EY Connect Day: As Told by JA New York Associates - JA In The News | Junior Achievement of New York

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EY Connect Day: As Told by JA New York Associates

On Friday, October 5th, 2018, over 600 volunteers from Ernst & Young delivered Junior Achievement programming across 8 school partners, reaching over 4,500 students from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This incredible array of JA in a Day is part of EY's annual day of service, EY Connect Day, during which employees all over the country participate in volunteer activities with hundreds of non-profit organizations.
We asked two of our new Program Associates, Emma Ross and Cara Minnix, to tell us about their experience during their first EY Connect Day. Check out what they said:
Emma Ross
My first EY Connect Day was an impressive and inspiring event. I was working with the students and staff at PS 197. At the beginning of the day, you could sense the excitement and nervousness of the volunteers as they quickly reviewed their materials for the lessons and discussed plans with their co-teachers. As I walked around the classrooms later in the morning and afternoon, I could see that their nervousness had melted away into the energy and passion that translated into their teaching. This passion and enthusiasm made the lessons come alive and engage students. You could see how happy each volunteer was to participate in the event and the effect that a volunteer had on the students’ learning.
The students of PS 197 have a great deal of experience with EY and Junior Achievement. Every year EY comes to their school and builds their knowledge of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Despite their continued exposure, you could see their students excited to be learning with EY again. You can see the pride shining in their eyes as they were answering questions, talking with the volunteers, and completing the activities. The students were excited to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities to the EY volunteers. The event taught the students not only about finance and entrepreneurship, but also that the students' ideas and learning mattered to more than just their family, their school, and themselves. EY Connect Day demonstrated the best of the Junior Achievement program. Beyond simply educating students, it teaches them their power within the community and society. Each grade level, each activity, and each opportunity provides students with the knowledge they need to take control of their financial future. In one day, EY volunteers had the opportunity to make a fundamental difference in a child's perception of their role in the world. 
As a new member of the Junior Achievement team, EY Connect Day was a spectacular experience. I was able to see the effect of the Junior Achievement program in person. Furthermore, I was able to see the personal impact the program had on volunteers and students. After they completed their time at PS 197, many volunteers were asking about more opportunities to work with the school and Junior Achievement. The students and teachers asked when we were coming in again. The day encapsulated the best of the Junior Achievement mission and programs and left me excited for future opportunities.  
Cara Minnix
My first day at Junior Achievement of New York was September 10, 2018. Less than one month later, I found myself in charge of a JA Day at a high school during one of our biggest service days of the year, EY Connect Day. Even though I am a brand new Programs Associate, EY serves so many students at so many different schools in one day every year that all hands are on deck. This means that people who still can’t figure out how to connect their work computer to the WiFi in their apartment end up as the main JA person at some schools. In my case, I was stationed at Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women.
Arguably the biggest challenge of the day was faced at the very beginning. The school is located in the heart of the Financial District, which means we had to dodge around tourists trying to see the “Charging Bull” statue in order to get to the school. The main entrance is somewhat hard to find, and once you’re in the lobby, you have to fight against waves of students from the three different schools in the building to get into an elevator to take you to the correct floor. Once everyone managed to get to the library, it was pretty much smooth sailing.
Luckily for me, EY has been doing this event for many years, so all of our coordinators are seasoned pros. The EY leaders at my school were immensely helpful with organizing the volunteers, making certain everyone was in the right room at the right time, and ensuring we all ate way too much pizza during lunch.  I expected my day to be stressful and frantic, but because of the diligence of everyone at EY, it was stress-free and calm. We even had every single one of our volunteers show up, and no one forgot their bright yellow shirt!
I spent most of my day walking around to various classes to observe, wearing a large nametag to guarantee I did not get mistaken for a student (we were in a high school, after all). Every single time I went into a classroom, students and volunteers alike were engaged in what they were doing. Though some classes made it through the material faster than others, it was clear that the students were interested in what the volunteers were trying to teach and the volunteers cared what the students had to say. Because I was in a high school, there is a lot of freedom to have discussions within the curriculum. One of my favorite things to see throughout the day was students who had a ton of questions for their volunteers about what their jobs are and how they got there. Many students do not get to interact with adults who have careers that are different from their teachers or family members, so being able to speak freely with their volunteers gives them a new perspective on what they might do in the future. 
Being able to see firsthand how students react to JA programs is an incredible experience. You can read through the curriculum as many times as you want, but it truly does not compare to seeing students experience it with real volunteers who genuinely care about helping the students. It’s hard to measure the impact of just one day on a student, but based on what I saw in the classrooms, these young women will be better able to take on the world after some of these lessons. Plus, it’s hilarious to see a bunch of high schoolers making fun of a volunteer who can’t draw a good representation of the Adidas logo during a lesson on branding.
Check out more photos from EY Connect Day here! To get involved with EY Connect Day next year, or to volunteer with another program, contact us here.
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