Region program. Our Region introduces 4th graders to entrepreneurship, regions, resources, supply chains, and problem-solving. It provides students with a practical approach to starting a business while preparing them to be entrepreneurial in their thinking to meet the requirements of a demanding and ever-changing workforce.
Students operate a simulated hot dog stand and learn how business owners use resources, pay expenses and earn revenue. The kids got excited about how much money they made. "What really clicked for me and the kids, I think, was using the JA materials as a jumping-off point, but then making an example relevant to the kids," Craig noted. "The materials provide the basic concept, but if you can make the concept directly relevant to them – using examples they can relate to, like bicycles, television or candy – then you can see the concept really click in their heads. "When it came time to create their own companies, these kids blew me away," he continued, "One group used the resources they were assigned to create a complex and detailed home delivery service for healthy foods, another group created a service company to help disadvantaged parents and kids – the depth of thought these 4th graders brought to the project was amazing. "Beyond the lessons, though, the kids really impressed me as great kids," he said. One of the students was in a wheelchair and couldn't talk or move his arms very much. Early in the day, when he was raising his hand, at first no one noticed. But his classmates were used to looking out for him and made sure he was able to participate along with everyone else. When Craig got home he called his daughter right away. She works in child advocacy law and he wanted to tell her all about teaching JA to students. He inspired her so much that she hopes to volunteer with JA, too.
"When it was over," Craig said, "I wanted to do it again." One student, in particular, will be forever imprinted in Craig's memory. She had long braids down to the back of her knees. She gave him a piece of paper with her name on it—Shabiday. "I want you to remember my name," she said. And he always will.
"I look forward to teaching JA each year! The JA activities are engaging and allow me to bring my world into the classroom."
"The students got a real idea of what a corporate office is like and some of the tools and technology they will use in the future."