"To light that fire in students... is what keeps me coming back."

When Jackie Loya-Torres became Community Development Officer at Commerce Bank, she leaned into her responsibility of creating relationships in the community and leading the bank’s inclusivity efforts. Determined to practice what she preached, Jackie became a bilingual Junior Achievement classroom volunteer.

For many of the children Jackie teaches, understanding that banks can be helpful for managing money and paying bills effectively can be a big learning curve.  “Junior Achievement is really looking to impact classrooms with the most economic need, and that’s in perfect alignment with our efforts at Commerce Bank,” Jackie says.

Financial literacy is critical for success as an adult, but data indicates what a challenge it is. A 2018 study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that nearly half of the emerging adults participating in the study were financially precarious (32 percent) or financially at-risk (36 percent). Children are entering adulthood without the adequate financial abilities they need for their future — and one reason Jackie volunteers with JA is her drive to equip children for success.

Through her work in the Kansas City community, Jackie understood that many economic groups had no relationship with financial institutions. These families may include immigrants or refugees unfamiliar with how the United States economy works. “For me, it was so gratifying to see the diversity in the (JA) classroom,” Jackie relates.

“These children live on the fringe of our economic system,” Jackie explains. “So I do a lot of education around what U.S. banks do and how they can be helpful. I’ll ask, ‘Do you know what a bank is? Have you ever been inside a bank?’ and describe what Commerce is and why banks are important. It was very appealing to me that I could have an impact in that role.”

While volunteering with second and fourth grade JA students at M.E. Pearson Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas, Jackie discovered that some of the children weren’t proficient in English — and that’s when her Spanish came into play. As a bilingual volunteer, Jackie was able to meet her students where they are and educate them in a familiar language. “It was fun to utilize my Spanish and my experience as a daughter and granddaughter of immigrants to teach,” Jackie says.

As she led a Junior Achievement lesson that discussed businesses in the community, Jackie was able to show her students the role models in their own neighborhoods. She pointed out nearby stores owned by people with similar backgrounds as the children in class — people who came to the country the same way as many of them did — in order to bring the lesson home and help the students see themselves in some of the success around them.

“In one instance, we started talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up,” Jackie shares. “This little boy said he wanted to be a roofer like his dad. I said to him, ‘Hijo, that is a wonderful job because everyone needs a good roof on their house. But did you ever think that maybe you could own the roofing business?’ To light that fire in students, that they could be the employers instead of being the employees, is what keeps me coming back.”

For Jackie, the most rewarding part of being a Junior Achievement volunteer is inspiring a child to see a life they hadn’t seen for themselves before. With easy-to-understand curriculum and flexibility to ensure that the commitment fits in her work schedule, Jackie continues to make an impact on classrooms with Junior Achievement. “The great thing about the Junior Achievement curriculum is that it’s so easy for a volunteer to pick up and do,” Jackie shares. “It’s also flexible enough that you can pivot to make the lesson relevant to your class. Junior Achievement makes it so easy to volunteer. The curriculum is easy to follow. Anybody can do it. It’s really so simple. It gets you out of your head for an hour and it’s an important reminder of what matters as we go about our day.”

As a volunteer, Jackie appreciates the flexibility of Junior Achievement. “You can work out when you teach with your teacher and spread lessons out over a longer period of time or do them all more closely together,” Jackie explains. “You can even do the curriculum in a day if you can’t commit long term. Getting it done in a day with a team of people you work with is also a great team builder.”

When you volunteer with Junior Achievement, you help the children who need it most learn life-changing financial and entrepreneurial skills. Do your part to teach the next generation and become a part of Junior Achievement today.

“If I wanted to be a professional basketball player, this was like having NBA stars in my classroom."

Mrs. Meeks Class at Lee A. Tolbert

After pitching her business idea to a panel of real business owner judges, Zoe Scott earned the title of aspiring entrepreneur.

Thanks to several weeks of Junior Achievement curriculum, Zoe knew just what it took to formulate a viable business idea and successfully pitch the product to investors.

Zoe’s idea came from a challenge she faces every day: a way-too-heavy backpack. Wouldn’t it be great, she imagined, if there were a solution to carrying home all my textbooks? Her solution is an app called Excellence, a digital textbook platform that allows students to access their textbooks anytime, anywhere.

“You don’t have to worry about forgetting your textbook,” Zoe explains. “That actually happened to me yesterday!” With her digital textbook app, Zoe would help kids just like her take a load off their backpacks and always have textbooks available.

With three entrepreneurial judges in the sixth grade classroom to hear her idea, Zoe’s Junior Achievement lessons came to life. “It was amazing,” Zoe says. “They were talking to me about what to do. That motivates me to actually do it and be better.”

Having real-world entrepreneurs in her classroom was transformational for Zoe. “If I wanted to be a professional basketball player, this was like having NBA stars in my classroom,” she reflects. Seeing men and women who have achieved what she hopes to achieve someday was life-changing.

Entrepreneurs at Lee A. Tolbert

Among the other entrepreneurial business ideas Lee A. Tolbert Academy students created were an indestructible phone company, an interactive car seat company and an animal care company. Supporting her students throughout their entrepreneurial journey was their teacher, Mrs. LaTonya Meeks. “As a teacher, my goal has always been to build personal relationships with all of my kids,” Mrs. Meeks shared. “Having Junior Achievement come in and seeing my students’ interests go off the radar was amazing to me! Without JA, I never would have learned that I had students interested in entrepreneurship,” Mrs. Meeks added.

In the JA It’s My Business! program, Zoe and her classmates learned to use critical thinking and problem solving as they developed entrepreneurial skills like understanding customer needs, launching effective marketing, and creating detailed business plans. “We are blessed to have this opportunity,” Zoe says about her Junior Achievement class. “We can discover what we want to do to change the future for all of us.”

One of the lessons that stuck with Zoe is the concept of consumer testing. She remembers a video about the product testing McDonald’s uses to select menu items. “They ask people to see which one they like best and get the community’s opinion,” Zoe explains. “That way they don’t just put something out there that no one’s buying.” In this segment of the curriculum, Zoe examined the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs in order to learn from their experience.

Lamonte Stanfield, a JA classroom volunteer-mentor, led Mrs. Meeks’ class through the JA curriculum. Lamonte works professionally as an engineer and donates his time as a JA volunteer. Zoe and her teacher were impressed with how open Lamonte was in the classroom. After learning Lamonte has been an athlete and overcame many obstacles to get where he is today, Zoe was excited to ask questions and learn more. “I don’t have anyone to tell me that stuff,” she says. “It’s a privilege for me to understand how to overcome a challenge so I can actually accomplish my goals.”

Zoe at Lee A. Tolbert

As a Title 1 school, more than 90% of students at Lee A. Tolbert Academy are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Some students deal with troubling circumstances like homelessness or abuse. “You name the obstacle, we probably have a few kids who’ve been through it,” Mrs. Meeks shares. “It’s amazing when someone takes their time to come out to help us. Sometimes our school is overlooked. With all the things these kids have been through, this is another way to take their mind off that and be happy.”

“Junior Achievement is so beneficial to them because they don’t get lessons like these at home,” Mrs. Meeks says. “If they aren’t exposed to concepts like entrepreneurship and financial literacy, they don’t know. That exposure inspires them to create our future.”

In addition to learning business concepts, Zoe came to understand powerful principles she can apply to her life. “You don’t have to have your whole idea at once,” Zoe notes. “You can take your time. It’s like writing a book. You write a little each day. Then, you edit. It’s a step-by-step process.”

Many students find that what they learn about entrepreneurship can be applied to whatever dream they have for the future. “Mr. Lamonte taught us that if you follow what you’re told and do what’s right, you’ll get there,” Zoe says. She learned to apply this same lesson to her schoolwork and increased her drive to continue learning and growing.

Zoe Scott is one of the 80 million students Junior Achievement has touched since its beginnings in 1919. “We appreciate Junior Achievement so much because they took a chance on Tolbert,” Mrs. Meeks says. “Sparks were made and those gaps in the future are filled all because of JA.”

When you give to Junior Achievement, you give kids like Zoe and her classmates a chance to thrive. Help empower our youngest generation to make a difference in the future and become a part of Junior Achievement today.

From JA student to JA board member

Nearly two decades before becoming a Junior Achievement board member, Aladdin Ashkar was a JA student at Immaculata High School in Leavenworth, KS, and the President of Raider-Aid. “The premise of the Junior Achievement class was that we were going to create a business, from A to Z, and compete with other classes to see whose business could be the most successful,” Aladdin remembers. This idea excited him immediately. Raider-Aid, a school-themed sports drink he and his classmates created for their high school Junior Achievement class, made a lifelong impact on Aladdin.

As the type of kid who expanded his corner lemonade stand with snacks to boost his profits, Aladdin had always thought entrepreneurially. He loved the idea of building revenue in a fun way. From mowing lawns in the summer to shoveling snow in the winter, Aladdin had the entrepreneurial spirit to take initiative and solve a problem.

Voted by his classmates to be President of their new venture, Aladdin led his JA team to create a new sports drink for their school named after their mascot, the Immaculata High School Raiders. “It was really fun to create a business from scratch,” Aladdin remembers. “We started by doing homework on how to get this idea to a product level.”

After exploring beverage distribution companies in Kansas City, these high school students started making calls and figuring out details like pricing and label production. Step by step with the support and guidance of Junior Achievement’s curriculum, they learned how to create a sports drink that they could market and sell at high school events.

“We had to raise capital to buy our first shipment, so we collected money from the class and everyone became a shareholder,” Aladdin adds. “We tripled, quadrupled and quintupled the initial investment money. It took off so well that at the end of the session, the school incorporated the product full time into their concession stands.”

Because of his Junior Achievement experience as a student, Aladdin knew he wanted to have a career in the business world. As Vice President and Principal Relationship Manager at Wells Fargo, Aladdin is a champion of small business owners. “Not everyone knows that bankers are a great resource for business knowledge,” Aladdin points out. He enjoys seeing his clients do well in their entrepreneurial ventures and offering his input to help them succeed.

Junior Achievement taught Aladdin that you can create something of your own. “When you’re in high school and college, you’re told to get a job,” Aladdin says. “But success doesn’t have to be the status quo. There are so many ways to succeed if you understand the basic concepts of business that Junior Achievement teaches.”

His JA education also taught him the kind of legacy a little ingenuity can leave. Raider-Aid’s popularity didn’t stop when Aladdin graduated. While the school closed its doors in 2017, Raider-Aid was a staple at concession stands for many years. It’s one of many reasons that he gives back to Junior Achievement, today as a volunteer and member of the Junior Achievement Board of Directors.

As a Board member, Aladdin enjoys teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship to a new generation of students. In Kansas City schools, including Center Elementary and George Washington Carver Elementary, Aladdin teaches the basics of budgeting, saving money and financial life skills that change a child’s future.

“When we volunteer, Junior Achievement provides the lesson plans and we meet over five or six sessions of class to teach these concepts,” Aladdin explains. “Not only is it rewarding, but it’s also really cool to see their eyes light up. Junior Achievement makes it fun to teach kids.”

As a previous student of Junior Achievement, giving back as an adult has given Aladdin a great feeling of fulfillment. “Early in your career when you’re just trying to get ahead, it’s all about you. Now, I’ve had success in my career. It’s time to give back,” Aladdin shares. “If you can give back a little bit of knowledge to help even one person make a difference in their life, you’ve had a greater impact than you could ever dream of.”

What means the most to Aladdin about being a part of Junior Achievement is the focus on children. “What more could you want than for kids to have access to all the advantages anyone could have?” Aladdin asks. “Junior Achievement provides the lessons for kids to have a chance. They will create a better future for everyone.”

Aladdin’s own Junior Achievement class was the trigger for what he would do for the rest of his life. “All of that has driven my career up to this point,” Aladdin relates. “If I can inspire one kid to explore a new career, that would be a rewarding impact.”

Give back and make an impact like Aladdin. Become a part of Junior Achievement and inspire young people to succeed in a global economy.

Nickey's Final #AdviceForSuccess

A Professional Reflection From Our

Marketing and Communication Intern's Last Day



At the University of Central Missouri, I held titles like PRSSA Philanthropy Chair, PRSSA President, IPR Account Specialist, etc. They made me feel like I had some type of prestige or standard to meet because people called me a certain title. But, when I went from the top of the class, to seemingly the bottom of the workforce as an intern, it had an effect on me that I wasn’t expecting. I began to stumble over my words when talking to people in higher positions. My body language changed to resemble meekness, a word I’d never been associated with before. I even began second-guessing my work and assuming it wasn’t as great because I was “just an intern.”

One day, a colleague (now a dear friend), asked why I was moping around the office. I told her I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job and that I couldn’t get the respect that I was looking for in the workplace. She was genuinely confused. She said, “Nickey, what are you talking about? I’ve heard people talk about how great your work is first hand. Nobody cares that you’re an intern. They care about the way you present yourself and the quality of your work. This mindset that you have is holding you back. You’re just as important as every other member of this team.” And that’s when my work went from quality to noteworthy.

Realizing the quality of my work does not depend on the title of my position made me approach every task as if I were the CEO. I spoke up in all-staff meetings, emailed top executives as if we’d worked together for years, and even made suggestions on areas I thought could use improvement. That’s when others started noticing. Compliments came flooding in about the social media or promotional material I created. Business professionals started asking my superiors who was behind the work. Post-graduation job offers started rolling in. None of these things would have been possible had I kept the mindset that I was “just an intern.”

I started #AdviceForSuccess because the community JAKC brought me never left me empty handed when it came to establishing myself in the workforce. Influencers like Meredith Suarez, Director of Marketing and Development at JAKC, and Ed Honesty, President and COO of Best Harvest Bakeries, and Carson Andreoli, Assistant Vice President of Commercial Banking at Mutual of Omaha, and so many others have impacted my career in ways they couldn’t have imagined during our brief conversations. JAKC taught me more than this one piece of advice. They taught me how to navigate this business world and that there will always be people cheering me on as I do it. For that, I am forever grateful.

5 Tips to Get Kids Ready for the School Year


The first week of school can be hectic for everyone. Everything is new and exciting, but the wheels can get wobbly fast if you’re not prepared ahead of time. Here are five tips to get your kids back on track and ready for success:

1. Let them in on budgeting

Having an open discussion about what your child can expect on the first day can help ease their mind about the new start. Talk about things like making new friends and having role models. Encourage conversation about back-to-school worries. Remind them that they’re not the only one feeling a little uneasy. Healthy Children offers great talking points for this conversation.


2. Let them in on budgeting

If your child plans to buy lunch at school every day, sit down with them and talk about the costs. Make a spreadsheet and help them figure out the daily costs and the costs for the year. Then, compare it to bringing lunch. Let them decide which one they would rather do. Giving them autonomy in making their financial decisions will give them a sense of independence and remind them to be conscious of their spending at lunchtime.


3. Let technology help you

Using an online calendar to keep track of school, extracurriculars and family events can help you stay on top of the schedule anywhere you go. Allowing your kid to pick out the colors and names for different events can get them excited about the new year. Make sure to have the notifications turned on so you don’t miss anything, and allow them to pick the notification sound too. Also, create a folder in your email for important documents like permission slips. Having access to the folder at all times can help avoid the “mom...did you XYZ yet..?” 


4. Set Goals

Have your child set goals for their school year. Help make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART). Take time to create something displaying the goals and keep it visible in your house throughout the year. This will give them excitement for what’s to come and help them see their progress as they go.


5. Make a practice run

Everything is great in theory, but you never know how the schedule will work Everything is great in theory, but you never know how the schedule will work out until you try it. Pick a day before school starts and make a complete run through. Tell your kid it’s a pretend school day and watch their excitement as they pick out their clothes, sit down for breakfast, and get to the drop off lane of the school parking lot. Reward them for going along with the schedule with something fun like going to the park. Both of you earned it! 


Getting back into a school routine doesn’t have to be a scary task. With these five tips, you and your child will be organized, prepared, and excited for a year of learning new things!  

What's Stressing Millennials?

According to Student Loan Hero, “39 percent of millennials say too much debt is the number one source of money stress. What’s more, about two-thirds of millennials never learned how to handle debt.”

Just let that sink in.

Millennials make up the largest portion of the job market and are currently sculpting the future of our economic system, but almost half of them are overwhelmed with debt. What does that say for our companies? More importantly, what does that say for future generations? The U.S. school system attempts to address this issue with a financial education class, but the message about handling finances or managing debt are not getting through to students with that limited approach. 

Students need long-term, hands-on explanations of how things like credit cards, loans, budgets, etc. work before it impacts their major life decisions. The same article posted by Student Loan Hero stated that if a millennial had no student debt, 41 percent of them would buy a home and 35 percent would travel or experience the world. If the students surveyed had a chance to drop their debt and follow through with their wishes, the housing market would be booming and the travel industry would be bustling with jobs. The chains of debt restrict more than the debtor, they restrict our entire economy.

We don’t want to stand on our soapbox and tout the numerous benefits of JA, (well, we kind of do) but this is exactly why programs like Junior Achievement are so vital to the growth of the young people in our community. The 2016 - 2017 Junior Achievement Alumni Report found that 90 percent of JA alumni are confident in their ability to manage money compared to students who did not receive JA programming. Additionally, nearly half of JA Alumni, or 47 percent, paid off their student loans within 10 years, with most of those occurring by the five year mark. Junior Achievement programs have the ability to change the statistics found by Student Loan Hero. More importantly, our programs change the trajectory of a student’s life and shape how young people think, believe, and act when it comes to personal finance and informed decision-making. With JA, there’s a plan and a solution. Whew! We feel better already. 



Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City needs more people like YOU to help provide programs to promote financial literacy, inspire entrepreneurship, and prepare kids (K-12) for success in a 21st century workplace. Email Dina Kostrow at dkostrow@jagkc.org for volunteer opportunities. 

Making Your Leadership More Collaborative

Leadership is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Merely by considering yourself a leader, you’ve taken on the responsibility of “working with someone to produce or create something,” which is also known as collaboration. Leadership and collaboration go hand-in-hand, but sometimes it’s difficult to know how to collaborate while keeping control. These four tips can help you find the balance:


  1. Understand your team’s personalities

Utilizing personality tests like Myers Briggs can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people on your team. They will also help you determine who would work well together and who wouldn’t. Use this information to help your team become more cohesive by assigning projects to those who work well together.


  1. Utilize brain storm sessions

When the JAKC development team got out of the office for a fun brainstorm, we found ourselves working together in ways we wouldn’t usually work together via email or conference call. 

If your team feels they have a high level of involvement in the decision-making process, they’ll be more encouraged to see the job through. 

Additionally, designating a time to hear everyone's input can skyrocket your team’s morale and instill confidence in your leadership.


  1. Don’t be afraid to delegate

Delegating tasks is one of the best ways to create a collaborative atmosphere. It shows your team that you trust them and have faith in their skills. It’s often difficult to determine what to delegate and what you should do yourself. Mind Tools, an online training platform, offers great advice in their article titled, “Successful Delegation.”


  1. Use technology


We’re in a 21st century workplace. Use technology to your advantage. Platforms like Slack can keep everyone “in-the-know” without bogging down emails or getting CC’d in too many conversations. 

Utilizing chatrooms for quick questions or team updates will encourage your team to stay connected and work together toward a common goal.

Your leadership skills can be enhanced by involving more collaboration. Take these four tips back to your team and you’ll become the leader that they trust and the manager your boss promotes. 
Have some ideas for our next blog post? Send your suggestions to marketing@jagkc.org to become JAKC's next guest blogger. 

Young Entrepreneurs at Kansas STARBASE


Imagine this: you’re in the 4th, 5th, or 6th grade and you decide to go to a STEM camp. You’re kind of nervous, but more so excited to work on cool projects. Your mom drops you off at camp, and you’re put on a team with three other kids you’ve never met before. Naturally, everyone on the team starts to find their role. But, the group decides the CEO should be voted upon. To your surprise, you’re voted into the highly acclaimed position. Your team now has four days to come up with a useful invention, design a prototype and prepare a pitch for three judges. If your team wins, you could receive up to $1 million…JA bucks that is. (This is a kids' camp, not Who Wants to be a Millionaire!)

There’s a lot on the line at this camp. Your team is looking up to you, and the judges are expecting the next great invention. This is a moment you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

So.. you get to work.

You collaborate with your teammates, you communicate effectively to assure everything gets done well and on time. You think creatively, and you apply innovation. (Not that you realize you’re doing all of those things; you’re just a kid CEO trying to solve the world’s problems.)

The time has come to wow the judges. You are now in charge of pitching the best invention the world has ever seen, an invention worth 1 million JA bucks. Your whole team has notecards and designated places to stand. You take a deep breath and begin your presentation. Here goes nothing..


If your palms are sweaty thinking about this scenario, think about how the kids at the Kansas STARBASE felt. This wasn’t just a scenario for them; it was reality. During the last week of June, Kansas STARBASE partnered with Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City to give their students preparation for success in a 21st century workplace. This relationship gave their students an opportunity to use the CAD lab to design their prototype infusing STEM components AND pitch their inventions to real business leaders and entrepreneurs.

At the end of the JA It’s My Business Program, Kansas STARBASE students pitched their ideas to three Kansas City business leaders and innovators in their industry: Matt Clark, Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager of UMB Bank, Jill Minton, co-founder of t.loft, and Ed Honesty, President & COO of Best Harvest Bakeries.

With varying degrees of confidence and nervousness, the participants prompted and supported each other, responded to questions and sold the concepts behind their products,” said Ed Honesty.

These were some of the inventions that blew away the judges:

Allergy Alert glasses: Includes an app, smart chip, and Bluetooth technology. Protects consumers from eating food that could make them sick by scanning the plate and comparing the contents with allergies the consumer has identified as dangerous. A warning pops up on the lens when an allergy is detected.


Your Future App: “It’s hard trying to figure out your future,” said the company’s student CEO.  This app lets you plug in your budget for college and helps you find the options available to you.


Cuddle Coat: A coat designed to cuddle your dog, so that you don’t have to feel guilty about leaving them home alone – comes in 4 different scents.


Why You Should Participate in #AdviceForSuccess

If you tripped over something you hadn’t noticed while walking, would you warn the person behind you? If you learned a life lesson, would you tell others about it? It may seem like a no-brainer, but Kansas City professionals are sitting on a wealth of knowledge that may be able to save younger generations from unnecessary grief.

In the business world, sharing career advice is done over coffee, but it’s unrealistic to think that every professional can sit down with students once a week. Instead, local role models have been sending their #AdviceForSuccess to Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City (JAKC).

Why is JAKC sharing the wealth? According to a study conducted by MENTOR, "34 percent of young people overall and 37 percent of even more at-risk youth report they never had an adult mentor of any kind while they were growing up." Additionally, “99 percent of nearly all youth in informal mentoring relationships say their experience was ‘helpful,’ including 69 percent reporting it as ‘very helpful.’” Through #AdviceForSuccess, Junior Achievement community leaders act as informal mentors to KC youth.

Now, students are getting knowledge of finances, entrepreneurship, and work readiness in the classroom and outstanding life advice from our posts on the weekends.

If you have #AdviceForSuccess, send your selfie to marketing@jagkc.org.

Keep up with #AdviceForSuccess by following us on Facebook and LinkedIn!

Here's some #AdviceForSuccess we've already received from outstanding role models:



President at Junior Achievement of Dallas, Inc., Jan Murfield





PwC's Managing Partner and JAKC Board Member, John Martin





JAKC Development Associate, Steven Van Auken


Nickey Buzek - JA's Newest Addition


"I was expecting to feel welcomed," Nickey Buzek said. "But, I wasn't expecting to feel a part of the family on the first day."

Nickey Buzek, a public relations senior at the University of Central Missouri, became JA’s most recent marketing and communications intern last week. She will focus on furthering our mission through expanding our online presence and assisting the Director of Development & Marketing.

Her joy of working with kids and pride in the JA mission came across as she entered classrooms and had one-on-one conversations with volunteers during her second week.

Keep a look out for her work and help us welcome her to the JAKC family. Welcome Nickey!

Hometown: Ozark, Missouri

Current Resident of: Warrensburg, Missouri

Academic/Employment Background: 

I’m a senior at the University of Central Missouri. I’ll graduate in December with a bachelors in Public Relations and a double minor in marketing and business administration. This summer, I’ve taken two internships, one with JA and the other with a company called P1 Learning.

I oversee UCM’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) as president and am a general member of the Harmon College Student Executive Committee (we assist in dean selection and work toward making the Harmon Business College a more cohesive unit).

Brief description of job duties:

Updating the website with stories and events, writing press materials, engaging followers on social media, assisting the director of development and marketing

Why I came to JAKC:

I come from a low-income, single-parent household and worked hard to become a first-generation college student. JA gives me the chance to create opportunities for people who came from the same place. As far as why I chose this specific job, the challenge intrigued me and gave me the opportunity to improve my story-writing skills on multiple platforms.

Junior Achievement is vital because: 

Junior Achievement is vital because financial struggle is a revolving door for the lower-class. Education is the bridge between social classes and JA is the cement. Future business owners, doctors, scientists, social workers, etc. are waiting for a chance to be more than their families dreamed, and it’s vital that JA give them the tools they need to do that. 

Best part of my job:

I think the best part of my job is being able to highlight the untold “miracle” stories within JA. People aren’t attracted to a nonprofit because of the nonprofit itself, they’re attracted to the impact that the nonprofit makes on people’s lives.


My dream for JAKC:

My dream for JAKC is that more people within the KC community see the impact JAKC has on the students they serve and that the number of volunteers and donors rise with that acknowledgment.

Describe yourself in one sentence:

I am a hard-working, fun-loving, life-seeker who never meets a stranger.

After 5 pm, you can find me: 

  • Hula hooping in a park
  • Dancing…anywhere
  • Hiking
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Exploring new areas

I’ll admit, I am obsessed with:

New people. I love hearing about their crazy life stories and the people they’ve met. My (loose) motto is, “out of all of the time this earth has been around and all of the people that have ever roamed it, I’m glad I ran into you.”

I geek out over:

  • Hula hoopers
  • Kids
  • Travel opportunities
  • Jesus


I may not seem the type, but:

I listen to scream-o every now and then. Yikes.

Ask me about:

  • Family
  • Traveling experiences
  • Weird things that have happened to or near me
  • All things PR 

Future Women's Leadership Forum Reflection - Sophie O'Neill

A Post from Sophie O'Neill
Database & Stewardship Manager

KC newcomers connect for mentoring and fun at Future Women's Leadership Forum


I was matched with a lovely young woman by the name of Felina at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum workshop in December, who when we met, talked passionately about her interest in the bio-chemistry behind herbal teas and their effect on overall immune health and expressed her desire to turn this into a business later after her plans to attend college. What was particularly striking about Felina during our initial conversation was her maturity, drive and focus for someone her age. Intrigued and filled with an overwhelming urge to be nosey, I had to find out for myself… “What makes this girl tick,” so I asked her a little bit about herself and what led her to this forum. 

Felina told me that she had recently moved here by herself from New Mexico and was still getting to grips with a new high school, new city, and maintaining her grades to graduate high school on time with her classmates. As someone who was an outsider to KC myself, originally hailing from Scotland, it couldn’t have worked out better to be paired up with a mentee who had a similar experience. The “I’m not from here!” denominator seemed like the perfect talking point to exchange our stories and offer advice in forging her way in a new community 

She shared that in her native state, she fell in with a bad crowd in high school and felt like they were beginning to negatively influence her. “I always had been a good student but then my grades started slipping…I knew I wanted to go to college, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I continued down that path, so I moved by myself to KC to start fresh and meet new people.” 

Already in awe of her self-awareness and decision-making, I offered up what advice I could, speaking to the importance of empowerment through positive reframing. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it, and instead of seeing it as a scary new challenge, seeing it as an opportunity. Moving to America for college when I was 18 could have been totally scary and overwhelming, but I choose to see it as a clean slate and a chance to reinvent myself. I expressed to Felina that such a change of scenery and environment is sometimes a good way to remove distractions and allows us to focus on our goals and priorities. Sometimes there is no better way to learn than jumping in at the deep end. Moving away at a young age was an invaluable lesson in following my own aspirations but also in making myself responsible for achieving those goals. 

Lastly, Felina and I talked about building new connections and friendships within a new community. While I don’t think a bright and enthusiastic young woman like Felina will have any trouble in this department, I advised that what has helped me build relationships is maintaining the same positivity and encouragement towards others as people have shown towards me and not wavering from my goals. In my experience we tend to attract the same like-minded company and it’s important to embody that mantra and try to find the upside to situations even when it might not seem like there is one. It’s what’s lead me to where I am now working with great people at Junior Achievement, and I believe it’s what has lead Felina to a full scholarship to Donnelly College starting next fall. 

Overall, the Future Women’s Leadership Forum is a great opportunity for high school aged women throughout KC to talk with local female business leaders, but it was truly inspiring for these students to be around so many accomplished and successful business women from all different backgrounds. Hearing their stories, discussing challenges, overcoming obstacles and sharing advice that helped them 

along in their way to success, created this overwhelming sense of hope and empowerment. Junior Achievement aims to give young people a belief in themselves, to thrive and improve their circumstances. Being in that room, I was lucky enough to see that very change in mindset from “I can’t” to “I can” unfold before me. I hope this is a program that will continue long into the future and sincerely hope that I can be part of that impact

Volunteer Reflection - Cici Rojas

A Guest Post from Cici Rojas
JAKC Volunteer
President, Tico Productions

Education is the key to unlocking a future of innovative possibilities. Along the path of my career, I know ones’ education never ends.  It would appear, though, we are in the process of trying to learn things that are in a constant state of change.  At times, I contemplate what it must be like to be a student in this ever-changing environment. 

Thanks to Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, I was given the opportunity to get a glimpse into that world.

Recently, I spoke with students at Wyandotte High School about career success and the importance of soft skills.  As a JC Harmon High School graduate, walking into Wyandotte High School brought back memories of our “timeless” rivalry.  However, walking into Wyandotte High School that day, I saw things from a different perspective.  I was no longer walking among peers, I was walking among soon-to-be engineers, programmers, nurses, electricians, teachers, chefs, and lawyers.  Most importantly, I was walking among our society’s future leaders.

When I arrived in my specific classroom, every student got up and looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and introduced themselves.  It was a very humbling experience.  While the panel and I spoke about career success and readiness, we had the attention of every student.  During the Q&A, it seemed like every student had a question and wanted to know more about what we did and how we got to where we were.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to answer all of their questions.  We could have probably spent another hour on just the Q&A alone.  The students were so eager to learn and absorb as much information as we could give them.

Reflecting on the experience, I couldn’t be more delighted to have had the opportunity to speak with those students.  Further, I felt like we made a lasting impact and shared information that will be used in their future.  I hope that one day, one of their resumes reaches my desk.

If you, or someone you know, is looking to make a difference, I highly recommend being involved with Junior Achievement and their initiatives and programs that help students feel empowered and prepared for their future. 

Tico Productions/Tico Sports and myself will continue to volunteer for Junior Achievement and prepare students for tomorrow’s future.

Cici Rojas

President | Tico Sports


Volunteer Spotlight - Carson Andreoli

An Interview with Carson Andreoli
JA Volunteer & Young Professionals Board Member



 How did you first become involved with Junior Achievement?

I was first introduced to Junior Achievement when I started at Mutual of Omaha Bank in early 2016.  A colleague of mine had previously taught financial literacy through Junior Achievement and asked me if I would like to join her to teach a class sometime.  At that point in my life I had never been in a role where I was teaching anyone anything, so I was naturally a bit nervous but accepted her offer nevertheless.  Since I was a bit nervous, the night before my first class I read over the curriculum and tried to prepare myself the best I could.

My colleague and I got to the classroom a bit early to set up, and the moment the kids stepped into the classroom I immediately lost that sense of anxiety and started feeding off the kid’s excitement and eagerness to learn.

After my first eight week session concluded, I immediately knew that Junior Achievement was an organization that I wanted to be a part of.


Why do you think Junior Achievement is important for students?

 Many of the students in the program come from low to moderate income households and unfortunately have never had the opportunity to learn basic financial literacy skills that are important to a child’s development, even at a young age.

Communicating to kids and young adults at an early age that they have the power to control their financial destinies is very important to me. These days, young adults have access to student loan programs that easily give them large amounts of money, and I hope I can help instill in my students that taking on debt can be a good thing in certain scenarios, but they need to know the future implications and what is expected of them when putting pen to paper on loan documents.

Kids and young adults many times do not understand the difference between a loan and a gift, which is why I made that a topic of discussion during one of my classes.


What do you hope your students learn from Junior Achievement?

I want to teach and empower my students to make wise and ethical financial decisions now, which hopefully will carry over into the future as well.   


What motivaties you to stay involved?

Knowing that I am in a position to potentially better a child’s life by giving them a few simple tools to better their current and future financial position is more than enough for me to stay involved and engaged with Junior Achievement.


 What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

Use the curriculum provided by Junior Achievement as a guide to help you navigate through the different sessions, but try to put your own fun and unique spin on it too. I noticed when I get students engaged in a respectful discussion it creates a great learning environment, and the questions that stemmed from those discussions blew me away on a regular basis.

I always stress mutual respect among the students in the classroom, and to assist with that, on the first day of each session I ask for the assistance of their classroom teacher for his/her help.  Their teachers know the students better than I do and asking for their help has assisted with being able to run a smoother classroom.


What made you want to be a part of the Young Professionals Board?

I knew I wanted to continue teaching financial literacy through Junior Achievement, and at the same time I knew I wanted to get more involved with an organization that is in line with my ethics, values and morals. When I learned that Junior Achievement was organizing a YP board, I immediately through my name in the hat, and Junior Achievement was kind enough to let me be a part of this great civic organization.  


You are one of the first to become a JA Visionary and join the new Monthly4Kids monthly giving program. Given all of the ways to support Junior Achievement, why did you decide to participate in the monthly giving program?

Organizations such as Junior Achievement rely on the kindness of the community they serve to be able to do what they do for these kids on a daily basis, so if I can help continue this great tradition of service by donating each month, I am happy to do so. I always try to tell myself that I have been very blessed and I need to give back to the community that has given me so much. 

Meet Sophie - Database & Stewardship Manager

Join us in welcoming Sophie O'Neill, Database and Stewardship Manager at Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, focused on creating stewardship activities and keeping track of information while bettering our community. Sophie joins the JAKC team with her vital non-profit experience and her hardworking personality as an important member of our team!

Hometown: Prestwick, Scotland 

Current Resident of: Merriam KS 

Academic/Employment Background: Washburn University, UMKC/Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, Good Samaritan Project. 

Brief description of job duties: Donor stewardship activities, donor cultivation and tracking, BCRM database management and training 

Why I came to JAKC: JA programs have a huge impact on young people by teaching them about how business ownership, money, and careers work. These essential skills in turn, help young people realize their potential and ability to succeed. I love seeing the programs being delivered because you get to witness these young people’s mindsets change from “I can’t” to “I can”. After that switch has been flipped, the sky is the limit. I want to be part of an organization that has that kind of positive impact on young individual’s lives. 

As a kid, JA would have helped me: Develop my problem-solving skills while teaching me the importance of managing my money wisely, saving, and smart financial investing. 

Junior Achievement is vital because: Teaching young people about how money, careers and business ownership works is an essential set of skills that everybody needs in life and will help prepare them to succeed in the future. 

Best part of my job: Meeting new people, talking about JA with perspective donors, and working with some truly awesome people! 

My dream for JAKC: To increase our programming to reach all K-12 KC public schools represented in the JA Kansas City area. 

Describe yourself in one sentence: Easy going and a bit of a goofball. 

You’ll always find this at my desk: Red Bull 

Kansas City Must-See: Union Station 

After 5 pm, you can find me: Hanging out with my husband and friends, walking my dog, doing yoga, or playing tennis. 

I’ll admit, I am obsessed with: Dogs. All dogs and anything dog related. 

I geek out over: Dogs and Tennis 

I may not seem the type, but: I love watching UFC. 

Ask me about: How entering an art competition at 15 led me to live in the United States.

Questions for Sophie?

Send her an email at soneill@jagkc.org!

Beta Box Job Shadow - shows student the importance of risk in Entrepreneurship

Job Shadow Demonstrates the Importance of Risk in Entrepreneurship


On September 21st, 2017 JA students experienced a unique Job Shadow event with the founders of Betablox, a business that invests equity into their client's companies, helping entrepreneurs navigate start-up mode and provide resources to grow their businesses. Through this Job Shadow, students discovered that turning ideas into action is possible through risk-taking and hard work.


In the classroom...

 JA Celebrates National Entrepreneurship Month


November was National Entrepreneurship month! So what better way to celebrate than engaging our local entrepreneurs to present JA Launch Lesson programs? This month, three JA Launch Lesson programs were presented to high school students at Wyandotte and Turner high schools. The program is delivered by community entrepreneurs whereby high school students gain firsthand knowledge about starting a business and the entrepreneurial journey. JA Launch Lesson is a 50-minute educational experience that creates a point-of-entry for students, volunteers, and educators.

Birju Solanki delivered the program to students at Wyandotte High School in the Business Pathway. Solanki is the Executive Director of the Kansas City Free Eye Clinic. He told the story of his unlikely path to arrive where he is now, beginning in medical school to become a surgeon before venturing into business.

Calvin Robertson went to Turner High School to present the program to the Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) program. Robertson is the founder of DWARF, a game that is available for downloads on the Apple Store and in Google Play.

JA Launch Lesson programs were delivered throughout November across the United States. Entrepreneurs like Solanki and Robertson allow students to see a vision for the future that they might not have considered prior to receiving a Junior Achievement program. Entrepreneurs connect with students, provide relevant information about their company and entrepreneurial journey, and share advice and next steps with students who are interested in becoming Kansas City’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

In the classroom...

JA It's My Business! Blended Model Program offers a taste of entrepreneurship

A classroom story with JA volunteer Lamonte Stanfield, Jr.


Junior Achievement partnered again this year with the Shawnee Mission School District to introduce Apache Elementary 6th grade students to life as an entrepreneur. On Nov. 3, students applied the skills they learned throughout the semester in the JA It’s My Business! Blended Model program. On this day, eager students participated in a pitch competition event, presenting their business ideas to a panel of Kansas City entrepreneurs.

In this program, students work in teams to develop a business startup from its ideation, innovation, and market research through its design and prototyping, giving students a real taste for entrepreneurial life. The winning group received $600,000 “JA dollars” to support 3.learning, an educational app designed to help students from bilingual or multilingual households as well as young people with disabilities.

Three Kansas City business leaders served as judges for the competition:

Shonda Bradley, Transformational Speaker, Teacher, Corporate Trainer, & Dream Coach

Aaron Handke, CEO and founder of Fox Point Trucks

Dawn Hupp, Owner, Houndstooth Planning Company.

Lamonte Stanfield, Jr., Quality Engineer at Rockwell Collins led this program as a Junior Achievement volunteer.

Stanfield says, “The most valuable aspect of volunteering with Junior Achievement is being able to directly engage the youth. JA provides life lessons that aren't taught in everyday curriculum. These lessons help mold and shape young minds for the future. JA offers an alternative future for those that want to step outside the "conventional box” of college or trade school as well as providing steps for students with aspirations of higher learning or entering the workforce.

Junior Achievement is always looking for caring adult role models to serve as classroom volunteers.  When asked if he would recommend JA to a friend or colleague, Stanfield added, “I would absolutely recommend volunteering with JA. JA provides an opportunity to actively and immediately make this world a better place. The children are the future, investing in them is an investment for OUR future.”

Meet Kristi - Operations Manager

This is a different meet the staff as Kristi Fike, Operations Manager, has been an employee with Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City since 1999. She is focused on advancing the mission of JA and keeping the office running. Kristi has held multiple positions within JAKC and is the friendly face you may see at the front desk!

Hometown: Independence, MO

Current Resident of: Grain Valley, MO

Academic/Employment Background: Attended James Madison High School San Antonio, TX, attended Metropolitan Community College-Longview, Lee’s Summit, MO.

Brief description of job duties:  Prepare and process payroll & invoices, balance checkbooks, manage all operational machines/computers, etc.

Why I came to JAKC: I came to JAKC as a Part-Time Receptionist.  Have held several positions in my tenure here from Education Assistant to Operations Manager.

As a kid, JA would have helped me:  Balance and budget my babysitting money so I wouldn’t have wasted it on things like bubble gum.

Junior Achievement is vital because:  Our youth today need JA to prepare them for their future now more than ever. It is vital to teach them hwo to save their money, since more than likely no one else will.

Best part of my job:  Is there anything?  LOL, I am a jokester.   JAKC is a great organization, not only outside of the office, but in the office as well.  I have been here since 1999 and have seen many changes through the years.  We are on the right track not only to grow in student numbers but in staff as well.  I believe we have the right team in place now to make that happen.  The team at JAKC is great to work with and I fully believe in the mission.  It’s like my family outside of my real family (don’t tell them how much I care for them).

My dream for JAKC:  Every student in our area has the JA programming; that would be awesome!

Describe yourself in one sentence:  I am complex but simple all at the same time.

You’ll always find this at my desk:  Chocolate and snacks.

Kansas City Must-See:  Hmmm, so many things, where do I begin. . .A Royals game, Worlds of Fun, Sea Life, Loose Park

After 5 pm, you can find me:  At a number of different places.  I could be at home with my husband, son, and his girlfriend and my two puppers.  At a casino playing Keno, playing Bingo at Hamburger Mary’s, a Royal’s game, a car show, out with friends/family, or at home cooking.

I’ll admit, I am obsessed with:  Making sure everyone in the office eats lunch.  I’ve been called the office Mom many times.  I always have extra food and will feed anyone that needs a meal.

I geek out over:  Dolphins, I love them!  They are the best mammal in the world.  I could sit and watch them for hours.  One of the best days of my life was when I swam with ‘Atlantis’ in Cozumel.

I may not seem the type, but:  I love to paint on canvas.  It’s a secret (well, not anymore) that many don’t know I do.  I have many ‘masterpieces’ hanging at home. 

Ask me about:  How many cruises I have been on.  I love them and can’t wait to go on my next one!  (Not scheduled yet-but should be)

Have any questions for Kristi?
Call or email her anytime!

Volunteer Limelight - G.G. Owens

An Interview with G.G. Owens

JAKC Volunteer

Answering the question, "Why is JA meaningful to you?"

Meet Roxana - Director of Mission Delivery

Join us in welcoming Roxana Shaffé, Director of Mission Delivery at Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, focused on advancing the mission of JA and working with the team to expand our reach in the community. Roxana joins the JAKC team with extensive non-profit experience in the Kansas City area and is an essential asset to this team! 


Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri 

Current Resident of: Kansas City – South Hyde Park 

Academic/Employment Background: Bachelors of Liberal Arts (BLA) UMKC; EMPA (Executive MPA) UMKC – focused on executive non-profit leadership with an emphasis on urban administration 

Brief description of job duties: Advancing the mission of JA, and working with the team to expand our reach through the community. If it has to do with programs, program delivery and implementation and generally fulfilling the mission of JA, it’s my job. 

Why I came to JAKC: I was attracted to the strong leadership and demonstrated growth of the organization and the potential to really make an impact not only on individual students, but the community as a whole. 

As a kid, JA would have helped me: with my baby-sitting empire. I started at 12, putting ads in the paper (ha – back when that was a thing!) and booking regular clientele. I had a regular weekend clients – and my summers were fully booked. I was the best dressed kid in middle school! 

Junior Achievement is vital because: economic literacy is crucial to life-long success and impacts all areas of life – academic, and professional as well as personal. 

Best part of my job: Honestly? I love it all. Every day is an exciting challenge. If I had to pick, I’d say my team and the JA team, is the best part of my job. 

My dream for JAKC: That every K-12 student in the JAGKC footprint gets to have Junior Achievement throughout their education and that we become a not only a trusted partner to our school districts and education partners, but that we are considered an academic staple by students and their parents – much in the same way they regard PE or Music - Like “Oh, it’s time for JA!” 

You’ll always find this at my desk: Kleenex, hand lotion, Diet Dr. Pepper. The first two are for sharing but the Diet Dr. Pepper is mine alone. 

After 5 pm, you can find me: shuttling kids – either to activities or through their homework. I am all the cliché’s – minivan, soccer mom, homework-wrangler, Brownie troop leader etc.

I’ll admit, I am obsessed with: Social justice issues, locally and nationally – particularly issues around equity and access to resources for those stuck in systemic and institutionally oppressive structures.

I geek out over: High-end paper products and paper crafts, including (yes, it’s true) scrapbooking

Ask me about: Anything – my family, my life, my 100-year old house, our amazing neighborhood – or anything that isn’t on the list!

Have any questions for Roxana?
Call or email her anytime!

Board's Eye View - Nickalas Collins


A Guest Post from Nickalas Collins
JAKC Board of Directors   
Director of Strategic Operations, Tico Productions, LLC

Junior Achievement (JA) strives to get volunteers into classrooms and help students understand the many facets of financial literacy.  However, I have witnessed something more basic in JA's goal; JA wants to provide role models for kids that need them. When I realized I was going to have the opportunity to be a role model in the neighborhoods where I grew up, I couldn't wait to start with JA.  Since then, I have continued volunteering regularly and joined the JA Board of Directors. As a board member, I still volunteer in the classrooms.  To me, these aren’t just any classrooms, but the very classrooms where I was once a student.

As a former teacher in the urban core, I cannot begin to tell you how much professionals from our community are needed to remind many of the students that it is possible to grow up to do great things. Many of these students do not have the opportunity to regularly interact with professionals, but when the opportunity does arise, they treasure it immensely! JA volunteers can literally change the lives of the students they teach. Volunteers help students understand that financial education and preparing for a career is a strong component of future success.

Click below to see Nickalas in action volunteering!


Meet Gigi - Marketing & Communications Intern

Join us in welcoming Gigi Gray, Marketing & Communications Intern at Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, focused on furthering our mission through expanding our online presence and assisting the Director of Development & Marketing. Gigi joins the JAKC team with after completing her sophomore year at the University of Kansas. A native of the Kansas City area, working on a degree in Strategic Communications, Gigi is looking forward to a great summer at JA.



Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Current Resident of: Overland Park, Kansas

Academic/Employment Background: I attended St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, Missouri for high school. I just finished my sophomore year at the University of Kansas majoring in Strategic Communications.

Brief description of job duties: This summer I will assist the Director of Development & Marketing with social media and other communication outlets for JAKC.

Why I came to JAKC: I came across the opportunity on KU’s career page and it immediately interested me. After learning more about JAKC, I saw how important the skills that are being taught within the program are for students to learn. I wish I could have participated in something like this when I was younger so I think it is something that should really be promoted.

Best part of my job: Going to programs and seeing how excited the kids are to learn about the different lessons and participate in activities then getting to relay what I saw. I also love that I am getting great experience while helping promote JAKC’s mission in the community.

Junior Achievement is vital because: it really gets children thinking about their future career and finances at a young age and teaches them more than they learn in the typical school curriculum.  

Describe yourself in one sentence: As the youngest of four girls, I talk a lot and am very loud.

After 5 pm, you can find me: Laying on my couch watching Netflix.

I’ll admit, I am obsessed with: My dogs, my niece, shoes, and purses.

I geek out over: correct grammar.

Ask me about: My niece or my dogs!

Board's Eye View - Bryce Anderson

A Guest Post from Bryce Anderson
JAKC Board of Directors & Bowl-A-Thon Committee Chair 
Vice President, Commercial Loans, Bank of Blue Valley


I had the opportunity to teach the JA Ourselves program to two Kindergarten classrooms at Butcher-Greene Elementary in Grandview, MO beginning in January 2017.  The students in each of the classes offered different perspectives on the materials provided and were very grateful for the stickers and piggy banks.  In fact, several of the students asked for extra sticker sheets so that they could take them home to their younger siblings. 

It was a reminder to me of how fortunate many of us are and how something as seemingly ordinary as stickers can provide joy to a child that doesn’t have access to many of the things that we discard on a daily basis.  The children showed enormous hearts and a great ability to retain new concepts.  I would encourage all JA volunteers to teach multiple classes within the same school in order to see the joy on the students faces when you enter their classroom or when they see you walking in the halls of the school.

Meet Sheyvette - Program Manager

Join us in welcoming Sheyvette Dinkens, Program Manager at Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, focused on furthering our mission through the building of partnerships across the community with schools, businesses, and fellow non-profit organizations. Sheyvette joins the JAKC team with extensive experience in non-profit management, community engagement, and is an entrepreneur in her own rank. 

Why I came to JAKC: During my interview, the team created a warm environment and displayed a united culture.

Best part of my job: Developing Career Exploration Opportunities for Future Leaders 

My dream for JAKC: Continue to develop partnerships that will allow all youth to reach for the moon and land among the starts

Describe yourself in one sentence: I am an ordinary girl, living in an extraordinary world

You'll always find this at my desk: Lotion & Mints

After 5 pm, you can find me: Supporting local events and businesses

Kansas City Must-See: Endless Possibilities

I'll admit, I am obsessed with: International traveling

I geek out over: Servant Leadership

I may not seem the type, but: I have horrible dog anxiety.

Ask me about: Anything


Have any questions about partnerships or student programs?
Call or email Sheyvette anytime!

In the classroom...

He proudly announced, "...I got the job!"
A classroom reflection from President & CEO, Megan Sturges


On the last day of class, Marcus wasn’t there. He had been the most engaged of the ten students in this session of JA Personal Finance at Wyandotte High School. He was the wise guy of the group. An intelligent young man with insightful questions and sarcastic remarks. He was always joking about something, but he lead his classmates in participation. I’ll admit, I was disappointed in his absence and the missed opportunity to say goodbye and wish him luck.

Earlier in the course, we discussed each student’s career aspirations and the education needed to achieve their goals. These students, all male and all minority, dreamed of success as accountants. As the first in their families to attend college, planning and funding an education was uncharted territory. Our lessons covered budgeting, saving, investing, and the many expenses associated with attending post-secondary school. To say these young men were overwhelmed would be an understatement. However, their discouragement slowly transformed into determination as we worked through budget exercises, conducted mock interviews, and practiced negotiation tactics.  

Taking my advice, Marcus decided to apply for his first job to begin saving money for college. I knew he had an initial interview with a clothing retail store, but on this last day of class, I had not heard if he was offered the job. Ten minutes after the start of class, Marcus confidently strutted into the room. He proudly announced, “Ms. Sturges, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to tell you… I got the job! And I used what you taught us to negotiate my pay!”

The pride I felt in that moment is the pride our volunteers feel in the classroom every semester.  Many times, the results of our work at Junior Achievement are seen many years later in the collegiate and professional success of our students after graduation. But on this day, I witnessed the immediate effect of the lessons on Marcus’ future. Our curriculum and volunteers prepare and inspire students to take control of their financial health - building the next generation of leaders, and in this case, well-educated accountants.

Thank You Moriah

Thank you for Making a Difference
Best wishes to Moriah Hillson, AmeriCorps VISTA

by Meredith Suarez

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

– John F. Kennedy

When you think about hiring someone to do a job, in our line of work, passion for mission is key.  Anyone can be trained to learn a new skill or develop a new process but being passionate about influencing the lives of young people and making our community better can only work with the right people.

Last year, Junior Achievement had the opportunity to partner with AmeriCorps to hire a Marketing and Communications VISTA to join our team.  AmeriCorps VISTAs serve in capacity building roles in small to medium sized nonprofit organizations for a service term of one year. 

Moriah Hillson came to JA last February at a time of rapid growth and opportunity for our organization.  When I first met Moriah I admired her poise, intelligence, and enthusiasm.  As I got to know her, what impressed me most was her determination.  Moriah never gives up or accepts only one path to success.  She just gets up and tries again! 

Nonprofit life can be a wild ride.  Did I make a difference today?  Did I help someone learn something new? Did anyone notice?  Or care?  These are questions we all ask ourselves, especially on days when task lists are long and hours are few.  The VISTA program is a perfect fit for someone who can ask themselves those questions, accept the answers that arise, and get up the next morning ready to tackle the challenges of a new day.  The ideal VISTA is a person who is determined to succeed for the betterment of our community.  Someone who knows that one person really can make a difference.  That person is Moriah Hillson.

On behalf of all of us, thank you Moriah, for your contribution to Junior Achievement.  You helped us build capacity for JA by telling our story.  You listened to people in our community so we could engage more volunteers and students.  When you didn’t know how to do something you found a way to the answer.  You shaped our message to be relevant, youthful, and engaging.  You wore a Bowlathon t-shirt…with pride.  I could go on and on about what a pleasure it’s been to know you and work with you, but most importantly, I want to thank you for being Moriah.  For showing up every day with a great attitude, a strong work ethic, and caring deeply about our mission and the role JA plays in lifting up youth in our community.  You matter, you made a difference, and you will be greatly missed.

Volunteer Limelight - Ghadeer Garcia

An Interview with Ghadeer Garcia

Junior Achievement Champions Council 

With a passion for improving the education system in Kansas City and the drive to excelerate impact, Ghadeer Garcia joined the Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City Champions Council in the summer of 2016. The Council gathers up-and-coming philanthropists and entrepreneurial minds with a passion for the JA mission to provide an outside perspective of innovation in the recruitment, recognition, and retention of JA volunteers.

Ghadeer speaking at the 2016 Annual Business Hall of Fame.

How did you become involved with Junior Achievement?

I was looking for volunteer opportunities and met Megan [Sturges]. She asked if I would be interested in the Champions Council and it sounded like a perfect fit. I grew up in the area and received JA in middle school. I remember the volunteer was energetic and made the curriculum fun. We were discussing financial planning - checks, saving, interest - and I looked forward to it each week. It was exciting to play the stock market game and learn how to plan for the future. I didn't realize at the time that seeds were being planted and ideas formulated.


How do you see JA affecting the education system?

Financial education is lacking in our school districts and many do not require personal finance until high school. At that point, it's starting to get a little late in the game. Students have most likely already had an allowance or first job - some interaction with personal finance. That could be cutting grass and deciding how to spend that money, or figuring out how to pay for their first car and insurance. It is important to demystify money management early.

I would really like to see JA in every grade level. It's especially important for young women and minorities. Young people need to understand how money works and the power they have as individuals. The African American community has over $1.4 trillion annually in spending power, but it is not being used in the most fruitful way. 


What do you hope your children learn from JA?

I think one of the things that stands out to me is them knowing the cost vs value of things. For example, when we were getting ready to move and looking at houses, they would say "Oh I like this house or that house." I would ask how much they thought a particular house costs and Gabriella would say, "Oh it's like $400." So I think cost is something difficult to conceptualize as a young person, but it's important to learn the value and price of everything from a house to school supplies. 


What is your dream for Gabriella and Joshua?

I want my children and all their peers to own their financial success. Money is a tool and every penny earned gives them power over their future. They can invest in well-made, structurally sound tools or choose a poor quality tool that may work for a short time, but will not serve them well in the long term. My greatest hope for Gabriella and Joshua is that they build a tool that will serve them best and allow them to pass something down to their children.

Board's Eye View - Ailie Kofoid

A Guest Post from Ailie Kofoid
JAKC Board of Directors & Marketing Committee
Vice President, Operations, EML

Last month, EML, a payment solution provider based in Overland Park, launched its first volunteer recruitment campaign for Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. As a board member of JA, I have a passion for educating our youth on financial literacy and entrepreneurship, and I knew that EML was a perfect fit for the mission of Junior Achievement. EML’s core values focus on teamwork, humility, humor and responsibility. Paired with our focus on financial services solutions for both business and consumers, I knew it was a winning combination to pair with Junior Achievement.

Our volunteer coordinators sent out a call to action to the business and the response was amazing. As a small organization of less than 100 people, we had 20 interested team members! For our first foray into the classroom, we decided that two JA in a Day events were the right fit for our team. To prepare the first time volunteers, Cait from Junior Achievement walked our eager, yet uncertain team through a day in the life of a JA volunteer. By the end of the hour long volunteer training session, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  “Oh, I can do this!” was heard throughout the room. During the following week, emails were flying around discussing how to prepare for the classroom, what treats we could provide the students, and how excited everyone was to share the lessons with the kiddos.

I can’t wait to hear the stories back in the office as team members wrap up their JA in a Day experience. I’m confident it will lead to many more volunteers in the future, enriching not only the lives of the students, but EML employees as well. 

Meet Shelby: Volunteer Specialist

Join us in welcoming Shelby Miller, the new Volunteer Specialist at Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, focused on volunteer placement, engagement, and stewardship. Shelby joins the JAKC team after a successful year of service as an AmeriCorps member and Front Desk Coordinator at Harvesters. A native of the Kansas City area working toward a Bachelors in Business Administration, Shelby is a loud, family oriented person who loves to laugh, wear yellow, and go on adventures, even if that means an after church trip to McDonalds for twist cones with her mom.

Hometown: Independence, MO

Current Resident of: Kansas City, MO

Academic/Employment Background: Working on Bachelors in Business Administration at Western Governors University. Completed 15-16 AmeriCorps term at Harvesters and stayed on as a part time employee as the Front Desk Coordinator.

Why I came to JAKC: I was in volunteer engagement as an AmeriCorps member and I have always wanted to help educate children. When the position became available for the Volunteer Specialist in an organization based on the success of local students, I couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of it.

As a kid, JA would have helped me: realize the importance of starting financial planning at a young age. My parents tried to get my brother and I to understand, but I think having another adult provide examples of how it worked for them would have been very beneficial to me.

Best part of my job: I love getting the chance to go to the schools and see the volunteers in action, even if just for a minute or two. The kids always seem so attentive and really enjoy their volunteer(s).

My dream for JAKC: I would love to see JA in all our schools and have enough volunteers to fill the classes so no student questions what JA is or does.

You’ll always find this at my desk: Something elephant related….I love elephants.

Kansas City Must-See: Christmas in the Park at Longview Lake

After 5 pm, you can find me: working at Harvesters, studying in a coffee shop, or watching Netflix at home.

I’ll admit, I am obsessed with: Elephants and Leonardo DiCaprio.

I geek out over: Disney. Disney movies, Disney Songs, Disney World, Disney Land, Disney Princesses, Disney Broadway, saying the word Disney so much it doesn’t sound real anymore.

I may not seem the type, but: I like to blare rap music while driving around.

Ask me about: the time I saw a “shark” in the Great Barrier Reef. 

Hawkeye Mitchell: JA Alum and scholarship recipient with grand plans

Hawkeye Mitchell: The Money Guy

JA Alum and recent graduate of Mill Valley High School, Hawkeye Mitchell was one of three students selected to receive the 2016 JAKC Scholarship Award to assist with college expenses. With incredible ambition and a diligent work ethic, Hawkeye began his collegiate career this fall with plans to study business and finance, earn an MBA, and establish a career in investments and money management.

The JA Scholarship Award was the icing on the cake for Hawkeye, who received an assortment of scholarships resulting in funding for the majority of his freshman year at UMKC. “It means I don’t have to take out loans and repay that money later in life while I’m trying to build wealth,” says Hawkeye, “The less debt I accrue, the more opportunities I have after graduation.”

Throughout his early career, Hawkeye ran a small lawn care service, advanced rapidly to Assistant Manager at a local deli, and consistently made informed decisions to spend or save his earnings. Hawkeye purchased his first car, financed all needed repairs, opened an investment account, and has now purchased a second car as he begins life as a college student. “He had some of this focus early on, but I think JA gave him a lot of structure and how to utilize that focus and apply it effectively,” says Hawkeye’s father, Greg Mitchell. “He manages the investment account on his own, moving money in and out of different stocks.”

Hawkeye adds, “Commodities are more of a gamble, I’ll tell you that.”

Hawkeye attributes his early success and continued interest in business to courses taught by his high school teacher and mentor, Ms. Dianna Heffernon-Meyers, who implemented Junior Achievement curriculum in her classroom. “It’s a very good structure for any student looking to build an understanding of business and economics,” says Hawkeye.

Ms. Heffernon-Meyers has been working with Junior Achievement to supplement her lessons for over 30 years. “Textbooks are often plain and somewhat dull - a blank canvas. JA provides the paints and brushes needed to take the canvas and turn it into a work of art. The work of art is what creates passion and understanding. The JA student company has allowed my students to create Marketing and Economic works of art. That experience has affected the trajectory of many of my students’ lives these past 31 years. It is a remarkable program. JA brings my classroom to life,” she says.

As a part of the Business Department at Mill Valley all four years of his high school career, Hawkeye participated in the student run JA Company Program, assisted in running the school store, and placed in the top 10% in DECA state competitions. “The program helped me focus and apply personal budgeting and investing, but also gave me an understanding of financial markets, supply and demand, and business models – which drove my curiosity,” says Hawkeye.

Hawkeye plans to return to his community as a JA volunteer to give younger students the same opportunities he was awarded. “In the K-12 system, business is neglected,” he states,” I would estimate that more than 75% of the population at my high school only take businesses classes after junior year. I would like to start working with JA to implement businesses classes into the younger grade levels in our district. We need to get their brains turning and open that door so when high school hits, they can really start getting involved.”

The lessons he learned from Ms. Heffernon-Meyers and Junior Achievement will serve Hawkeye well as he juggles classes, work, and community involvement in the months and years to come. Jokingly referring to himself as “The Money Guy,” Hawkeye’s plans to achieve greatness are well within his reach. We agree with Ms. Heffernon-Meyers when she says, “I fully expect to see Hawkeye Mitchell on the Forbes list in the future.” We’ll be looking for your name, Money Guy.

Volunteer Limelight - Jo Taylor

An Interview with Josia (Jo) Taylor
Project Manager III at Ericsson, Inc.
JA Volunteer

Jo Taylor (left) with friend, Shalyce Adamson (right), teaching 2nd graders at Wendell Phillips Elementary.

How did you get involved with JA?

I responded to a call-to-action from Ericsson to volunteer at Allen Village. I’ve now done JA in a Day for the past two years. It is an incredible experience. The first year, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, but I always have a lot of fun. And this past year, my friend Shalyce and I taught 2nd grade at Wendell Phillips Elementary together.


How confident did you feel going into volunteering?

The first time, not at all. I thought, “They’re going to see right through me and think, ‘She’s not a real teacher!’” But they absolutely loved me.


Tell me about one student in your class.

There was a little boy, Van, in this last class. Van sat in the front of the classroom so I’m sure he was a little bit of a talker. His desk was separated from everyone else. Randomly throughout the day, he would just come up and hug me. And I said, “Okay, I tell you what. After we get through each lesson, I’ll set aside time for you for hugs.” He was so cute.


Was there a particular lesson that resonated with you?

There was a lesson in JA My Community that talks about voting. They had to vote on a project for the school to invest in. This was an opportunity to redirect some negative comments because everyone had an idea of what they wanted to have in the school. The options were a butterfly garden, a painted mural, or a recycling project. While we were tallying votes, they would boo! I said, “No. We don’t do that.” That was an opportunity to talk to them about everyone having a different opinion. It’s about how to embrace and understand that others’ opinions may differ from yours. It was a pointed lesson to learn especially in this election year. They need to learn more about voting and the impact it has on our community.


What surprised you most?

The thank you letters I received afterward. Let me tell you – You better be wearing waterproof mascara. They mention certain things about what they learned and you realize they were actually paying attention.

I keep those 30+ letters at my desk so I can go back to read them, and I have used them to recruit more volunteers at Ericsson this year. I talk to them about getting to meet the children and the volunteer learns something going through the materials as well. I never drew certain correlations, but now that I have the material right in front of me, I wish I would have had JA when I was a kid.


What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

Wear tennis shoes. Dress comfortably. A lot of people are nervous, but the material teaches itself. Just go in with an upbeat attitude. The kids are very receptive and they want to learn. And I think they’re excited to have a new person in the class to break up their day to day. So they are excited to have you.


What motivates you to stay involved?

Just to see the kids. I love children. I love to see them change and grow and be excited. I love to console them and say, “You know, we all get things wrong sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re failing, it just means we need to try a little bit harder next time.”

Especially coming from the inner city. I was raised in south Kansas City, grew from that, and established a career. Going back into the KCMO school district and giving back to my community is incredibly important to me. I’m not sure of the impact I’m having on the students, but maybe it is to see someone who looks like them, and is in a more professional role. I didn’t have a role model like that when I was growing up to know, “Oh, I could do that one day.” I just knew I wanted better and fought for it and made my way. If you take just a moment to provide some insight, you never know what kind of impact you are making in their lives.


Why do you choose to volunteer with JA?

I want kids to know that there are endless opportunities. You shouldn't feel like there is anything holding you back from where they want to go. You don’t have to settle for less than what you are capable of. Don’t let your environment define what you are going to be. As long as you have a will and a drive to succeed, you will be successful.

When you set foot inside that classroom as a volunteer, you are there to impart some type of knowledge. It’s valuable and you are helping to shape and mold the future of our country one child at a time. Take a chance, and teach a lesson. You are making an impact and a difference in at least one child’s life.

Meet Steven - Development Associate

Join us in welcoming Steven Van Auken, the new Development Associate at Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, focused on fundraising, development, and event planning. Steven joins the JAKC team after a successful year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Turn the Page KC. A native of the Kansas City area with a background in environmental science, Steven is an outdoor loving, hard-working, dog enthusiast who has recently become annoyed with the overuse of the term "millenial." 

Why I came to JAKC: My strong belief in the mission along with an interest in fundraising and non-profit work aligned very well with the position.

As a kid, JA helped me: Learn the fundamentals and foundational financial skills necessary for success that aren't taught in everyday coursework.

Best part of my job: Getting to work with such a wonderful variety of corporations, organizations, and individuals who have made giving back to the community a key priority. 

My dream for JAKC: To continue growing at a sustainable rate until we have programming in all of the 15+ school districts represented in Kansas City, and then grow some more.

You'll always find this at my desk: Dark Chocolate

After 5 pm, you can find me: On the trolley trail with my dog, Henry, playing tennis, or enjoying a game of Dominoes at Bier Station.

Kansas City Must-See: Manifesto

I'll admit, I am obsessed with: Pit bulls, Pearl Jam, Pinback, Patios, Pollo Rey, Ping Pong, and apparently alliteration.

I geek out over: Nature and anything that involves getting out and exploring it.

I may not seem the type, but: Happy Gilmore is my favorite movie and I am an avid fan of the TV show Cops.

Ask me about: The time I spent a summer in Alaska living in a cabin.


Have any questions about donations or JAKC events?
Call or email Steven anytime!

Board's Eye View - Steve Cosentino

A Guest Post from Steve Cosentino
JAKC Board of Directors & Marketing Committee
Partner, Stinson Leonard Street, LLP

One of the most rewarding experiences in volunteering for Junior Achievement is having a session with students where you are able to keep their attention for the entire class, to the extent that is possible, and walk away feeling like they really learned something valuable that day.  That describes most of my classroom sessions as a volunteer with Junior Achievement, but one stands out in my mind.  The lesson for the day was on investing and the power of using the stock market to make money grow.  I decided on this particular day to bring in a bunch of donut holes to my fifth grade class at Banneker Elementary.  I announced at the beginning of class that we were going to participate in an activity about investing in the stock market.  I gave each of the students a donut hole and told them that they could either choose to eat the donut hole now or they could trade in their donut hole for a stock certificate.  I was a little worried that everyone would eat their donuts and ruin the exercise.  However, I was delightfully surprised at how many of them took me up on the offer for the stock certificate.  Those students examined their stock certificates and pondered whether they had made a good decision while the others were busy covering their faces with powdered sugar.  We then completed the stock market lesson and at the end of the session, the students who had chosen the stock certificate received two donut holes to enjoy at the end of class representing the growth in their investment.  It was a simple but powerful lesson that the kids enjoyed and will likely remember.

My law firm, Stinson Leonard Street, has supported Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City for many years.  Junior Achievement is an ideal cause for our firm to get behind.  We currently provide legal support to the Marlborough neighborhood in Kansas City through our pro bono program.  JAKC was able to arrange for our volunteers to teach in classrooms within the Marlborough neighborhood, helping our overall commitment to that area.

Junior Achievement is also an ideal program to engage a variety of people at a company in different ways.  At my firm, we had volunteers who were lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants, and a variety of other staff members.  Participation by a variety of different people within our organization helps spark enthusiasm for the program and increases our ability to be able to help raise money for Junior Achievement through events such as the Hall of Fame and the Bowl-A-Thon.  Those dollars helped JAKC serve a record number of students this year.  I am proud to be involved in that effort for what it does for the children in our community.  I am also proud to have helped the great individual students I had at Banneker Elementary.

Kauffman Scholar Summer Internship with JAKC - Nyla Pickens

A Reflection from Nyla Pickens
Kauffman School Scholar
JAKC Summer Intern

Nyla (right) and Office Manager, Kristi Fike (left),
celebrating their birthdays at the JAKC office.

When I began this summer and learn that I would be doing this internship with Junior Achievement, I was beyond excited. I will admit, I was not sure on what to expect, with it being my first job and everything. But I remember when I came to the door on my first day, I was greeted with a joyful welcome by Kristi, and I knew instantly that from then on that working for Junior Achievement would be a great opportunity.

During my first weeks or so, I wasn’t always perfect and successful, definitely far from it. But during this process, I began to get more comfortable with my environment and my work space and I began to understand that I can ask question or ask for help whenever I felt lost or didn’t quite  understand what my task was. I began understand that the JA team would help me whenever I needed it. I remember going to my first meeting and not saying anything because I wasn’t completely comfortable and sure of what to say. But I began to get comfortable and willing to share out. So at the next meeting, I would ask clarifying questions and share out answers to questions that would need to be answered.

During this internship, I have grown professionally and socially to where I have grown out of my comfort zone and learned to work well with others. I have also learned new things about what it is like to have a job and what comes with it. One day, I was asked if I would help with an important project that would be very helpful. So as I was doing the project, Mrs. Beth told me that she had to leave and that she’d be back later. I continued to work on the project and eventually ended up needing some help. No one else in the offices knew what to do, so I took and sticky note and wrote the question down for Mrs. Beth and skipped pass that part. Whenever I had more questions, I would just write the question down for Mrs. Beth so that when she came back, she could answer the questions or fix that part I was unsure of.

It is this growth mindset that I will take with me and will help succeed in college and wherever I go.

Thank you Junior Achievement Team!

Student Accomplishment - De'Onta and De'Na Newborn

JA Alumni De'Onta and De'Na Newborn receive scholarship to attend national debate competition

At the closing of the 2015-16 academic year, De’Na and De’Onta Newborn, JA alumni and recent graduates of Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy (LATCA), were two of only seven students who qualified for the national debate tournament hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah in June 2016. With determination, a winning attitude, and a little help from their grandmother, the twins raised the funds necessary to attend the competition.

JAKC President & CEO, Megan Sturges, received the request for support and immediately knew she wanted to make this dream a reality for the beloved young members of the JA family. De’Onta and De’Na have a close relationship with the staff and volunteers at JA – taking three JA courses at Lee A. Tolbert and appearing as special guests at three Business Hall of Fame banquets.

Junior Achievement awarded De’Na and De’Onta each a scholarship to cover the cost of their travel, entry fee, and spending money. Through the support of their family and the community, and an immense amount of preparation and study, the twins walked away from the national competition as semi-finalists in a group of over 200 of the best debate students in the country.

As one of the first local teams to incorporate 5th graders, LATCA competes year round, beginning two weeks into the school year and ending with the national tournament every summer. The team competes in the Debate Kansas City League and the South Suburban Debate League. Last year, De’Na set a record at the Debate Kansas City competition as the first person to take first place two consecutive years. She also took third place twice in the state-wide Winston Churchill Competition. 

With the competition level increasing each year, LATCA expects participating students to meet several requirements. Students must have a 3.5 GPA or higher, demonstrate outstanding behavior, have a history of preparation for local debate tournaments, and their parents must be supportive and communicative with the staff.

De’Na’s interest was sparked by the opportunity to argue without repercussion and the ability to make new friends. De’Onta thrives on the competition and the use of facts to back up his claims. Both students credit debate with teaching them vital communication skills and problem solving. De’Na began debating four years ago, but this school year was De’Onta’s first experience with debate.

“De’Na has a very domineering voice and it’s very intense,” De’Onta said about his sister. De’Na added her brother also has a commanding voice. “He has a dominance that is very intimidating, and I think it helps that we have that competitive spirit. It gives us confidence going into each round.” At the national level, participants prepare 30 resolutions, only using a minimum of eight - that is two resolutions per round with four rounds in the semi-finals.

Debate Coach, Bill Lindsey, encourages the team to work hard and prepare while pushing them to do their absolute best. “It’s what you put into it, not what you get out of it,” he said, “We have to work a little harder here in the city because of the economic status of some of our kids. But these kids have their own drive and motivation because they have a wonderful grandmother.” Beaming with pride for the accomplishments of De’Na and De’Onta, he adds, “Thank you for recognizing the talent and future leaders we have in both of them, and supporting them.”

With seven qualifying students, Lindsey knew the school could not afford to send all the candidates to the national competition. “We did some in-house fundraising,” he said, “but we wanted the kids to go out and approach the people they know in the community for sponsorships.” In-house fundraising supported the cost for parents and chaperones to accompany the kids, but that left a significant amount to raise for each student to compete.  

The Newborn siblings’ grandmother, Letta Young, served as a chaperone on the trip to Salt Lake City, and helped her grandchildren reach out to the community for funding. “I was so shocked when Megan (Sturges) told me JA was going to cover it. That was so perfect because I didn’t know how I was going to come up with the money.” She attends almost all of her grandchildren’s competitions. “I listen to their speeches and make suggestions. I go to the debates and a lot of times I’m the only parent,” Letta said. “I am very proud of both of them. They work hard. I couldn’t ask for two better kids.”

Next year the national debate tournament will be hosted in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Newborn twins have the opportunity to attend as assistant coaches - helping younger students prepare and giving back to their cherished charter school. As De’Na and De’Onta prepare to debate as freshmen at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy this fall, supporting them in any way possible is not a debate here at JA.

Board's Eye View - Melea McRae

A Guest Post from Melea McRae
JAKC Marketing Committee Chair
CEO - Crux.

I’ve been involved with JAKC for just over a year and was initially attracted to the mission because A) our cause positively impacts and prepares our children for a great future and B) it teaches life skills like budgeting and understanding the value of a dollar and C) it exposes kids to a variety of careers through the volunteers that teach the classes, career opportunities that many of them may never get exposed to otherwise. 


I like to summarize the JA mission by saying we are bringing business back to the classroom, which resonates with me as a business leader and a mom. Our children need to learn life skills through real life examples of dollars and “sense” that can be applied to every grade level.


I volunteered to teach a 2nd grade class in KCK earlier this year. I have to admit, I was definitely nervous walking into the classroom that first day. Teaming up with a volunteer buddy certainly helped, but still, the butterflies were there. Standing up in front of 22 eight year olds that are honest to a fault can be very intimidating. However, I immediately noticed their joy and excitement to have someone new in the classroom with something important to teach. I also saw their desire to learn and also to impress me with their knowledge, which they certainly did.

The curriculum was spot on, and promoted participation and hands-on learning. Teaching these students became something I looked forward to each week. And when the last session rolled around, I was sad to say goodbye to the 22 new friends I had made. I went there to teach and inspire them, and they did the same for me. And after a long group hug, I said my goodbyes and told them I would be back, and I will. 


The opportunity to teach students business and life skills fuels my passion for Junior Achievement, and knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of these students. However, the icing on the cake is the feeling one gets from knowing you made a difference in 22 lives…that’s what it’s all about!

"It's a Win-Win" - Volunteer Limelight with Marcus Prieto

An Interview with Marcus Prieto
Network Operations Manager at Ericsson, Inc.
JA Volunteer and Champions Council Member

How did you first become involved in JA?
I became involved with Junior Achievement as part of my company’s volunteer initiative. Ericsson offers its employees eight hours of paid volunteer time per year. I like to use that time to do something impactful, and something that allows me to use my skills outside the office. The more I can give back to my community, the better.  

My colleague, Marci Surls, and I taught JA Our City to a third grade class at East Antioch Elementary. JA frames the lessons around community and how everybody is together in this crazy thing called life. The community component really resonated with me because I was born and raised here, and I have two kids of my own, a third and a fourth grader. So I felt a connection with the students.

Did anything surprise you about your time in the classroom?
How much the kids looked forward to seeing us. We finished the five week program and went back two weeks later to have lunch with the students and they were so surprised. Hugs and high-fives all around. I think that was the most, not only rewarding, but surprising part of volunteering. They really looked forward to seeing us.

Tell me about a moment in the classroom that stuck out to you.
There were so many memorable moments throughout the course, but two incidents still stick out to me. During one of the sessions, we walked them through a business plan for a small restaurant, which included creating a name for their business. I was very impressed when one of the groups came up with a slogan as well – Cookin’ the Good Stuff. We didn’t ask for a slogan, but this group took it to the next level. I was so surprised and amazed. The teacher had told us to ring a hand bell if it gets too loud and it will calm to students down. Ding ding ding. I stopped the class and announced, “This team came up with a slogan too!” It was important to highlight their good work and give positive feedback. It put a proud smile on all their faces.

Another instance that still makes me laugh - We were discussing the difference between debit and credit cards. There was one kid that had been telling us he wanted to save all his money and buy a Ferrari. I’ll never forget this – His thank you card contained all this good information about what he had learned, but he ended it with “I’m still working on that Ferrari.”

What part of the lessons resonated with you?
Forms of payment. We wanted to stress that the debit card is your money and the credit card is a promise to pay someone back but you are paying interest. One is your money, one is someone else’s. Don’t forget that.

The curriculum also stresses that we are all in this together – how we can positivity influence the community through small business and how the community can positivity influence our lives. We talked about why we pay taxes. One of the lessons plans had a worksheet with sales taxes and a math problem to teach the kids about what taxes pay for and why they are necessary. We are all part of a living thing.

Is there a particular moment you are most proud of?
I think seeing how much the students retained and how truly impactful the sessions were. That was rewarding. Knowing they are grasping it and having fun. They are learning and at the same time, next week, they are looking at the clock thinking, “Is it 2 o’clock yet? They’re going to be here!”

What motivates you to keep volunteering?
Interaction with the kids, knowing they are getting something out of it. I went to elementary school in the Shawnee mission, so I feel a connection to them. It’s fun to give back and have a positive impact on a child’s life. And I just like it. I enjoy it. Whether it’s training people here at Ericsson or teaching a third grade class the difference between a debit card and a credit card. It made me feel good that I was doing something to help these kids out and the kids got something out of it. It’s a Win-Win.

What advice would you give to a new volunteer?
Success is in the preparation. The more you prepare, the more you succeed. Not only should you make sure you have everything in order for each week, which JA recommends that you do, but spend about an hour the day before and really look at what you are delivering. It’s like getting a business presentation or selling. It’s the same thing in the classroom – sell the material and present in a way that makes sense to the kids. It’s also helpful to write an outline. The lesson book has a lot of good ideas, but when delivering a program, you can expand on the ideas with your own experience.

How has your classroom experience affected your work at Ericsson or your personal life?
It’s really making me hungry to do more. That’s part of why I signed up to be a coordinator for the Bowl-a-Thon. It was suggested I get into a classroom before I make a decision and as soon as I finished the first or second session, I knew I would like to do more than just the Bowl-a-Thon.

What is it about JA that really has you hooked?
The kids. Kids keep you young. My younger brother is getting ready to have a kid and the way I explained it to him was, “If I’m in the parking lot alone and I’m skipping, people are looking at me like I’m crazy. But if I’m holding my daughter’s hand and I’m skipping, it’s totally fine.”

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