We asked Junior Achievement of New York Fellow, Sandra Wilson, to tell us about her JA story. Sandra joined us as not only a former JA Colombia employee, but a JA alumnus! Check out her story!
My name is Sandra Wilson, and I’m from Bogota, Colombia. I moved to the New York City area less than two years ago. It has been an enormous challenge but an amazing one. First of all, looking for a job in my field was difficult. Even though I have the skills and experience in my native country that make me qualified for positions, I found many barriers here, such the language, the job culture, and finding the right opportunity. The good thing is that Junior Achievement has made a really big impact and helped me achieve my goals since I was a little girl.
I remember the time when I was in fourth grade and my teacher Mrs. Pilar Gaitan told the whole class that we were going to have a special guest for six weeks one day each week. “WOW!” I said to myself. “I would be lucky if the visitor comes when gym class is scheduled, because I hated gym class!” I remember seeing my friends’ faces glow with happiness each day that the volunteer arrived. He carried a nice JA briefcase with hands-on materials. It was such a great time!
From 1999 to 2002 I received Colombia Emprededora’s program, which was JA’s curriculum in Colombia. Those programs really opened my mind – I learned concepts for life and tips that I might have in mind when I am heading into the workforce. I am so grateful and happy with my school for accepting JA.
However, the story doesn’t end there! In 2011 while I was attending college, I volunteered in JA Colombia organizing a Job Shadow event. It came about because my sister Carolina was working for JA Colombia and introduced me to the President of the organization. At that time I really reconnected with JA.
In 2013 after I achieved my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, I started working at Junior Achievement Colombia as a Project Coordinator. For three years working in Junior Achievement Colombia, I recognized the power of network, leadership, and soft skills that I have used throughout my life. I was so happy to see how I had grown during my time in that role. In the beginning, I was in charge of the basic programs, and then I coordinated programs with a higher level of responsibility.
One of my favorite programs was “Key: La llave que abre tu futuro” (The key that opens your future). It is a program that runs for four months with a certain number of students in high school. The students attend four camping trips for two days each outside of the city where they learn the hard and soft skills that are involved in all three JA pillars: financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness. I became a facilitator for young people! In 2014, I also had the opportunity to attend to the “COY: Company of the Year” in Ecuador with the students that had excellent business ideas and graduated from the Key program that year. I also met JA staff members from other countries whom I am still in contact with.
I arrived in America in May 2017, and today, I can say that I am used living in New York. Waking in the Big Apple is no longer just a dream! I am living it! I am very grateful for the JA New York team that gave me the opportunity to work as a Fellow for the Mobile Finance Park program since last November.
I love experiencing life in NYC, and I have been participating in JA’s events and activities that I used to attend in my country but in Spanish. For example, I’ve taught “JA Ourselves” and “Our City” curricula here and in Colombia. It’s been a huge learning experience.
The most important thing for me is to show and share with people that JA is more than a global organization. It is an organization that helps people develop skills for life, achieve goals, and learn the importance of making an impact in new generations. I love being part of Junior Achievement!
-- Sandra Wilson, JA New York Fellow, 2018-2019