JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City

JA Stories of Impact

“JA has ignited the fire in me to step up and be an influencer to young women"

Underground Social member Caylee Knox calls her Junior Achievement volunteer experience “one of the best I’ve had so far in life. I truly believe in the importance of mentoring young women and showing love and support in hopes they will pay it forward someday.”

Caylee’s first foray into JA was as a mentor through the Underground Social and JA partnership event, “Success Suits Her.” The event paired professional women mentors with high school students and empowered the young women with donated professional attire. Caylee felt uncertain walking into Crossroads Academy this spring as she launched her Junior Achievement volunteer expereince. “I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she reflects. “It can be tough to stand in front of a group of high school girls.”

But it all changed when she met the teens. “When the girls walked in, they were excited to see us. They just radiated.”

Despite obvious nerves, the girls at the Success Suits Her Event were all energy. “As soon as you start working with them one on one,” Caylee shares, “complimenting their taste, asking questions about who they are, what they're interested in, they opened up so quickly.”

Caylee enjoyed seeing the girls light up as she coached them to find a professional outfit that would complement their personality. “I could see their confidence grow as we picked up clothes they loved and that they were going to look great in them,” Caylee adds. “They were all complimenting each other, coming out and showing us. That was so much fun to watch.”

Caylee’s own experience with mentorship taught her how priceless the connection could be. “Mentorship has been huge for me,” Caylee shares. “Looking back, my own mentor took me under her wing. I understand the importance of mentorship from a standpoint of shaping you and making an impact that’s lifelong.”

While fortunate to have walked the path that led her to become Client Success Manager at the Coffman Group, Caylee recognizes that many young women don’t have the knowledge they need to achieve their dreams. “All they need is someone to look up to that they respect and admire to encourage them to make better decisions or go for their goals,” Caylee notes. “Another shining light in their lives can give them the support and encouragement to go for it. That was really attractive to me about Junior Achievement.”

Caylee brings a personal touch of kindness to each event she attends. When one of her mentees finally found the perfect blazer with a small tear, Caylee knew what to do. “She didn’t know anyone who could sew, so I just took it,” Caylee remembers. “I was like, ‘Are you okay with me taking it to my tailor and she’ll just fix it?’ She beamed and gave me a hug. When I gave the repaired blazer to her at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum, she was glowing. It was adorable on her. It was probably one of the sweetest moments ever because she was so appreciative.”

While interacting with the Junior Achievement young women at Crossroads Academy, Caylee was impressed by their focus on the future. “I was very moved by my mentee, Nola,” Caylee says. “Her maturity and her drive were impressive. She had already planned her summer jobs and was nervous about her savings plan. She really opened up and had such an open mind about what to do with her money. I was impressed that by her age she had that kind of mindset.”

Caylee’s Junior Achievement experiences have had an impact on her entire life. “It's ignited the fire in me to step up and make it a priority in my life to be an influencer to young women,” Caylee shares. “I'm passionate about bringing up future women because we need to turn this ship around.” Through Junior Achievement, Caylee builds meaningful relationships that motivate her to continue being a leader.

“Every person I've met at Junior Achievement just radiates integrity, support, love, passion, and encouragement,” Caylee adds. “It's just there naturally. Nothing's forced. You have a mission and you live it. You can feel it as soon as you meet everyone in the organization. It's definitely contagious.”

As a mentor, YOU inspire the next generation like Caylee. Giving back to Junior Achievement builds relationships that make a difference in the world.

“All of us left that day feeling like we had an impact."


When Myron King’s entire ad agency shut down for a day of global service, he seized the opportunity to partner with Junior Achievement and spend the day volunteering in a sixth grade Kansas City classroom. And the day was life-changing for Myron and all his colleagues at VMLY&R.

“When I received the packet of information we’d be sharing with the students, I was at first intimidated by the sheer density,” Myron remembers. “How will we be able to master the curriculum? But when we showed up at the school, it was such a warm experience. The JA staff welcomed us with open arms and lowered our anxiety level quite a bit about being in a classroom with kids. They told us to rely on what we know as successful professionals and as individuals with a unique story.” And it worked.

Myron’s mission for the day was to open up to the students and help them embrace the content. Using the tools and preparatory materials JA provided, and his own experience as a Managing Director at VMLY&R, Myron was able to facilitate an amazing learning experience.

Before he knew it, Myron was surrounded by kids engaging in mergers and acquisitions, watching as they embraced the subject matter wholeheartedly. “We were maybe there for seven hours, but it felt like three at best,” Myron says. “We were able to bring some of what we do in our digital profession into the classroom and had the students all build marketing plans for businesses they wanted to build.”

“All of us at VMLY&R left that day feeling like we had an impact,” Myron shares. “So of course, we decided that we wanted to stay involved with Junior Achievement.”

Every kid deserves someone in their corner. “Junior Achievement provides access to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a person like me,” Myron says. “Junior Achievement should be credited for creating this conduit between individuals that have accomplished and overcome and achieved certain things in their lives and the individuals who would be motivated by their lessons.”

As he got ready to volunteer in the classroom, Myron put himself back in his own sixth grade shoes. “Imagine what it would have meant for someone like you — your future self — to come back and tell you things that would help you later in life. It's literally the closest thing you'll get to a time machine,” Myron says. “That's one thing that makes Junior Achievement unique. You’re able to share your experiences and impart wisdom. The students may not remember your name, but they will remember what you said and how they felt when you said it.” Junior Achievement ignites a spark in young people.

Putting the JA business curriculum into play, Myron split the sixth-grade into groups as executive leadership teams of their own companies. And Myron’s fears that the sixth graders would be a tough crowd? He experienced the very opposite: sparks flew. “The whole classroom lit up at times,” Myron remembers. “It was an electrifying sort of experience. I kind of get chills just thinking about how that went.”

For the whole team at VMLY&R, giving back to JA means building their creative pipeline for the future. “I’d like to facilitate these kinds of opportunities so that we are both helping with the mission of Junior Achievement and also extending our recruitment of populations that are underrepresented,” Myron says. “Those voices and perspectives are going to help sustain our industry in the next 5, 10, 15 years.”

For professionals considering volunteering with Junior Achievement, Myron has some inspiration. “Don't underestimate the value of your experiences. Don't underestimate the impact just an hour of your time could have just in sharing your story or your time with the kids who wouldn't otherwise hear it.”

When you give back to Junior Achievement, it’s your chance to ‘travel back in time’ and empower the next generation to reach their full potential. Your advice and encouragement is priceless — because every child deserves to believe in themselves, and to have the tools to do it.

"I learned what I need to do to plan for my future.”

For Martin City Elementary fifth graders, just one day in JA built new ideas for their future and new confidence to accomplish their dreams. And it all happened when volunteers from Fishtech, a Martin City-based company with a global footprint, volunteered in their classroom. “I feel pretty inspired because I learned so many new things,” says fifth grader Daniel Gamboa. “Now I know what I need to learn to have a career like theirs. I learned what I’d get to do in my dream job! I learned what I need to do to plan for my future.”

While learning JA curriculum focused on careers, Martin City Elementary students discovered new career paths and the education they would need to get there. “I really didn’t know these types of jobs existed,” Daniel says. “But JA helped me pick what I want to have as a job.” And with Fishtech’s office just minutes away from Martin City Elementary, it was easy for children to visualize themselves working for the company someday.

Fishtech’s Vice President of Human Resources, Johnna Meyer, was part of a team that taught this curriculum. “We talked to the students about career options and how to get to their final destination,” Johnna remembers. “We tried to encourage them as well, to think about things they enjoy doing and how they can apply that to what their lifetime career selection might be.”

“I'm really into the scientific stuff,” Daniel reflects. “I would be interested in being a scientist, biologist, marine biologist and archaeologist.” The digital aspects of Fishtech were especially intriguing for Daniel.


For Johnna, getting to know the students individually was a highlight of the experience. “These kids were so excited to investigate their options going forward,” Johnna says. “We even started talking about entrepreneurship.”

The lesson extended beyond exploring different career paths, when students learned how to actually get the jobs they wanted. As they discovered what it takes to succeed as professionals, students put the puzzle pieces of their career path together. “It was interesting to learn how you get a salary and what you need to learn, like a master’s degree or medical degree,” Daniel adds. “I learned what type of degree I need to get so I can plan for my future.”

Fifth grader Khari Spaulding also felt inspired to create her vision of the future. And what she learned in JA empowered her. “I know more about what I want to set on for the future,” she explains. “What if I want that job? I was scared that when I got to that point, I wouldn't know what to do. But now, I feel pretty confident.”

Johnna loves seeing the look in a student’s eye when the curriculum just clicks. Students begin to see their future in a new way. “Some of those kids really got into it,” she remembers. “Being able to see that you can make a difference in somebody's life is rewarding.”

Jennie Hanna, Fishtech’s PR and Communications Manager, sees how volunteering with Junior Achievement gives their company a unique opportunity to educate an upcoming generation. “Working within cyber security, we have a real interest in helping to build the pipeline,” Jennie notes. “There are projections that there will not be the talent to fill the number of jobs available in even 10 years. It's fun to be able to talk to kids and say, ‘You can do this.’”

Learning about careers available at Fishtech gave Khari a look into new possibilities. “Those guys have pretty cool jobs, I'm not gonna lie,” she smiles. “I want to work with technology. I could work at Fishtech. I could work at an engineering company, whatever I want, because I’ve got a good hold on STEM.”

And partnering with a school in their own backyard was especially meaningful, Jennie explains. “When I was able to tell the students where I worked,” Jennie says, “there were a couple of little gasps of recognition, like, ‘Oh, yeah, I know, that building. I drive by it.’ I was able to say to them: I walk by your school when I go for a walk at lunchtime. We are neighbors.”

Volunteering with Junior Achievement was an exciting team-building activity for Fishtech. “Everybody was so excited that day, it was just this buzz around the office,” Johnna remembers. “It was great to see the teams working together to prepare for the day.” Fishtech took the opportunity to encourage people from different departments to work together, build relationships and unite as a total organization. “It was great to share our stories at the end of the day and say, ‘Okay, how did you feel like you made an impact today?’ Everybody was just happy and excited.”

To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Johnna says, “It's not only developing a relationship with the students and seeing that they really appreciate you coming there and talking with them, but it's also developing a relationship with the teachers. They appreciate the fact that you are coming in and sharing your life experiences with these kids and giving them something that they can look forward to someday,”

Every kid deserves to believe in themselves — and to have the tools to do it. When you give back to Junior Achievement, you give kids like Daniel and Khari the chance to envision a new future for themselves and the world.

“Every job in the world, a woman can do."

Without positive role models, it can be difficult for young women to envision themselves being successful. But for Crossroads Academy sophomore Imani Berry, that all changed at Junior Achievement’s Future Women’s Leadership Forum. “I see now that women can do everything,” she says. “Every job in the world, a woman can do. Future Women’s Leadership Forum opened my eyes to new jobs I didn't think were possible. I learned that there are people out there who are trying to help me, and who want to see me fulfill my dream."

Imani isn’t alone in her transformation. Young women from high schools across the KC metro were paired with professional female mentors for a day of empowerment, mentorship and learning at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum on April 9, 2019.

“When I met my mentor, we clicked almost instantly,” says sophomore Mari’Sōl Johnson, who also participated in FWLF. “We were very similar. It was exciting to find someone who made me feel comfortable from the get-go.”

During the forum, students spent one-on-one time with their mentors and listened to a panel of expert women professionals during breakout sessions. This group interaction was a highlight for sophomore Julia Bond. “It was cool that we each got our own specific mentor, but all got to sit as a group,” she shares. “We had one-on-one time, but then we also got to meet a bunch of other people and hear different perspectives.”


Quiran Banks, also a Crossroads sophomore, formed a special connection with her mentor Klassie Alcine, Director of Corporate and Community Partnerships at Central Exchange. “She was so nice. I loved her. She told me what she did and all the steps that it took to get where she is today.”

Throughout the day, these young women learned important concepts that would determine their success in the near future. “The entire day consisted of us picking up different skills,” Mari’Sōl says. “I enjoyed learning how to manage money because I suck at saving! But I learned how to start doing it right now.”

In addition to financial and career and business-related topics, young women were educated on health and mental wellbeing in a session by Dr. Michelle Robin. “That was the biggest thing for me,” Quiran reflects. “It made me care about myself a lot more, my mental health and my body. These things are going to catch up to you at some point and then you're going to be stuck in a position where your health is declining. That really put things into perspective for what I need to change now.”

As professional women navigate the very real challenges of the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling, finding this kind of empowerment is priceless. “Future Women's Leadership really changed my perspective on the progress and work that women have put in,” Quiran shares. “Women had always been on the forefront, but they worked behind the scenes. They are finally being highlighted for the work that they do.”

Julia agreed. “Normally, when I think of banks, I just think of a whole bunch of old white men,” Julia explains. “But my mentor worked at one of the banks downtown. It's cool to see women like my mentor in the field and to know a woman in that field.”

Every young person deserves someone in their corner, and students found just that at FWLF. “When you have someone right there with you, helping alongside you,” Quiran says, “it doesn’t make you feel like you’re in this by yourself. You can always count on somebody else. It helps you go places and shows you that you mean something.”

“Future Women’s Leadership Forum showed me the importance of having older mentors,” Julia comments. “It was a really good experience to have people that have actually been through some of the stuff you have been through to listen to you.”

For Mari’Sōl, all the day’s lessons added up to a fresh, new perspective. “I learned things that I could apply to my life now and in the future,” Mari’Sōl adds. “Before, I wasn’t really thinking about the next step. But at Future Women’s Leadership Forum, I started to change my thinking.”

And for people who want to give back through Junior Achievement, Mari’Sōl has a message: “You shouldn’t be scared to be a mentor or a volunteer, because you don’t know how much of an impact you’re going to have on a young girl’s life. You could really change their perspective on everything. It can push them to be better than they were that day. So don't feel like you need to limit yourself when you really can make a change in someone else's life.”

When you give back to Junior Achievement, you have an impact on the next generation. Thank you for empowering young women like Imani, Julia, Quiran and Mari’Sōl when you support Junior Achievement.

"You'll get more back than you'll ever give."

Vercie Lark is on a mission to inspire a million millionaires. “People think I’m crazy,” he says. “It won’t happen in my lifetime, but it’s not hard to set the seeds in motion.” And he’s planting those seeds with Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. As a former Executive Vice President and Head of DST Financial Services, Vercie has witnessed firsthand the great need for financial literacy and career education. This drives his dedication and passion to inspire and support Junior Achievement students.

While leading the financial services sector of DST Systems, Vercie reviewed the balances of millions of financial accounts and saw just how unprepared people were for retirement. “It opened my eyes to the problems people in America face,” Vercie shares. “Most people don’t get good financial advice early in their lives and they don’t have investments to secure their living.” Vercie spent time with executives in the financial industry and saw them struggle to solve this problem.

“I want to teach people to take care of themselves, to be philanthropic enough to take care of their families and communities, and to create businesses and new jobs that are self-sustaining,” Vercie says. Junior Achievement supports Vercie’s mission as he strives to empower youth with financial literacy and business knowledge.

When Vercie was in high school, he was involved in Junior Achievement through his electronics class. Vercie learned business principles as he and his classmates built products to sell at a JA conference. Years later, Vercie transferred those skills into his entrepreneurial business and also applied them to his day to day career. “Junior Achievement was a way to get engaged with something I was exposed to in high school,” Vercie explains. “I wanted to reconnect there and help spark in the minds of the youngsters that they can be an executive or start a business.”

Vercie recently presented financial literacy principles as a Junior Achievement volunteer at William Chrisman High School in Independence, MO. He encouraged students to see education as an investment in their future, empowered them to look at their own spending with a critical eye and ultimately helped them with practical tools for their futures. As he instructed students on investment principles, he told them, "If you start now, you can become wealthier than you can even imagine someday. I want you to become wealthy, come back to William Chrisman in your 40s and tell your story to those students. That's how we create real change in our communities."

Vercie came from humble beginnings but quickly learned that knowledge is the key to success. “My father said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ I took that to mean, ‘I did the best I could with what I knew.’” Throughout his career, Vercie saw examples of those who were ready for retirement and those who weren’t. When he was asked to be the executive sponsor of his organization’s young professionals network group, Vercie was overwhelmed with countless questions about career and finances from the group’s young members.

“I wondered, how can I take knowledge from my life and impart that?” Vercie’s answer was to write his first book, Make it Rain, a guide to increasing wealth and financial security. As he’s able to teach more and more people, Vercie looks forward to a financial literacy ripple effect. “If I can reach 5,000 people directly,” he says, “in a few generations, we’ll see a million millionaires.”

Junior Achievement is a forum for Vercie to have a direct impact on the next generation. “We’re catching young people at an impressionable age,” Vercie remarks. “If I can help these youngsters, that’s a good thing. I will spend my time trying to help these young people avoid the mistakes I’ve seen made, create a better life for themselves and be able to re-invest in their community.”

Vercie took the leap and made a difference with Junior Achievement. Today, he encourages others to do the same. “If you’re on the fence, give it a try,” he says. “You’ll get more back than you ever give.”

When you volunteer give back to Junior Achievement, you share priceless knowledge with the next generation. Every kid deserves a mentor in their corner. Share your insights and ensure a better future for everyone. Become part of Junior Acheivement today.

"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.


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

    -Junior Achievement Student
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    -Junior Achievement Volunteer

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