JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City

JA Stories of Impact

"Volunteers are planting a seed that will grow every year."

There’s been a new face around the water cooler recently. Jennie Masuch joined the JAKC team in January as a Program Manager, leading volunteer and school coordination efforts with secondary programs serving middle school and high school students. A Kansas City area native, Jennie grew up as a student in the Independence Public School district and graduated from Truman High School. She continued her education at University of Missouri-Kansas City and worked during college part-time with Girl Scouts. “I originally thought I wanted to be a teacher. But after comparing my work in different classrooms through practicums to my time with Girl Scouts, I decided non-profit might be a better space for me.” After shifting her degree focus and graduating with a diploma in Liberal Arts, she continued working in the non-profit space after college.

Having not had the opportunity to experience Junior Achievement as a student, her first introduction to the organization came through a bit of serendipity. “I had never heard of JA until Kate Hood started working here. She introduced me to it and when a position opened up, I applied.” Kate, Director of Programs & Experiences, had previously worked with Jennie and knew her passions for both education and non-profits would make her a good fit for the open Program Manager position. Jennie found the role offered a balance between her desire to make an impact in learning environments and her love of working in non-profits. “It was a chance to get back into the education space without directly being in the classroom, which was what I wanted.”  

The source of Jennie’s passion to work in both sectors spurs from experiences in her own childhood. “The people who got me to where I am now are the volunteers I’ve interacted with throughout my life. My Girl Scout leader had a big impact on me, and I was involved in a lot of different volunteer groups in high school.” She identifies her early exposure to generous mentors as a defining moment. “I got to be around people who genuinely wanted to be around me. I got to interact with so many different people who I wouldn’t have otherwise - people besides my teachers and family.” Now, working with Junior Achievement, she sees the same spirit resonating in JA volunteers. “These volunteers are choosing to go into classrooms and teach. When there is a new face in the classroom, kids are so excited to learn from them and get to know them.”

Thinking of her own exposure to the crucial topics JA covers, Jennie reflects, “I had a personal finance class in junior year of high school, but that was pretty late in the game.” She continued, “Before that, my parents had some conversations with me, but it wasn’t anything I actively thought about.” Jennie appreciates how her work with JA makes an impact with students of all ages. “That is why Junior Achievement is so important. It starts in kindergarten.” She expanded on the impact JA Champions have on students long-term by adding, “kids may not realize what they’re doing is financial literacy and career readiness, but volunteers are planting a seed that will grow every year.” Jennie hopes her work now will enable other kids define their path to success earlier. “I wish I had JA growing up. Our volunteers get students to think about what they want to be and how they want to succeed in life.”

As a JA staff member, Jennie develops strong relationships with Kansas City educators. She finds their excitement to host JA volunteers in their classrooms very rewarding. “They see Junior Achievement as a wonderful supplement to what they are doing in their classrooms. They see how volunteer interaction with students makes a difference.” On the flip side, a challenging part of her week is finding volunteers willing to teach middle and high school students. “We need more passionate people willing to work with these age groups. I personally love the programs for older students because they are tailored to certain areas.” Middle and high school JA students dive into more complex activities involving entrepreneurship, business plans, and economics. Jennie stressed the importance of this exposure for older students sharing, “the concepts they are learning are important. They’re getting ready to go off and start their real lives.”

Understanding the anxiety some potential volunteers face, Jennie wants to allay concerns regarding qualifications. “Anyone can volunteer. Junior Achievement is great because there are so many different opportunities. There is something for everyone.” She detailed the most important characteristics needed in a JA mentor. “You just have to be open and honest with them and yourself. You must have a desire to leave a lasting impact on a student. Be willing to form relationships and get to know your students and their needs.” She wants volunteers to believe in themselves and their experience. “Tell them who you are and how you got to where you are at in life and they will look up to you. They will be inspired.”

“I just love the program and I want to do my part to make sure it continues.”

Sometimes, an initial introduction to Junior Achievement lights a spark within an individual. JAKC Board Member, volunteer, and donor Dan Ziegler is one such person. Dan, a Senior Vice President at Citigroup, puts his talents as a project manager to use managing a team of developers and analysts who track application performance and automate processes to optimize decision making. His role puts him in contact with people and groups across the organization. He enjoys having autonomy to use his strengths as a problem solver in a constantly changing environment. “We are told: There’s a problem. Here is how it works today. We work together to figure out a solution.”

Dan is a long-time employee of Citi, and is celebrating his 25th anniversary this year. However, like many people, Dan’s career differs from what he had in mind as a young person. Growing up, Dan dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Looking back, he sees a couple key flaws in this desired career path. “One, I only focused on my autograph. Two, I was really bad at baseball. I had no athletic ability whatsoever. I was awful,” he confided, laughing.

Dan continued, “I was a horrible student all throughout high school. I had ambition but I was scared to try. I didn’t want to fail.” After graduating from high school, he pursued a call center position with Citi Group. “I started at the lowest level job there, because it was better than the job I had at the time.” To his surprise, Dan found he enjoyed the role and it foretold his strengths in problem resolution. “I worked with people to resolve delinquencies and I thrived in that. After five years of interactions I had learned a lot about credit cards and what people were doing, or were not doing, with their money.” Dan expanded on the impact his first job out of high school had on his own financial habits, “It woke me up. I was at the age where I got targeted for that stuff. Credit can be a good thing or really dangerous if you’re not responsible.”

His initial years at Citi Group awakened a deeper interest in his personal development and guiding others. “I had moments when I wanted to be leading people. Doing. Driving Change. Dealing with problems. I don’t like being complacent. I like being challenged.” He decided to continue his formal education, taking advantage of tuition reimbursement offered through his workplace to offset the costs. “I finally went back to school and eight years later received my undergraduate degree. I accepted an assistant management role and eventually a real management position with my own team. I got an MBA and my certification in project management.” Dan reflected on what helped him during his journey, “As I think back, I didn’t have a lot coming out of high school, but I was a hard worker. My parents instilled that in me when I was young. I didn’t naturally have many other skills, but I had that.”

Driven by his passion for guiding others and helping them identify their strengths, Dan started giving his time in Junior Achievement classrooms in 2015. Part of his motivation came from a desire to pass on information he didn’t receive when he was younger. “Personal finance was something I was never taught. It felt like I was never doing things right with money. I was intrigued by investing and savings, but I just didn’t know how to do it.” He made it his goal to help JA students avoid some of the mistakes he made. Dan recalled fondly, “My favorite classes were always the 3rd and 4th graders. I even got letters from one class. One student told me, ‘I didn’t realize I could have my own business. I didn’t know I could do that. Now it’s all I want to do!’ That was pretty cool.” He continued, “I still have that letter…actually all of them. Now before I go volunteer, I read them to get inspired.”

Last August, another door opened for Dan to step into a board role with JAKC. “I’ve volunteered with JA for the last four years. So, when a board opportunity opened, I signed up for it.” Though he hasn’t been a part of the board for long, he is excited for the potential to guide futures in a new way. “I want to get more involved. I want to be a part of this work because it fits into something I really care about.” He sees it as an opportunity to help JA students on a larger scale. He has advice for those looking into becoming JA Champions. “Do your research. Start asking questions. Email the staff.” He especially suggests talking to other volunteers. “At the back to school party this year, I talked to the woman who had just been awarded JA Volunteer of the Year. I asked her what worked and how to apply that. I got comfortable being uncomfortable.” He hopes others can find fulfillment as he has. “I just love the program and I want to do my part to make sure it continues. If people have a passion for this, they should step up and do more.”

"It was eye opening to explain savings to the kids...some have had exposure, but many have not."

Peter McVey has built his career in Kansas City over the past twenty years. Currently a Senior Vice President and Director of Cash Management Services with Lead Bank, his path in the banking and financial service industry spurred out of an internship during his college years. Wisely, he used relationships he cultivated during that experience to secure his first job after graduation. Since then he has steadily moved through the ranks. “My role in banking has evolved from being a front line teller to working with business clients to define the services they need. I find solutions.” Peter’s career path benefited from informal mentorship from several different leaders along the way.

The advice of the CEO at his first bank helped him prioritize communication as a key skill, “He encouraged me to share my opinions and speak up. If you don’t offer your thoughts when asked, people won’t know what you have going on in your mind. I’ve used that approach many times in my career, to remind myself to speak up and engage in conversations.” He also took away an important lesson from an early role at a financial services non-profit where he led seminars and online-training. “Understand that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. When you’re not, use that to your advantage. Leverage others’ knowledge and experience with your own.”

When Junior Achievement Program Manager Sara Swearingen made an appearance at Lead Bank through a lunch and learn community engagement series, Peter quickly identified it as a way to leverage his strengths to make an impact in his community. “I was very interested because of the industry I work in. So much of my role is explaining how banking works for businesses. I felt like I could do the same thing for children.” He especially identified with the age group that he had the opportunity to mentor during his JA-in-One-Day experience. “I have a 6-year-old son, so I thought teaching kindergartners would be a good fit for me.”

At first, Peter had some anxiety about how to keep a room full of young kids engaged for the duration of the lengthy session format. Traditional JA programs bring volunteers in for an hour over the course of several weeks. JA-in-a-Day fast-tracks learning in one school day, with breaks for recess and lunch. Peter emphasized how his JA Program Manager, Sara, helped him feel prepared every step of the way. “I really appreciated Sara making us feel at ease. She gave us things to consider and be prepared for. She went over the material with us, how the process worked, and checked in during the experience. Sara made us feel so welcome.” Peter’s fears were also eased when he decided to teach as part of a team. “Two colleagues, Taylor and Danny, joined me to volunteer. We broke the day into parts. The fact that there were three of us really helped keep the students listening.” The trio made sure to review the materials before their time in class but found a natural flow once they got in front of the class. “We read the lesson plans and other materials, but when we got there it just happened. The kids did very well.”

As a parent, Peter brought an understanding of young minds to his teaching style. “We found after lunch their attention span was a bit different than before. We adjusted and when questions turned into something else, we brought them back in.” The day was a valuable exercise in communication and meeting the kids at their level. Peter found himself turning to the materials to aid in concept delivery, “I kept reminding myself to think about it from a simple point of view, to not make it too complicated. The guides were really useful in helping us give information to the students at their level.”

Peter’s favorite aspect of the day was the unexpected liveliness of it. “We had them doing activities that required them to stand up and move.” The classroom teacher reinforced the strength of the materials and their ability to direct young energy to Peter and his fellow volunteers. “She liked that part as well…she said getting them moving around the room and thinking about things that way was a really good approach.” Another surprise for Peter came when it was time to say goodbye. “I told the kids we had to head home and many of them asked us to stay. Some came up and gave us high-fives and hugs. It was unexpected but it felt good that they were happy we were there. It was really nice to have that expressed.”

His time in the classroom allowed Peter to reflect on his own upbringing. “My parents explained early on how important it was to save money and use time to your advantage, like setting up retirement accounts early.” He realized he could amplify his impact by volunteering with Junior Achievement students. “It was eye opening to explain savings to the kids and talk about money. Some have had exposure, but many have not. It was so important to my parents that they tell me about it. I have talked about it with my own son. The opportunity to explain it to a room full of other kids took it to the next level.” After returning to the office, Peter felt compelled to share his experience with his co-workers. He wrote an email to encourage others to step up, “I sent out pictures we took while we were there to the entire staff. I told them it was nerve-wrecking and humbling. But once you’re there, your nerves go away.” Peter is glad he stepped out of his comfort zone and hopes others will do the same and join him for future JA programs. Smiling, he concluded, “It’s the nature of kids to make you feel better about things. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to be a Junior Achievement volunteer. I’ll be back and hopefully with more of my colleagues.”

“Being here today helped me realize I’m passionate. If I keep myself motivated, I can do better.”

Our JA Champions, people who take action to better a child’s future, know how important it is to prepare our young people for today’s economy. They equip students to see opportunities — and to seize opportunities. Students like Emily.

Last fall, Emily attended the Junior Achievement Future Women’s Leadership Forum and was matched with JA Mentor Shalea Walter, Vice President & Marketing Manager at Arvest Bank. Shelea and Emily shared a day of real-world conversations about money and careers, opening the door for crucial life lessons. Emily’s favorite part of the day involved sharing stories with other attendees. She spoke about her experience as the child of immigrant parents, “Coming to the US was a pretty difficult experience. There are a lot of people who judge you for how you speak. They don’t help you translate. Those were difficult times.”

Emily’s struggles to fit in as an outsider are not uncommon. According to the 2017 Race for Results study conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in Kansas and Missouri there are more than 215,000 children of immigrant families. More than half of these children are in low income families. English-language learning students have a more difficult time keeping up with their classmates in foundational subjects.

Emily explained how these external forces impacted her confidence. “At some point I blamed myself. I didn’t encourage myself to stay motivated.” To compound matters, children like Emily are more likely to live in households where at least one parent failed to graduate from high school. Limited access to help with schoolwork at home means mentorship programs become even more important to help students understand what is possible for their future.

Emily experienced a turning point when she realized she was able to help others in her position. “I started translating so I could help other students feel confident about themselves.” At the Future Women’s Leadership Forum, Emily’s biggest takeaway spoke to the transformative effect of JA Mentors. “Being here today helped me realize I’m passionate. Even though I have a rough background and still struggle with a lot of things, if I keep myself motivated, I can do better.”  

Programs like the Future Women’s Leadership Forum impact the stories of many students. However, to continue preparing for their future they need ongoing exposure to professional role models. They need JA CHAMPIONS LIKE YOU to help them challenge the cycle of poverty and to define success.

You can provide Emily and her peers the tools to think far beyond what’s right in front of them. When you donate to and volunteer with Junior Achievement, you equip the next generation of leaders with the knowledge, skills and capacity to be successful. You show them they have someone in their corner.

In 2019, JA Champions provided crucial program support and mentorship to 24,870 kids in 12 counties. But there are still thousands of other children who need help to prepare them for success. In 2020, we look forward to collaborating with JA Champions, old and new, to power possibility for students like Emily in schools across our community!

"There is no more generous gift you can give someone than your time."

Katie Lord is well acquainted with the Kansas City philanthropic community. “My career has been entirely focused on fundraising. As the Vice President of Non-Profit Development at Proof Positioning, I work to position our charitable partners to achieve their goals.” Katie is the first to acknowledge that her career goals weren’t clear early on in life. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was in school. I didn’t understand that you could build a career like the one I have now.” Given her own journey, the importance of exposure to different career paths resonated strongly with her.

Katie’s first exposure to Junior Achievement came through a previous position. “JA was a client of mine. I didn’t know much about their programs at first, but I loved the mission from the start.” Katie strengthened her ties to JA after being accepted into the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Centurions Leadership Program. “I reconnected to Junior Achievement through Centurions. Now I’ve led two units in the classroom, become a mentor at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum, and volunteered at the 4.01K Race.”

Katie’s time in the classroom gave her perspective on the impact of strong role-models in her own family. “I taught a unit to 3rd graders. It was about taxes, supply chains, and creating businesses. It was so rewarding and gave me a newfound respect for my mother and grandmother, who were both in the teaching profession.”  She continued, “Not every kid is lucky enough to have parents who are able to teach them these things. Understanding financial management is vital to setting kids up for success. I sometimes think that is why many people have problems managing finances as adults. They didn’t have someone to show them how it’s done.”

Katie’s positive experience as a role model in the classroom led to interest in another Junior Achievement event, the Future Women’s Leadership Forum. This bi-annual gathering brings female professionals in diverse industries together with young women in local high schools for a day of connection and conversation about their careers and lives. “Being able to have open and candid conversations…I wish I had gotten more of that at their age. We’re asking kids to pick earlier and earlier what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I want them to see multiple pathways and have tools for success.” She sees great value in the relationships she built with her mentees during the day-long event. “There is no more generous gift you can give someone than your time. Money is a renewable resource, time is not. We all get the same 24 hours in a day.”

Thinking back through her own career path, Katie smiled, “I have been blessed to have amazing mentors. I have always left my mentors with something new to try, something new to read, a different perspective.” But she is quick to dispel a common myth about the mentor-mentee relationship. “People always think mentorship has to be a huge time commitment. It can be a phone call. It can be a text message. It can be a quarterly coffee..” The most important thing is that you help others as you have been helped. There is always somebody behind you that needs that time.”

After her positive experiences as a volunteer and mentor, Katie considered how else she could increase her impact. “I volunteered first and became a donor second, which was very millennial of me.  It’s important to invest in our kids now. They are the financial future of the country. If you can invest not only time but also money, if you can do it together, you are going to make the biggest impact.” Speaking to the change she creates as a JA Champion she said, “I see the immediate impact of everything I’ve done. I see the dollars we raise at the 4.01K run. I see the impact I have teaching kids about different types of jobs. When I walk away, I can say, ‘I did something today.’”

Katie’s multi-faceted involvement as a Junior Achievement Champion has given her the confidence that when she gives of her time and treasure, her investment powers possibility for students. “What sets Junior Achievement apart is their holistic approach and their stewardship of donors.  I know the return on investment I’m going to see when making a gift to JA. I clearly understand how many kids I’ve helped, the classrooms I’ve served, what my donation has done.”  Katie considers her past as well as the future of her daughter when considering how to give to her community. “I didn’t have JA when I was young, but I wish I had. I hope that my daughter does. By being a donor and volunteer I can ensure that is going to happen.”

“I get just as much out of it as the kids do and I always leave in a good mood.”

Dianne Ryan has been a Junior Achievement Champion in Kansas City for nearly twenty years. Her journey started in 2001 when her own children were in grade school, “I started at St. Ann’s Parish because that’s the church we go to. They had a note on the bulletin that they were looking for help teaching the 4th grade Junior Achievement program.” Dianne felt that her background made her a good candidate to toss her hat in the ring. “My degrees are in child and family development and I had always been interested in finances and teaching kids about money. I had learned a lot from running a business with my husband.” Dianne and her husband, Bill, founded Shamrock Trading Corporation. Their family-owned business has been a fixture in Kansas City for over thirty years.

Now, two decades after her first JA volunteering experience, Dianne is still going strong. She just finished leading her 56th classroom program (!!) and along the way has provided mentorship to kids in nearly every grade level from Kindergarten to 6th grade.

What keeps her coming back? “When I lead Junior Achievement programs, I’m giving kids a whole other perspective of the financial world and the importance of jobs. They understand why money is necessary.” She builds a bond with the kids she works with adding, “I love the stories. I always give the kids a chance to talk about their lives. Everybody has a job at home. It might be picking up the toys, but I’m able to take that and tie it back to what I’m teaching.”

She also counts her ties to school administrators and educators as a key reason she loves being a JA volunteer, “I build a relationship with the teachers. I’ll stay with a school for as long as the teacher requests me. I like walking in, I like chatting with the secretaries, I like that the teachers look forward to me coming. I love the fact that they ask for me. That’s a real ego booster.”

Several years ago, Dianne had the chance to lead JA programs for her grandson’s 4th grade JA class. She tried to keep her family tie discreet, without success. She smiled remembering, “I walked into the classroom on the first day and everyone was saying ‘Nick’s grandma is here!’ That secret didn’t last long.” Dianne recognizes the impact JA programming has when kids have access to it over the course of several years. “It builds each year. The kids who get Junior Achievement every grade are so lucky.”

As a long-time volunteer, Dianne has found Junior Achievement curriculum to be tried, true, and inclusive. “The lesson plans are spot on and very age appropriate. They are also flexible enough that I can change the plan to fit the classroom. Students have many different cultures and backgrounds. There are no assumptions that a family can only be a mom and a dad. JA always stresses that your family can be anything. I have become very sensitive to that.”

Her time with JA students has turned her into an advocate amongst her friends and family. “I’ve taken people with me who are interested in the becoming a volunteer for the program. You really have to see it to get it.” She stresses that anyone can make a difference. “You don’t have to be super qualified. You don’t have to have a master’s degree in business. You don’t have to even be employed. I’m retired! Doing this makes me feel like I’m a player in the community. I’m still contributing.”

The biggest factor in her continued work with Junior Achievement? The purpose it brings to her life. “So much of what we do we HAVE to do. It is a requirement. So little of life is something you WANT to do. Junior Achievement is something I WANT to do. I look forward to it, to the kids, to delivering the message, to saying goodbye. Then I feel like my day has been complete. I feel like I’ve done something for the greater good. I get just as much out of it as the kids do and I always leave in a good mood.”

"Our JA leaders taught us you're never too young to have dreams or set goals for yourself."

De’Na and De’Onta Newborn were first involved with Junior Achievement at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy as elementary students. Over the course of their education, JA volunteer mentors have exposed them to career paths and have helped them define their goals. De’Na’s favorite activity introduced her class to a variety of potential jobs. “Mike from Hallmark brought us all Hallmark notebooks and gel pens. We learned about roles at his company and then played a matching game to pair career titles to the job descriptions we thought they belonged to.” De’Onta especially enjoyed an entrepreneurship activity, “We got a packet that explored how different interests can be turned into businesses. Then we got to market that business and even design a logo!”

De'Onta and De'Na Newborn at the 2019 JA Hall of Fame event.

The twin siblings are now in their Senior year of High School at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Their busy schedule includes volleyball, theater, debate, student council, and choir. Their grandmother, Letta, attests to their drive and passion. “Everything they do they absorb. They are strong in knowing what they want to achieve.” Junior Achievement was also honored to invite De’Na and De’Onta to be presenters at the 2019 JA Business Hall of Fame Celebration last month.

 With college on the horizon, De’Na and De’Onta often field questions about where they would like to attend next fall. Several institutions are being considered, but their JA lessons made an impact here as well, helping them understand the risk of student debt. “We will go to the school that gives us the most money. It’s all about the scholarships!” De’Onta smiled.  

Though they share a birthday and many similar interests, each has separate dreams for the future. These goals have remained constant since their Elementary School JA programs. Deeply impacted by educators and mentors growing up, De’Onta hopes to become an Elementary English Teacher. “Teachers have made such a difference in my life. I want to make sure the literature we learn in schools doesn’t just reflect one side of history. It should reflect all parts and all cultures of our society. De’Na aspires to become a lawyer or substance abuse counselor. JA has fostered confidence about their skills and abilities. When asked what will make her successful in the future, De’Na promptly responded, “My work ethic. When I want something, I don’t take no for an answer. I won’t stop until I get it done.”

De’Na and De’Onta credit Junior Achievement mentors for helping show them that their dreams were within reach. “Our JA leaders taught us you’re never too young to have dreams or set goals for yourself. They showed us that if you aim high, you will get there.”

Quote from De'Onta Newborn

As they move to the next stage of their lives, the pair have wisdom to pass on for future JA students seeking to make an impact in the world around them. De’Na emphasized the importance of preparedness and grit. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you want to do something, don’t go in blind. It won’t be all rainbows and sunshine. Realize there will be challenges. Don’t be afraid of anything. Take it head on.” De’Onta stressed the importance of self-awareness, “As a human, you’re going to make mistakes. But you don’t have to keep making the same ones. Think about your future.”

We can’t wait to continue to watch De’Na and De’Onta grow into their potential and we wish them the best of luck in their studies in their final year of high school! Students who participate in volunteer-led Junior Achievement programs gain the confidence and get the tools to think far beyond what’s right in front of them. When you partner with JA, you redefine preparedness for the next generation. 

"Junior Achievement's commitment and intentionality around diversity and inclusion is amazing.”

Emily Brown participated in Junior Achievement programs as a young girl in her hometown of Dallas, Texas. “I was in the 3rd or 4th grade when Junior Achievement came to my classroom. I also participated in a JA summer camp. I vividly remember being so excited for JA every month” The tools and skills she learned in those programs help inspire a passion for entrepreneurship and social change in young Emily.  

Fast forward to the present and now she has created a nationally recognized non-profit to champion representation and access in the food allergy world. After moving to Kansas City ten years ago with her husband, she became a preschool teacher and mother. The new family faced an early food allergy scare when her daughter had a reaction to peanuts. The expense of specialized allergen-free food quickly turned into a large financial burden. Emily reached out to programs for assistance but discovered that food stability resources for individuals with allergies were severely lacking. “I couldn’t get what I needed from food pantries and it wasn’t available through the federal nutrition program. There is a huge gap in our safety net system for allergies, which are a common medical need.”

With more than 32 million Americans with food allergies, Emily decided to take the opportunity to create change for her family and others challenged with nutritional security in the face of food allergies and founded the Food Equality Initiative. “Changing large-scale policy, like the WIC food packages, may take the rest of my life. That is where the idea of having a solution to help people now came from. In the Spring of 2015, we opened up the nation’s first allergy friendly and gluten-free food pantry.”

Emily’s passion for inclusion extends beyond her profession. She is also an engaged community volunteer and JA Champion. As a mentor at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum (FWLF), Emily reengaged with Junior Achievement as a role model for high school students. “I want to encourage young women to pursue business as an option. I think social entrepreneurship, business as a force for good, is where it’s at.”

Being involved with FWLF allowed Emily to reflect on why JA is one of her causes of choice. “It was a full circle moment. I learned a lot from my time as a student through JA in Dallas, but I distinctly remember there not being anyone who looked like me. In Kansas City, there were so many professional women of color at the JA Future Women’s Leadership Forum and the students were also predominantly women of color.”

Emily continued, “It was inspiring to see. It encouraged me to continue to engage with the students as they grow and explore career opportunities. Junior Achievement of Greater KC’s commitment and intentionality around diversity and inclusion is amazing. I have not seen that in any other setting.”

Emily also appreciated the diversity of background represented at the forum, “There were a wide range of leaders and entrepreneurs present. I saw the entire spectrum of the entrepreneurial journey represented. I love that they highlighted different ways you can come to entrepreneurship. It’s important to show the next generation that there are many paths up the mountain.”

Through Junior Achievement and the Future Women’s Leadership Forum, Emily continues the tradition of mentorship and guidance she herself experienced in JA programming as a kid. By bringing her own entrepreneurship story and passion for inclusion to the table, she is helping students understand their limitless potential. Volunteer-driven JA mentorship experiences expose students to leaders with whom they can identify and learn crucial life lessons. When you partner with JA, you empower students to recognize their potential and give them the tools they need to seize opportunity. 

CommunityAmerica Credit Union Makes Historic $1 Million Investment in Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City Kids



The transformational investment will power possibility for students across the metro area.

Kansas City, Missouri (November 18, 2019) — Students across the Kansas City metro area will thrive as a result of a transformational $1 million gift from CommunityAmerica Credit Union. The partnership is longstanding, with the organization’s first gift made to Junior Achievement in 1997. With this latest gift, CommunityAmerica’s lifetime investment in JA totals $1,285,436. CommunityAmerica’s gift is the largest in JAKC’s 64-year history.

“Every child deserves to believe in themselves — and to have the tools to do it,” shared Megan Sturges Stanfield, the President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. “CommunityAmerica’s generous and lasting partnership means we can provide experiential learning like never before, bringing conversations about money, careers and business ownership to life in new and innovative ways.”



To commemorate this historic gift and celebrate the longstanding commitment to Junior Achievement’s initiatives, JAKC honored CommunityAmerica with the Junior Achievement Centennial Award, named in celebration of the historic 100th year for the national organization. Junior Achievement presented CommunityAmerica’s CEO, Lisa Ginter, with the award at its annual Business Hall of Fame event on November 15, 2019.

CommunityAmerica team members began volunteering with Junior Achievement in 2005 and have done so ever since. Over the past two decades, CommunityAmerica has delivered over 45,000 hours of learning and served as volunteers and mentors to more than 6,000 students.

“On behalf of CommunityAmerica Credit Union, we are beyond thrilled to receive the Centennial Award from Junior Achievement,” says Lisa Ginter, CEO of CommunityAmerica. “Financial peace of mind is truly at the heart of our philanthropic efforts, and what we strive to help our members work towards every day across Kansas City.”

JAKC’s volunteer-delivered, K-12 programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire kids to dream big and reach their potential.

“Through our research, experience and work in the community, we know the principles of sound money management must be taught early, and it’s only through partners like Junior Achievement that we’re able to instill those values in local youth,” Ginter explains. “We love this growing partnership and are truly honored to receive this recognition from an organization creating bright futures in our backyard. Our gift is minuscule in comparison to the impact these JA students will make someday.”

During the 2018-2019 school year, JAKC served 24,870 students across the Kansas City metro. The success of JAKC hinges on dedicated volunteers and partners, including CommunityAmerica.

“Without positive professional role models in their lives, it can be challenging for students to dream big and visualize themselves in a professional role someday,” says Megan Sturges Stanfield, President and CEO of JAKC. “But with volunteer mentor support and guidance, our students become empowered. Volunteer role models guide JA students, casting a vision for the future and showing them what it looks like to thrive as a professional. Junior Achievement experiences allow our young people to believe in their potential.”

“It’s never been more important to empower the students in our community,” Megan Sturges Stanfield adds. “Junior Achievement’s programs ignite a spark in students, so they’re equipped to pursue their goals and thrive as the next generation of professionals in Kansas City. And because of CommunityAmerica, we’ll be able to accomplish this in innovative ways. There is so much on the horizon for Junior Achievement, and we’re truly excited about the impact this gift will make on Kansas City.”

"You’re building a legacy for students when you give back to Junior Achievement."

Although Janice Clark is currently retired, she loves to stay busy — and one of her greatest passions is volunteering with Junior Achievement where her grandchildren go to school, at Brookside Charter. “I love this excellent organization,” Janice says. “I enjoy volunteering for Junior Achievement because the role they play in Kansas City is huge. It’s been around a long time and affected a lot of kids.”

Getting involved in her children’s school has always been important to Janice. In fact, in the early 1990s, Janice first volunteered with Junior Achievement when her own children were in school, attending Pinkerton Elementary.

“I remembered Junior Achievement from when I was in high school myself,” Janice says. “So when my children got in school, I wanted to get involved in teaching them about economics and entrepreneurship.”

Janice had noticed how children in the inner city schools were often overlooked when it came to certain educational opportunities. Determined to shift the tide, Janice made it her mission to become engaged as a school volunteer. “It was my goal to make sure that my kids and all the other kids in school were exposed to economics and learned how to be entrepreneurs so they could have that knowledge.” 

After her children grew up and Janice retired, she jumped on the opportunity to volunteer again, this time with her grandchildren. When Janice met the teacher whose classroom she would be working in, they hit it off and enjoyed coordinating Junior Achievement curriculum into the class.

With everything prepared, Janice was ready to re-enter the classroom. “I went in to volunteer for a whole week, an hour per day,” Janice explains. “I was really excited to meet the kids and they were excited to meet me! They really look forward to the Junior Achievement class.”

Because the school semester was nearly over, Janice worried the students would be burnt out, she found the children had a great experience. “They really enjoyed taking time out of their day and experiencing Junior Achievement,” Janice says. “They liked the activities I did and the way everything was set up.”

Through these fun activities, the students learned all about different jobs and career paths they could pursue as adults, with a special focus on communities. They studied zoning laws, city responsibilities and how it all relates to entrepreneurship. Janice watched the children light up right before her eyes. She even witnessed one quiet student come out of her shell and participate by reading flashcards of job descriptions to her classmates.

From experiencing JA herself to volunteering in her children’s classroom and now her grandchildren, JA has always been a family affair. When Janice told her family she would be participating in Junior Achievement again, she was pleasantly surprised when event her niece remembered Janice teaching a JA class in her school! “I had forgotten about that, but she’s 30 now and she remembers that she was in my class!” Janice shares.  

Like Janice, you’re building a legacy for students when you give back to Junior Achievement. 

As part of Junior Achievement, you power possibility.

“Junior Achievement played a significant role in where I am in my life today. It gave me an early start."

Lirel Holt, founder of CARSTAR, has been his own boss since age 21 — and it all started with his JA experience at Raytown South High School. JA inspired Lirel to create and launch CARSTAR and grow it to become the largest network of collision repair professionals in America. After incredible success growing, franchising and later selling CARSTAR, Lirel co-founded U, Incorporated, where he now has online training serving over 200,000 annually in the automotive industry. Lirel shares how JA laid the foundation for his career.



At Raytown South High School, Lirel’s favorite math teacher introduced Junior Achievement. When this teacher announced what was then the JA company program, Lirel was first to raise his hand and sign up. “I wasn’t sure what I was signing up for, but was intrigued to learn more, so I raised my hand,” Lirel remembers. “That year, I was the only student from my school who signed up for JA.”


Though his family wasn’t particularly affluent, Lirel’s dad knew the opportunity JA presented and made sure he got Lirel there, driving him to the meeting every week, to participate in what was then called the JA Company Program. “By the second day of the program, I was hooked. Nobody else was teaching these business concepts,” Lirel says.


“There, I met a mentor who changed the path of my life,” Lirel remembers. “The volunteer was a senior executive at a large department store and offered to be my reference when I applied for a job once I was 16.”


When he started at the store, Lirel was invited to select the department to work in. He jumped at the opportunity to work both in the sporting goods and automotive departments. “I got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an automotive business and that was where my JA program came to life,” he says.


Lirel’s interest in the automotive industry increased as he explored further. While continuing his part-time job, Lirel also started working with his uncle to restore an old Porsche. Here, the JA business curriculum intersected with real-world application. With these wheels turning, history began to write itself as Lirel later founded CARSTAR. 


“I saw a need, took a chance and franchised quickly,” Lirel says. “I saw that there ought to be an industry there. Nobody has done this before. I put a triple mortgage on my home and began to build CARSTAR.”


As Lirel converted car repair businesses into CARSTAR franchises, he realized that these shops didn’t need lessons on automotive mechanics or repair; they really just needed to learn business concepts. While the business operators were passionate about cars, they didn’t know the business skills to make their shops thrive. Once Lirel took over, he never taught a single lesson on repairing a car. Everything he taught was about business — from finance to job costing. 


Within 12 months of launching CARSTAR, Lirel had built up to 100 locations. “That’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a wannabe,” Lirel shares. “There is an amount of courage it takes. You’ve got to have vision to see where it can go.”


Throughout his professional life, Lirel has started numerous companies and brought them to success using critical business concepts and a lot of hard work. 


“Junior Achievement played a significant role in where I am in my life today. It gave me an early start,” Lirel says. “JA means a lot to me and my family. Currently, I mentor other CEOs and businesses and enjoy seeing them on their entrepreneurial journey. JA is helping me help future generations of entrepreneurs, and I continue to pay it forward.”

“It’s a needed service for a community that’s underserved.”

Eli Colmenero’s first experience with Junior Achievement was during a volunteer day at MarksNelson. With his team at MarksNelson, Eli was excited to head out of the office with a group of his colleagues and spend the day making an impact for Junior Achievement kids. While they volunteered behind the scenes, they made a difference on the front lines.  

“It was a neat opportunity to interact with people who work for the same company that I don't get to see every day,” Eli shares. “We piled into my car, went down to the Junior Achievement office and helped prepare the teaching packets that are used in the field by volunteers.”

During his volunteer day at Junior Achievement, Eli learned just how much goes into teaching a classroom of kids. As he and his team helped assemble each packet and put all the pieces together, Eli got a firsthand look into the depth of JA curriculum.

“Knowing the packets will be used by students who are learning life skills they otherwise wouldn't be exposed to was the most rewarding,” Eli says. “That is also serving a population that needs that information the most. This volunteering experience was very enjoyable. The staff was really great, very nice and helpful. We really had a lot of fun.”

Junior Achievement’s volunteer opportunities are many — from front-of-classroom mentoring opportunities to job fairs and events and everything in between. And volunteers like Eli and his colleagues, who contribute behind-the-scenes, make a crucial impact too.

With volunteer work like this that’s outside the school environment, Eli says, “It’s just the fact that this is an organization that helps kids out. Junior Achievement not only facilitates services that go out to the community, but the organization also encourages kids to think about their communities as well. Anytime we can help the community help itself is very rewarding. We might not see the immediate fruits of that investment, but it’s something we all benefit from in Kansas City.”

When Eli gives back to the community, he looks for organizations with two components: an emphasis on children and the opportunity to support an underserved demographic. “That’s what sets Junior Achievement apart in my mind,” Eli notes. “It’s a needed service for a community that’s underserved.”

MarksNelson’s commitment to serve its clients through financial matters is a perfect connection to Junior Achievement’s goals. “As far as interests go, giving back to JA is almost a no brainer,” Eli explains. “MarksNelson is dedicated to giving back. It's been a part of the firm for quite a long time. We really connect with organizations that need volunteers, not just monetary support. Volunteering with Junior Achievement was a very positive experience and I really enjoyed it.”

During the MarksNelson volunteer day with Junior Achievement, Eli was surprised to see just how much of a team-building experience it was for their group. “Here was my group working hand in hand together,” Eli says. “That was happening for my group and I know it will for others in the future.”

When our community comes together, we all rise. And when you support Junior Achievement — no matter how you help! — you support the next generation of students.

“Junior Achievement is bringing in the real-world piece that our kids need.”

In her role as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum for Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools, Dr. Trinity Davis is laser-focused on the educational needs of students across the school district. “Junior Achievement is bringing in the real-world piece that our kids need,” Trinity shares. “Every kid knows about being a doctor, a lawyer and a teacher. But most students are unaware of the countless other careers you can have. Junior Achievement helps our kids understand different career pathways.”

Trinity’s own career began in an elementary classroom in Topeka, Kansas. She later became a professor in curriculum instruction at Pittsburg State University, where she earned tenure. With so much potential on the horizon for the Kansas City, Missouri schools, Trinity was pulled back by her love of the urban core to assist in creating a positive future for the children of Kansas City as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

With her eye on an education that prepares kids for the future, Trinity is always looking for people to come in and help students understand different career pathways. “What I’ve found is that no one organization has the capacity to work with our 24 elementary schools,” Trinity notes. “But Junior Achievement does have the capacity to touch everyone. That made it very important and very easy to say, ‘Yes, this works for us.’”

Equity is important when it comes to supplying curriculum to different schools. “I can’t give five schools one resource and nothing to the others,” Trinity explains. “Junior Achievement gives our students what we need, is committed to all our schools and also aligns with what we’re doing.”

When Trinity looks at potential curriculum partners for her schools, she must ensure that all the pieces fit. “Junior Achievement has a curriculum piece that we’ve been able to include in our teaching units,” Trinity says. “The partnership is so fluid, you can hardly tell where our teaching curriculum stops and JA begins. That really enables our kids to have those connections.”

Not only is JA a fit for curriculum, it’s a fit that’s fun. “Our kids, teachers, and principals love JA,” Trinity says. “That’s not the case for everything brought in, but the feedback is always positive on Junior Achievement.” Trinity sees teachers excited about JA coming to their classroom. “They are engaged in the process too,” Trinity adds. “There’s a welcoming attitude.”

When JA professionals share their experiences in the classroom, students get an opportunity to see careers unlike those they interact with each day. “The professional role models in front of students each day are all teachers,” Trinity explains, but career opportunities for students expand far beyond just the education field. “It’s nice for students to see, for example, what an anesthesiologist does and what they went to school to do. Junior Achievement fills the gap for us of putting real-world professionals in front of our students.”

Junior Achievement is also close to Trinity’s heart because of her own entrepreneurial spirit. “I’ve always had a consulting business,” she shares. “It was my way of growing curriculum instruction throughout school districts. Most recently, my husband and I purchased a laundromat in my hometown. It had closed down and there was nowhere for people to wash their clothes. Now, I’m getting to take that over and help out my community.”

In Junior Achievement, Trinity found a program that works for her entire school district. From the rigorous curriculum to the real-world experiences, JA fills a vital gap in education. When you give to JA, you educate the next generation.

"I feel like I’m going to do better in life now.”

Last school year, as a fifth grader at T. A. Edison Elementary, Ava Guerra participated in Junior Achievement with JA President & CEO, Megan Sturges Stanfield, as her volunteer mentor. “I knew my family and friends believed in me,” Ava says. “Now I know Miss Megan believes in me too.”

As part of their Junior Achievement curriculum, Ava and her fellow students chose their future professions and researched more about the career field, including what it would take to get there. “I picked zoologist,” Ava shares, “because I like learning new things and animals.” Among Ava’s peers, there were future interior designers and lawyers too.

Ava also loved the experiential learning that happened in JA, including the hands-on activities and games. Ava experienced how fun it can be to learn and grow. “We played a lot of games and split into teams,” Ava says. “It was a lot of fun.”

To Ava’s mom, Ashley, the life-changing impact JA was having on her daughter was obvious. “Every day Ava had JA in her classroom, she would come home and talk about it and tell me how much fun it was and all the great things she was learning,” she says. “Ava talked about what they learned and what she wanted to be. She really enjoyed it.”

Ava was both excited and nervous to be chosen as one of several Junior Achievement students to present at the 2018 Business Hall of Fame event. Ava, Ashley shares, is generally not someone who is eager to stand up in front of a crowd. “Ava is very quiet and shy,” Ashley says. “When she was chosen to talk in front of everyone, she was so scared. But all the leaders helped her gain the confidence that she could do it.”

“I got up and talked on the stage after I practiced it,” Ava remembers. “I had to say my name, how old I was and what I wanted to do when I was older. I said zoologist and veterinarian. It was scary going up there, but I learned a lot.”

That one moment of bravery inspired change in Ava’s life. “JA opened Ava up,” Ashley reports. “It’s really changed everything she does in school. She's just more open, she'll answer questions more in class.

“She trusts herself a little bit more. It’s been so nice to see,” Ashley continues. “JA is one of the best programs Ava has ever participated in.”

Now a sixth-grade student, Ava still feels the impact of JA. “I’m more excited about my future because I understand it more,” Ava adds. “I’m ready for after school and what colleges I want to go to. I feel like I’m going to do better in life now.” Through Junior Achievement, Ava discovered the pathway to her ideal future and laid the foundation to take the first steps there.

“Because of my involvement in Junior Achievement, I learned there was nothing I couldn’t do.”

“At the time, I had no idea what Junior Achievement was setting me up for,” Shelley McNair recalls. Today she’s the Director of Sales Support and Account Management at Principal Financial Group — but Shelley still remembers the vital lessons she learned in her JA program years ago as a student. “Because of my involvement in Junior Achievement, I learned there was nothing I couldn’t do,” Shelley remembers. “That’s what Junior Achievement lends to Kansas City today.”

When a classmate asked her to join the JA program that was then twice a week in the evenings, Shelley was excited to participate. Just one problem: she wasn’t quite old enough yet. “But my father worked for John Deere, and he was actively involved as a JA mentor. So he was able to get me involved so I could go and observe my first year!” she smiles.

Once she was eligible to become an active member in high school, Shelley jumped right in. “We had a team of students, plus a sponsor from the manufacturing side of John Deere,” Shelley explains. “Each semester we would choose what our business was going to be and pick a product to sell.”

Each team member had an opportunity to play the CEO role and was tasked with making critical decisions — including getting a loan for startup costs, creating a business plan, navigating the manufacturing process and acquiring supplies. With a product in hand, the team was in charge of implementing their marketing plan to sell all the products.

“We had to figure out how much money we needed to make because we needed to pay our loans back and try to be the most profitable team. The winning team would win a pizza party at the end of the semester, of course,” Shelley smiles.

Shelley’s experience at Junior Achievement was a lesson in the importance of smart decision making. “Everyone was responsible for making decisions,” Shelley says. “You only had so much money to start with and you had to make decisions along the way to pick a price range and sell everything you could.”

While Shelley was having a great time with her friends in JA, she was also building confidence that would serve her for the rest of her life. “It’s not easy to make decisions and take risks,” Shelley says. “Junior Achievement taught me to use logic, understand risk and think through the consequences. That’s a lesson that translates into my business and personal life.”

One of the greatest lessons Shelley took from her JA program was the importance of different perspectives. “I learned that there are so many different departments involved in a product,” Shelley says. “It helped me see that no matter where I worked, I would interact with different players and different perspectives I would need to consider.”

After high school, Shelley earned her degree in Marketing Management from the University of Northern Iowa. She progressed through her career in sales, training and human resources. Today, at Principal Financial Group, Shelley helps develop individuals and sales teams across St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver.

When she came to Principal Financial Group, Shelley was excited to find colleagues who were a part of JA. “Right away, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I was in Junior Achievement! What is Junior Achievement doing these days?’” From her own experience with Junior Achievement, Shelley remembered how beneficial it was to gain knowledge in business and finance and dove right back into the organization as a volunteer.

As a member of Principal Financial Group, Shelley knows how important it is to the company and her team to build the future workforce. “We are very focused on being future ready,” Shelley says. “We know that the generation in high school today is our company’s future. That’s why it is important for us to understand how they think and what their future looks like.”

Shelley sees Junior Achievement bringing hope, confidence and important life skills to Kansas City students. In JA programs, Shelley sees students gain the knowledge and confidence that they can do anything with the support of a volunteer mentor who believes in them.

“Get involved for your personal joy,” Shelley encourages. “It sounds selfish, but everyone needs passion and joy in their life. At Junior Achievement, you can really truly make an impact.” Through Junior Achievement, Shelley strives to share lessons that improve a young person’s life and give them those lessons for whatever they decide to do. “It’s really positive to leave a footprint volunteering and being able to give back of yourself,” Shelley adds. “I’m looking forward to learning as much from the kids of Junior Achievement and am hoping I can offer them something as well.”

When you give back to JA, you empower the next generation with confidence and essential life skills.

“My Junior Achievement experiences have given me an appreciation for what I do now."

Junior Achievement has been part of Kate Hood’s life in so many ways. From being first a JA student, to hosting JA volunteers in her classroom as a teacher, and finally becoming a member of the JA staff here in Kansas City, Kate has seen many angles of Junior Achievement and experienced great positive change along the way.

As an elementary student in Kansas City, Kate remembers a JA volunteer coming to her classroom at The Barstow School dressed in a suit and armed with fun learning materials. “What had the biggest impact on me was knowing that people from the community were interested in coming to share their experiences,” Kate says. “It was just getting a little glimpse of what it might look like when you grow up. I was eager to learn about the outside world and what possibilities there were.” 

Reflecting on her time experiencing the Junior Achievement curriculum, Kate sees what an impact JA volunteers make. “They’re coming in for just a short period of time,” Kate relates, “but they leave a lasting legacy.” 

After attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and earning her degree in elementary education, Kate began teaching in public schools. As a teacher, Kate was excited to welcome JA volunteers into her fifth grade classroom, hoping to give them the same vibrant experience she had as a kid. 

“Anytime a volunteer came in, it was like a celebrity was gracing us with their presence!” Kate jokes. “The kids were so excited to engage with the volunteers and had all kinds of questions. It just meant a lot to the kids, to see that there was another adult out there who wanted to spend time with them.”

While preparing to share the JA curriculum in her classroom, Kate brought in bills and pay stubs to show her students how she balanced it all and made budgeting decisions. From this experience, Kate’s students were able to be a part of the financial success in their homes.

“When parent teacher conferences came around, there were a lot of discussions around this because kids were coming home and applying the lessons they learned,” Kate says. “They were there at the kitchen counter, looking over bills together and working with their parents to figure out how to make ends meet. That was a huge learning experience.”

Resume and job interviewing skills also trickled down from the students to their parents. Kate saw her kids share what they learned to help their parents get a different job or get a job for the first time. “Those were some easy wins that impacted the quality of life for my students,” Kate notes. “What a good ripple effect!”

Today, Kate is thrilled to be a part of Junior Achievement as our Senior Program Manager. Kate loves seeing first-hand how volunteers are vital to grow and change the world of the upcoming generation. “All of my Junior Achievement experiences have given me an appreciation for what I do now, continuing to give kids experiences beyond the traditional classroom setting,” Kate says. “Through JA, kids can grow up to become productive members of society and then give back to the best of their ability. That's the cycle that needs to be in place for our world to work.”

Both as an educator and as part of the JA staff, Kate has seen many kids who aren’t quite sure school is the right place for them. “To see that there is a community behind them, cheering them on and wanting them to succeed, is huge for them,” Kate shares. “They may not get that message at home. To have a new person come in, spend time with them and be that cheerleader shows them all the opportunities that wait for them outside of the classroom when they graduate.” 

For future JA volunteers, Kate recognizes the feeling of hesitancy that comes with stepping foot in a classroom — but the difference volunteers make is far greater than any uncertainty. “The first time a kid makes a connection with you will be your reason for doing this,” Kate explains. “There's nothing better than seeing a kid excited about talking with you, hearing your story and learning from you.” Kate knows firsthand that making an impact on even one child is worth the time and energy it takes to volunteer in a classroom for just a few hours.

In Junior Achievement, students gain confidence and get the tools to think far beyond what’s right in front of them. When you partner with JA, you power possibility. As a part of Junior Achievement today, you have an impact on a student’s future.

"We're going to make JA a regular part of our culture."

As a parent of children on their way to adulthood, the mission of Junior Achievement resonated with Jon Pahl instantly. “As a dad, I’m making sure my kids are prepared for life in a lot of different ways from their career to interacting with people and being good citizens. Schools just can’t get to that all the time and that’s where Junior Achievement fills such a gap,” he says. “And so I fell in love with the mission of Junior Achievement.”




Jon, who serves as the President of the Midwest operation of Nabholz Construction, loves bringing the many lessons he’s learned throughout his career to third grade classrooms around the community — and he’s brought his team at Nabholz along with him.


Jon’s first JA experience was in a third grade classroom. “The third grade JA curriculum talks about entrepreneurship, the value of money and even sales tax,” Jon shares. “These are lessons parents ought to be teaching their kids, but they don’t always know how. It’s important for kids to hear this message, and they’re hearing it in the JA classroom.”


During one of Jon’s JA classroom sessions, the lesson plan centered around creating a restaurant. In small groups, kids named their restaurant, established a menu and developed a pricing structure for the food they had to deliver. “It’s fun to watch the dynamics of these small groups,” Jon relates. “Their products were super creative. It’s awesome to see what concepts they come up with and how they present the end product.”


Through interactive lessons like this, Jon sees students experiencing lightbulb moments when the curriculum really clicks. “The cool part is you can see that moment of understanding,” Jon explains, “but it's also a moment of pride. They're proud that they actually grasp the concept and have come forward in their education. That's the rewarding part for me. They walk away knowing they can approach that problem for life.”


Jon was pleasantly surprised when the session ended with a line of hugs. “I was a bit intimidated when I first walked in,” Jon admits. “As a stranger, I wasn’t sure if I would be welcomed, but it was fun. The second day I came back, the kids were so excited to see me and when I left, I got a bunch of hugs!”




Because one key focus area of Nabholz’s work is K-12 education construction, Jon was eager to bring his employees into the JA classroom. “We are creating these places where education and change happen,” Jon notes. “And so it's rewarding to see some of our folks raise their hands and say, ‘Put me in that experience and let me see firsthand what happens inside the spaces we build.’”


When his employees come back from volunteering with Junior Achievement, Jon sees the joy they experience seeing these kids and connecting the dots between building schools and facilitating the important things that happen there.


Becoming a part of Junior Achievement has been beneficial to the culture of Nabholz construction. “People don't leave companies, they leave people,” Jon explains. “We have to develop relationships and make sure we're all compelled by the same culture and the same purpose. When JA came and told us about their mission and vision, we got to soak that up together as a team and bounce ideas off each other.” Through interacting with Junior Achievement, Nabholz team members got to experience something together, share fun stories and talk about what lessons they learned.


“The volunteers who have done JA raised their hands to do it again,” Jon shares. “We're going to make JA a regular part of our volunteer experience and part of our culture. Part of our purpose statement as a corporation is to build our communities, and Junior Achievement is a beautiful picture of how we can build communities and invest in that next generation.”



Nothing frustrates Jon more than complaining about a problem without bringing forward a solution. While he’s heard many people complain about the next generation, he doesn’t see them offering to help. “JA is such a great solution,” Jon says. “It's an easy way to make a difference on a big scale. With a room of 20 kids, you get to share about what it is to be a good citizen and a good adult. You really can make a difference using the JA curriculum.”


“In my opinion,” Jon adds, “we’re going to fail as a company if we don’t prepare the next generation of builders, professionals, carpenters, engineers and project managers. If we don't prepare those people to be good citizens and good role models, we’re going to fail. We owe it to our future to prepare this next generation and make sure they hear the lessons they need to hear.”


Take the responsibility to prepare the next generation. Teach students today what it means to be a good citizen and a good person in the world. Your help is needed! Become a part of Junior Achievement today and make a difference.

"Junior Achievement established the foundation that I’m still building on today."

Today, Tremaine Duarte is a Trust Officer and Relationship Manager at UMB Bank — and he can pinpoint where his career aspirations started: right in his own Junior Achievement classroom. As a freshman at Northeast High School, his economics teacher utilized the JA curriculum. “That opened up my eyes to an opportunity in the banking industry and helped me identify the career that I was interested in. I don't believe I would be in the position I am today, both personally and professionally, if the Junior Achievement program was not available in the urban school district.”

What contributed to such a lasting impact on Tremaine’s life? “The volunteers that work with Junior Achievement brought real-life experience that really touched me,” Tremaine says. “It wasn't like Mom and Dad telling you, ‘Hey, read these documents when it comes down to personal finance.’ But this was speaking from experience. I began to notice the heart and the desire that the JA volunteers had for young people and that encouraged me to take special note of what they were saying. That really helped me establish the ground for my success.”

Motivated to give today’s students an experience like the one he had, Tremaine has stepped back into Junior Achievement as a volunteer — at the very same high school he attended, Northeast High School. Located in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood, 100% of the school’s students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Coming from a single-parent home himself and facing financial challenges as a child, Tremaine has made it his mission to encourage young people from the same background. “The opportunity was available for me not only to encourage the young people, but also to shine light on the fact that I've gone down the same path that these young people are on,” Tremaine says.

“Just because you're on this path now doesn't mean you have to stay here,” Tremaine says. “I use my story to let the students know that today is the starting point. I give them a holistic view of my life and am very transparent in the hope of grabbing their attention. I can say, ‘Hey, I may have started at Northeast High School, but you can go through high school, you can go to college, and you can really make great strides in your career, but start making the right decisions at school today.’”

Tremaine was saddened to hear high school students in his class reflect on their school and circumstances. One student captured their uncertainty of their potential this way: “You don’t graduate from Northeast High School.” While stereotypes and certain systems may discourage these young people, Tremaine was able to be an example of success.

“I talked to them and told them of all the opportunities I had at Northeast High School, from National Honor Society and my grade point average of 3.8,” Tremaine recalls. “And hey, I’m an African American male. Some of those stereotypes cause them to think that sort of achievement can’t be true when I told them that I graduated from Northeast High School. My hope is that these young people can be reminded that there is hope if they stay on the right path.”

One aspect Tremaine admires about JA is the focus on urban demographics. “That made me smile,” Tremaine shares. “Because some of the districts in the urban core may not have the test scores or may not have access to various resources. JA is taking more real-life stories to those young people to let them know that there is a future for every single one of them. I just love the way that Junior Achievement has anchored their vision in encouraging and educating and preparing young people, starting at the smallest children up through high school.”

“Junior Achievement established the foundation that I’m still building on today,” Tremaine says. “Being able to take what I've learned and share it with the community, it's reminding myself of those things I've learned and the significance of being very consistent with my decisions in life and finances while I'm encouraging young people to do the same.”

Tremaine also values the big vision Junior Achievement has as an organization. “My hope and prayer is they're able to grab ahold of as many volunteers as possible to make this vision come to fruition. I like to say, ‘If the vision is not bigger than you, it's not big enough.’ Junior Achievement has developed an extremely valuable vision and goal that's way bigger than them and I believe it will be a blessing to many generations to come.”

To future volunteers, Tremaine encourages putting yourself in the shoes of a student who may not have access to the same resources as other students in Kansas City. “It takes a community to help to build a community,” Tremaine says. “We have to get in the trenches together. The tree might not grow immediately, but as long as we're planting little seeds, we can trust that sometime in the future that tree will grow nice and tall and strong.”

Giving to Junior Achievement challenges the cycle of poverty, giving students a new vision and new directions. When you give to JA, you show students that there are no limits to their potential.










JA Volunteers Help Take a Student to the Next Level



Architecture and design firm Gould Evans is known for their projects with Cerner and Garmin — but their team in Kansas City is also focused on education. “Our goal is to try to shape and mold good futures,” says Jay Currie Campbell, Gould Evans associate. And the team at Gould Evans continues these efforts by volunteering with Junior Achievement.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to engage in different classrooms with different people across the city,” Jay explains. “Junior Achievement is a natural opportunity for us as a firm to commit the time and effort to support students, because we’re supporting education. It’s great to see a partner that’s taking education to another level.”

Jean Stoverink, a senior associate at Gould Evans, teamed up with Jay for a Junior Achievement career fair. “We set up a booth and brought models and drawings to introduce the kids to architecture as a career path,” Jean says. “We had a really good experience there, and the students did too.”

During the career fair, Jean and Jay were both pleasantly surprised when a high school freshman from the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts showed impressive interest in their careers. “We didn’t have anything cool to give away, so we gave away our business cards,” Jay remembers. “A few days later, he reached out to Jean about a job shadow!” Soon after, this student and his uncle were at the Gould Evans office for a tour.

With just a little self-initiative, this freshman got an inside look into Gould Evans. “He got to walk around and meet some of our great people, explore some of the projects in the office,” Jay recalls. “That was really awesome for him. Having set foot in the door, now someday he'll feel confident applying for a job here.”

“Think about the bravery it takes for a kid to call up an adult who they only just met,” Jean adds. “He seemed to really appreciate the walkthrough and he asked more questions than his uncle did. When he left, I said, ‘If you're ever interested, we occasionally do internships and you’re welcome to come for a full day of shadowing.’”

After this exciting experience, Jean decided to volunteer in the classroom for a six-week Junior Achievement program at Comanche Elementary School. “Again, I had a great experience,” Jean says. “I grew up in an arts and theatre family, so I didn’t learn these finance terms until I was working a full-time job. It felt good for me to teach those concepts to kids at a younger age because it’s something I didn’t have access to at that age.”

Jean began teaching her JA class with a personality survey, to help students uncover their interests and skills. The students then considered how those interests and abilities might lead them on a career path. With their futures in mind, the students then learned about insurance, deductibles and budgeting to build the financial foundation they need.

“Each week I came back I would ask, ‘Who remembers what we did last week?’” Jean shares. “They always had the answer. They were very engaged, always raising their hands.”

Jean specifically remembers a session where she asked students the difference between an associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree. She was shocked when no student knew the answer. So Jean taught them what was required for each degree and why someone might choose to earn one. When Jean returned for the next session, she was impressed: the students could confidently explain the value of each degree. “I felt like I really taught them something meaningful,” Jean says. “They were absorbing so much . . . they were like sponges!”

At the end of the program, Jean received grateful hugs from several students. “I just had so much fun doing it,” She remembers. “The kids were really responsive.”

Jay reflects that, as a child, he didn’t always enjoy being at school. “I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t enjoy sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. So that’s why I think it’s really important to note how Junior Achievement approaches this with their programs. I’ve seen the impact it has. It affects the children, but it also affects the adults just as much.”

“I never took a personal finance class or learned any sort of bookkeeping. These kids have an opportunity to really get ahead in that way and it's extremely important,” Jay says. “Junior Achievement is lifting people out of whatever situation they're in with real-life skills that are extremely important,” Jay adds.

For Jean, Junior Achievement was the most direct way she could have an impact on Kansas City students. “You’re actually engaging one on one with the students, unlike other organizations where you don’t have that direct human connection,” Jean notes. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to have to volunteer for 7th grade next year, and then 8th grade after that, so I can keep following these students. I got really attached to them by the end of the six week period.”

Jay enjoys seeing lightbulb moments. “The most rewarding aspect is seeing the children's faces light up whenever they understand or ask questions,” Jay says. “I've had sixth graders and freshmen both ask amazing questions. These kids are asking really poignant questions that could shape their futures, and that’s rewarding for me.”

Jean and Jay aren’t the only people in their organization to benefit from their Junior Achievement experiences. “Our colleagues have gotten a lot out of it as well,” Jean says. “We talked a lot about outreach in our office and making architecture more visible to communities of students who may not be even aware that a potential career in architecture exists. The more we can make ourselves visible, the more we can start to include and diversify our profession. In the long run, this will benefit the communities we're designing for.”

Jay sees how volunteering with Junior Achievement has brought their company closer together. “It’s provided an opportunity for a group of us of at all ages and capabilities,” Jay says. “We'll go to these career fairs and come back to the office talking about what we saw and what experiences we had. It really creates a better sense of community in our own office.”

Jean and Jay’s experience with Junior Achievement keeps them coming back. “Junior Achievement offers so many different levels of engagement,” Jay says. “If you only have a little bit of time, there’s a way for you to get involved. If you have more time, you can devote a couple of hours a week or a month. Whatever level you can give, there's a place for you.”

Jean, Jay and their colleagues at Gould Evans are making a lasting impact on Kansas City students. Your time and experience are valuable. When you support Junior Achievement today, YOU inspire the next generation.

“Having that opportunity to mentor is instrumental”

Serving as a mentor to young women is close to Joelsette Hernandez-Jones’ heart — because she knows what it’s like to grow up without one. “When I was growing up, I didn't have any mentors,” Joelsette shares. “I came from a broken, abusive family. My goal was to always help my mom with my sisters in any way I could.” So she jumped at the chance to volunteer as a mentor at Junior Achievement’s Future Women’s Leadership Forum (FWLF). “What I've accomplished, given all that I had gone through growing up . . . it captures my heart when I see these young women.”

After a decade in IT consulting, Joelsette founded her IT and engineering staffing firm Pharos Partners in 2014. And she’s in the process of building a second company — Pharos Solutions Inc., a construction management services firm. Particularly in her field, successful female role models can be hard to find. So when a friend invited her to volunteer as an FWLF mentor, she was excited to participate with an organization she knew to be one of the most impactful in Kansas City.

Future Women’s Leadership Forum pairs young women from high schools across the KC metro with professional female mentors for an impactful day of empowerment, mentorship and learning. “I feel like Junior Achievement creates this collaborative, safe place for these girls, that allows them to foster relationships, and integrate themselves in a room even when it’s hard to walk in a room at that age.”

Once she was assigned her mentee, Joelsette was ready to see what the day would bring. When she noticed her mentee was particularly shy, Joelsette encouraged her to talk with other girls and the pair soon made a group of friends. “It just created this very safe, collaborative space for them,” Joelsette shares. “There was this moment where she felt this level of comfort. She literally took a breath and just engaged. The next thing I know, we couldn't get her to stop talking.”

In only a few hours, Joelsette began to see her mentee transform. “By the end of the day, the mentees were exchanging numbers because they went to different schools,” Joelsette says. “They were taking selfies and laughing together. Even the mentors were laughing! This day brought us all together and we walked away with new friendships.”

One special moment for Joelsette was sharing her passion for construction with another mentee. “I shared that I’ve started a second company, Pharos Solutions Inc., that’s a construction management services firm and one of these girls came up to me and said that she loves construction,” Joelsette remarks. “She told me that her friends think that’s odd, for a woman to be interested in construction, so she reached out to me and asked if we could continue talking because she was in a space where there were not a lot of women.”

This connection from a day of mentorship evolved into so much more. “She and I continued connecting through several calls and texts,” Joelsette says. “One of her goals is to own her own construction management firm someday, so she was trying to learn everything she can asking me questions about how my business was going.”

“I encouraged her to not get discouraged if people don't understand why a young girl is interested in construction,” Joelsette shares. “I encouraged her to learn as much as she can about how to manage your own business.”

Connecting with a budding entrepreneur was a uniquely uplifting experience for Joelsette. “I loved the opportunity to show these girls that in 20 years, this is what you can accomplish,” Joelsette shares. “Having that opportunity to mentor is instrumental.”

Joelsette could see herself in the young women at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum. “I look like them,” Joelsette says. “They look like me. That fills my heart up. I loved seeing the diversity in the mentees and the mentors as well.”

What does a mentor get out of volunteering with Junior Achievement? “It is equally beneficial for the mentor as it is for the mentee,” Joelsette remarks. “It's so awesome to connect with all of these different women. I found that extremely inspiring. They have this energy level and this drive and this curiosity that just gave me so much energy.”

Becoming a mentor can be a truly uplifting experience. Volunteer role models guide Junior Achievement students, casting a vision for the future and showing them what it looks like to thrive as a professional — because every child deserves to believe in themselves, and to have the tools to do it.

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  • "Junior Achievement exposed me to different careers and opportunities and it was very inspirational."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Students in my classroom often say that one of their most memorable activities from the year is JA. They love it!"

    -Junior Achievement Teacher
  • "Junior Achievement has shaped my dreams. They have prepared me for what's out there."

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Every time I came back into the classroom the kids were always so excited about the activities and mentioned their favorite ones."

    -Junior Achievement Volunteer

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