JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida

JA is Really Newsworthy!

Melissa: From a JA Student in Ecuador to a JA Volunteer in Tennessee

Junior Achievement – Ecuador launched the “Bancos en Accion” Program in the year 2000 in several High Schools across the country. The curriculum covered several courses delivered in a class environment, but also challenged High Schools in the country to compete for a chance to participate in the Latin American Bancos en Accion (Banks in Action) competition, sponsored by Citigroup, (Citi) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

I was one of the 11th graders who had the opportunity to participate in the program, and one of the three lucky winners who represented Ecuador in the Latin American competition. Junior Achievement (JA) taught me about key principles of the banking industry and the challenges of successfully operating a bank in a competitive environment. One of the key concepts was to learn how banks operate, recognize the characteristics of banking services and products, and evaluate potential career opportunities in banking.

I was a teenager then, and although I truly enjoyed learning, winning, and traveling to another country, little did I know that almost one decade later I would start my career in Jacksonville, FL working for non-other than Citi. The idea of Citi being the bank that opened its doors to High school student a long time ago in support of financial literacy never crossed my mind, until I learned that Citi was still a proud sponsor of Junior Achievement.

Today, almost 20 years since my participation in Junior Achievement’s Bancos en Accion, and over 13 years of working at Citi, I am a true believer and passionate advocate of the JA curriculum and its programs.  

Junior Achievement taught me at a young age the importance of learning about Financial Literacy, and Citi has continued to provide opportunities to broaden my knowledge. I am an active Junior Achievement volunteer serving the community by teaching the JA curriculum in Elementary and Middle Schools in the Tri Cities, TN area.

Making Your Tax Refund Last

The notification of a check being directly deposited into your bank account has never been more satisfying than it is during tax season. You’ve worked all year to see what you will get back, and with the average tax refund being about $3,000, why shouldn’t you be excited?

You can now “splurge” a little, buy that TV you’ve had your eye on for the past year or blow it all on a tropical vacation!

Sorry to burst your money bubble, but new research has revealed Americans are doing far LESS exciting things with their refunds.

According to a survey conducted by GOBrankingRates, over a third (38%) of the millennials surveyed plan on paying off their debt. As the average millennial has upwards of $32,000 in personal debt (not including home mortgages), it should come as a relief to know they are putting their financial futures first.

The tax refund runner-up? Coming in at 14% of those surveyed-- making a major purchase like a car! Followed by investing at 13%, and splurging on a luxury item came in last place at a low 2%.

While you’re the only one that can determine the best way to spend your refund, here are a few ways you can use your refund for your own good:

Emergency Fund

While this is not the most exciting option, it will make your life easier in the long run! It is recommended that an emergency fund has at least six months of living expenses.

Not sure how much to save? Click !

Pay off that Debt

Not only will you increase your financial stability once your debt is paid off, but you can reduce the debt-stress you’ve been feeling! The interest that you are paying on your monthly bills will be reduced leaving you with more financial security. If you’re unable to pay all of your debt off, start putting more towards your monthly payments to get to the financial finish line sooner.

Invest and Feel Good About the Rest

The early bird gets the worm doesn’t just apply to starting your day off earlier than everyone else, it also applies to money! With all the various ways you can invest, it would be unfair for us to say to pick one over another. Before you throw money at anything, it’s important to do your research and understand what type of a risk-taker you are. For those looking to start in their first investment venture, check out for beginners!

As easy as it is to blow the money that has been piling up over the past year, let this be a reminder to you of the biggest financial goal you should have—fiscal security that will last more than just a season! 

Got a working teen in the family? Have him or her check out how to file a tax return on JAMyWay.org!

The Guide to Buying Your First Car

Buying your first car is an exciting time. While the new car smell and shiny detailing may steal your heart, it could be the most significant investment that you don’t receive a return on.

By the end of 2017, Americans had $568.6 billion of debt buckled into auto loans. If that statistic doesn’t scare you, in the first quarter of 2018, 4.3% of all auto loans were at least 90 days late.

To set yourself (or your teen) up for success when purchasing a car for the first time, here is our driver’s crash course in car buying!


Before you even start searching for a vehicle, determine what you can afford. Look at all of your expenses, evaluate how much insurance will cost each month, what you can afford when it comes to filling your car up with gas, what you may be spending in repairs, and what you can afford to put down on the vehicle.

Financing Options

While financing may be available to you, keep in mind that for teens under 18 years old, a parent’s name may be required on a loan application form. The primary reason a teen may need a co-signer is due to their lack of credit history and therefore an absence of a credit score. A co-signer is a friend or family member that has good credit and who will be paying for your loan if you are not able to. While it is common for parents to co-sign on loans for young car buyers, it’s crucial to outline what your loan expectations are with the individual who may be signing alongside you.

Start Your Engines

Once you have established what you can afford, it’s time to look at what you need in a vehicle. To start, establish if you will need an AWD, front wheel drive, or rear wheel drive, etc. Look at the gas mileage for the vehicles that have the drive type you are looking for, determine what mileage range would be ideal, and then identify a make and model that fits the criteria.

Navigating a Dealership

Wherever you may be looking for a car, the goal for the seller is to make as much as they can from the sale. You, as the buyer, have a responsibility to be as thorough as possible with all negotiations. From your research, you should be able to evaluate the value of the vehicle you are looking for with a specified number of miles would cost, be sure to use your research to negotiate. In a survey of car buyers, 62% of millennial women felt pressured to purchase a car right away when visiting a dealership and almost half (49%) of the women felt as if they were being tricked into buying features they didn’t need. In the end, don’t be afraid to walk off of a car dealership empty-handed. It’s better than driving off the lot feeling taken advantage of. If negotiation isn’t your strong suit or if you have yet to be in a “haggling” circumstance, check out these tips for negotiating with a car dealer! Have a soon-to-be driver at home? Have them take the JA Financial Test Drive!


The Journey of the Grind

The hardest part of finding your first job? It’s not putting together the perfect outfit, mock interviewing, or even perfecting your resume; it’s identifying what industry and role you will succeed within AND enjoy going to day-after-day.

Right after college graduation, most young adults dream to have just one job lined up.  Through competitive interviews and multiple counter offers, some feel utterly lost. After spending years of life preparing for this moment, most don’t realize how their experiences and self-discovery throughout higher education or even high school can influence one’s future path.

For those who are graduating in the spring and are stressing about finding the right fit for your first job, this one is for you!

Do Some Self-Searching

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a crucial step. A workweek consists of 120 hours, as a minimum you will be working 40 hours a week but probably closer to 50 or 60. That’s about half the total hours in a workweek. Finding yourself disappointed that it’s Sunday and you have work the next day is one thing, but if you are getting panic attacks because you cannot stomach going into your workplace for yet another week—That’s a problem. To find your career sole-mate, ask yourself: What environments do you thrive in? How big of a company do you want to work in? Do you want to travel or remain behind a desk? What makes you feel fulfilled? These are just a few questions but will provide a good foundation for identifying the right work environment.

Do Your Research

Every company has a culture that will either make or break you. Once you have narrowed down an industry you wish to work in, start identifying businesses that are close (but convenient and easy to transition into) and far (but will add value to your resume or pay more). Before sending your resume to any company, google the business. Begin by skimming their social media feeds (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and perhaps YouTube) as well as Glassdoor. For those who are unaware of Glassdoor, this site is where employees and past employees can give their review of the company and the culture. From here, start sorting your list from most ideal to least favorable.

Talk to Someone Who Empowers You

Be sure to ask individuals who you are close with and have had years of work experience what their journey was like, how they navigated various positions, and what drove them into their current position. While you might not hear what you wish they had said, it will be food for thought as you are searching for your first position.

Think About Your Future

How many times have you heard that in your life? But when you actually think about it, where do you see yourself? Do you want a big corner office with your own receptionist or do you want to be your own boss and create a company that you see as valuable in the world? There are a million options!

Liking What You Do for a Living

The final, crucial piece of advice for finding the right career path is discovering the balance of doing something you enjoyed as well as the ability to make a living. While it’s necessary to be passionate about your work, in the end, work is what keeps a roof over your head, food on the table, and provides other necessities. Not everyone wakes up knowing they love to code or even practice medicine. It’s the experience that you will acquire that will guide you. You’ll learn what you like, what you dislike and what you loathe. From there, brainstorm a mix of your likes to what will provide your basic needs. 


Not all career journeys are the same nor should they be! Have a career path that you want to share? Email jasocialmedia@ja.org for a chance to be featured!

Learning Your Way

American lawyer Brad Henry once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” It is through learning that personal development comes into fruition and change begins. Yet, learning doesn’t always occur in a classroom or a training center. Opportunities to grow are presented to us daily, but it’s understanding the learning style you need that determines if you take these opportunities or not.

Believe it or not, we all have a dominant learning style that is our “go-to,” but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one we may use. The truth of the matter, we all have a learning style that we adopt and modify to meet our needs. 

Here are the four primary learning styles and some questions to determine if it’s one you may use! Please note, the following learning styles are based on the theory of Neil Fleming’s VARK model.



Visual learners focus on spatial formations, preferring pictures and images to understand concepts. As the occipital lobes at the back of your brain manage spatial/visual elements, it is said this is where your brain is processing this learning.

You May Be A Visual Learner If:

You prefer to see information and the relationship between concepts.

How to Use This Learning Style to Your Benefit:

In most traditional spaces, the educator will provide materials or outline topics on a large screen or whiteboard. Some believe visual learners prefer to study in solitude to focus on colors, shapes and spatial flows. Try using a visual outline or a concept map to organize your notes, be sure to read the text that is associated with any diagrams or graphic visuals, and retain information easier by color coding your notes.


Reading / Writing

Unlike visual learners, reading/writing learners tend to learn the best when interacting with text.

You May Be A Reading / Writing Learner If:

You prefer to take notes in class, writing down the information in the way that you understand it. The physical motion of writing helps to ingrain the information.

How to Use This Learning Style to Your Benefit:

Be sure to re-write and re-read your notes! This learning style is all about how digestible the text is to you! When reading over, take notes of the concepts or large ideas that you don’t understand. From there, go back through your textbook or other resources, and write down the ideas you did not remember.



Auditory learning thrives best in a lecture-based setting. These learners take note in a person’s tone in voice, may prefer oral exams and retain information better when working in groups.

You May Be an Auditory Learner if:

You perform better for oral exams than a writing exam, participating in class discussion helps you to understand concepts better and reading text aloud helps you to remember information.

How to Use This Learning Style to Your Benefit:

Be sure to participate in class discussions! When you find yourself having a difficult time remembering a broad concept, try turning it into a story. Stuck on a written exam question? Try reading it aloud or under your breath to better understand what it’s asking!



If you loved the “head, shoulders, knees and toes” song, chances are you have some kinesthetic styles in your dominant learning style. Kinesthetic learners prefer to move while they are learning!

You May Be a Kinesthetic Learner if:

Typically, these individuals are involved in sports, art, and drama as they have excellent hand-eye coordination and quick reception. If walking around while thinking or talking aloud about a concept helps you to process and digest the information, kinesthetic learning is your learning style!

How to Use This Learning Style to Your Benefit:

Some of the best ways to understand information as a kinesthetic learner are by acting ideas out, study while standing or moving (like sitting on a balancing ball at your desk), doodling during a lecture, or studying while you’re physically engaged, such as while you’re bouncing a ball.


The best way to determine your learning style is by giving each one a try! While not every environment may be suitable for your style of learning, it’s crucial to understand which method you prefer early to modify for the future! 

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