JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City

JA Stories of Impact

Volunteer Limelight - G.G. Owens

An Interview with G.G. Owens

JAKC Volunteer

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

Meet Roxana - Director of Mission Delivery

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


Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri 

Current Resident of: Kansas City – South Hyde Park 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board's Eye View - Nickalas Collins


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

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

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

Click below to see Nickalas in action volunteering!


Meet Gigi - Marketing & Communications Intern

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



Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Current Resident of: Overland Park, Kansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I geek out over: correct grammar.

Ask me about: My niece or my dogs!

Board's Eye View - Bryce Anderson

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


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

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

Meet Sheyvette - Program Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas City Must-See: Endless Possibilities

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

I geek out over: Servant Leadership

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

Ask me about: Anything


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

In the classroom...

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


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

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

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

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

Thank You Moriah

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

by Meredith Suarez

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

– John F. Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer Limelight - Ghadeer Garcia

An Interview with Ghadeer Garcia

Junior Achievement Champions Council 

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

Ghadeer speaking at the 2016 Annual Business Hall of Fame.

How did you become involved with Junior Achievement?

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


How do you see JA affecting the education system?

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

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


What do you hope your children learn from JA?

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


What is your dream for Gabriella and Joshua?

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

Board's Eye View - Ailie Kofoid

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

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

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

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

Meet Shelby: Volunteer Specialist

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

Hometown: Independence, MO

Current Resident of: Kansas City, MO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawkeye Mitchell: JA Alum and scholarship recipient with grand plans

Hawkeye Mitchell: The Money Guy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer Limelight - Jo Taylor

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

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

How did you get involved with JA?

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


How confident did you feel going into volunteering?

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


Tell me about one student in your class.

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


Was there a particular lesson that resonated with you?

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


What surprised you most?

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

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


What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

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


What motivates you to stay involved?

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

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


Why do you choose to volunteer with JA?

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

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

Meet Steven - Development Associate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas City Must-See: Manifesto

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

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

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

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


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

Board's Eye View - Steve Cosentino

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

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

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

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

Kauffman Scholar Summer Internship with JAKC - Nyla Pickens

A Reflection from Nyla Pickens
Kauffman School Scholar
JAKC Summer Intern

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Junior Achievement Team!

Student Accomplishment - De'Onta and De'Na Newborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board's Eye View - Melea McRae

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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