JA In The News | Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida

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Florida Students Benefit from Dedicated Team

WickedWoopiePies ClassThose rousing cheers from central Florida may not be from “The Swamp.”  Drive about nine miles west on SW 24th Avenue in Gainesville and you may find the source of real excitement is coming from the engaged fifth grade students at Queen of Peace Catholic Academy (QPA). Thanks to a powerful team of JA teachers and a dedicated volunteer, students are preparing themselves for successful futures through the JA Our Nation program.

JA Our Nation is Junior Achievement’s fifth-grade program that provides practical information about businesses’ need for individuals who can meet the demands of the job market, including high-growth, high-demand jobs. The program introduces the need for students to be entrepreneurial in their thinking. According to Diane Smith, executive director of Junior Achievement of Alachua County, JA volunteer David Hanson recently shared his JA experience at QPA. “It was a great seeing how excited the students were every week when I entered the classroom,” Hanson said. “I am amazed at how bright these fifth graders are! They came up with great innovative ideas, and I envision all of them making a difference in the future. They are smart, and I find it very rewarding to see the innovation and ideas formulate in their minds.”

Hanson used the entrepreneurial success story of “Wicked Whoopie Pies” to illustrate coursework principles. Founder Amy Bouchard, a homemaker from Gardiner, Maine, is a profitable entrepreneur who is whipping up more than 7,000 of her Wicked Whoopie pies a day. Bouchard was contacted by Hanson when he started teaching the JA program. Bouchard believes in Junior Achievement’s philosophy and donated one of her delicious pies to each student. She sent the pies to Florida so the students could enjoy the sweets while learning about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

“What a great way to end five informative sessions together, by sharing a product that came from a vision, and reinforced everything we have learned this year in Junior Achievement! I value the time that I have spent with the fifth grade, and I look forward to the opportunity of teaching JA again next year,” Hanson concluded.

Junior Achievement Inspires Student to Fall in Love with Business

College freshman Cory Marquardt decided to get involved with Junior Achievement in high school to develop his personal and professional skills. He wanted to learn more about economics and how to better manage his money.

Cap scholarship moneyMari Stein, district director for Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, shared an email she recently received from Cory—a JA alumnus and scholarship winner. Cory won a $3,000 JA Participation Scholarship, which he is using toward his college education. The requirement for the scholarship was that the student had to participate in at least one JA program throughout his high school years—but Cory participated in more than just one JA program.  

Today, Cory is studying finance in the College of Business at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He attributes much of his current success to his experiences with Junior Achievement. Cory’s letter reads:

“I left myself a note today to reach out to you and the rest of the JA staff here to thank you for everything that you have done for me. I have absolutely loved working with JA these last few years and JA is really the reason I fell in love with business.

“Without JA I would be half the person I am today and I thank you and the rest of the JA staff for the time and effort that is put into all the classes and events, because it really makes a difference. Most people ask me why I help out with JA and they usually assume it’s for the scholarship. I didn't even know there was a scholarship until half way through my junior year and even then, I didn’t do any of it for the money.

“This program is a great way for me to give back while doing something that I love. This scholarship is just an added bonus, one more amazing thing Junior Achievement has done for me. If I was able to share the money with you I would, but they said I have to spend it at school. I will always remember my days in JA and I will do my best to stay involved in my new home of Des Moines. Thank you again for everything these last few years, it has meant the world to me and my family.”

JA BizTown Inspires Student to Become a Doctor

San Diego Girl Doctor 3Ashlyn’s excitement was building more and more each day as the JA BizTown visit came closer and closer—she was thrilled that she would be “Doctor No.1 at Kaiser.” On the day of the field trip, she made sure she packed her play medical kit and was ready for her busy day at the office. The expression on her face from just walking through the doors into her “hospital” was ecstatic. Jacqui Pernicano, vice president of operations and marketing from Junior Achievement of San Diego County, shared Ashlyn’s story.

Ashlyn had a great time giving all her patients their check-ups, making her diagnoses, and couldn’t stop talking about her experience during the drive home. When Ashlyn got home she couldn’t wait to tell her older sister all about JA BizTown

“Your program made such an impact on Ashlyn with building her self-esteem and drive to become a real doctor someday,” Ashlyn’s mom Wendy said. “When Ashlyn sees anything that has Kaiser's name or logo, she tells everyone in the vicinity that she worked there as ‘Doctor No.1’ and about her duties as a doctor and that she filled in for the CEO when one was out.

San Diego Girl Doctor 2“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for allowing me to volunteer with my daughter’s class,” Wendy said. “The programs like yours give children like Ashlyn the little boost of encouragement to go after things they may think are beyond their reach. I look forward to volunteering again.”

 

Horticulture Teaches More than Just How to Care for Plants

Ms. Curcio and Mr. Oliphant with sophomore Achiever Laguon Thompson who is preparing material for planters.

Ms. Curcio and Mr. Oliphant with sophomore Achiever Laguon Thompson who is preparing material for planters.

Since 1999, Ann Curcio, a vocational specialist with the Bridgeport Board of Education, has changed lives through her work with the most challenged special-needs students in the city’s school system. Bernadine Venditto, president of Junior Achievement of Western Connecticut, shared this story of how Ann has recognized the dire need for a job skills training program for these students, and how she has embarked on a 15-year collaboration with the JA Job Shadow program.

During those 15 years, more than 1,300 students with learning challenges have been able to develop needed skills to enter the workforce upon graduation from high school. Junior Achievement is uniquely positioned to help close the workforce skills gap and to equip students with the skills they need to be career-ready.

The Roaring Lions Enterprises Achievers hard at work in the Pivot greenhouse, readying their products for sale.

The Roaring Lions Enterprises Achievers hard at work in the Pivot greenhouse, readying their products for sale.

For the past three years, Ann has worked alongside Dennis Oliphant, Greenhouse Manager of Pivot Ministries in Bridgeport, Conn., to provide hands-on skills in horticulture and gardening. By adapting the traditional JA Company Program to meet the skill levels of the students, this adviser team has guided the Roaring Lions Enterprises JA company through the formation, management, and conclusion of three successful company cycles. The happiest part for the students was the dividend payout at the end of the year!

Through hands-on experiences like growing their own plants and selling them to customers like they did at their Mother’s Day/Spring plant sale, these high school students are receiving relevant, hands-on experiences so they can own their economic success and plan for their futures.

 

Ms. Curcio and several Achievers working at their Mother’s Day/Spring plant sale, May 10, 2013, at Bassick High School in Bridgeport, CT.

Ms. Curcio and several Achievers working at their Mother’s Day/Spring plant sale, May 10, 2013, at Bassick High School in Bridgeport, CT.

JA Financial Literacy No Snow Job

It is sometimes surprising for volunteers to realize how much material is retained by Junior Achievement students following a JA program. Often a student’s financial literacy is understood only as new concepts and vocabulary naturally work into a student’s daily activities. Tovah Lisky, marketing director at Junior Achievement of Northeastern New York, recently shared a humorous exchange between a father and son that is proof positive JA concepts are understood and lived in snowy Upstate New York.

Person shoveling snowRobert Clancy is president of Spiral Design Studio in Albany, N.Y., and has served on his local JA board of directors for 16 years. A JA alumnus, Clancy developed and designed his JA Area’s website and provides a pro bono design each year for the JA Area’s annual report. His son, Sean, has been attending Bell Top Elementary School in Troy, N.Y. 

Life for a young person in Troy is a typical balance of fun and responsibility. Troy is situated on the Hudson River and is surrounded by hardwood forests. In the winter, a particularly taxing responsibility is snow shoveling. Every year, about 35 days of snow deposit about 60 inches for Sean to clear from around his home. On one such morning, the elder Clancy asked his son to help shovel the driveway.

He explained, “Applying the financial literacy skills he learned in his first-grade Junior Achievement class, Sean smirked and asked me, ‘Dad. Is this request a NEED or a WANT?’ Without missing a beat, I smiled back and said, ‘It’s both. You NEED to shovel and I WANT you to do it.’”

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