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School Principal Reflects on the Value of JA Over a 50-Year Span

Junior Achievement alumni recall fondly the lessons, activities and challenges that helped to create the success that they now enjoy. This story from Connecticut is no different. School principal Dr. Judith S. Gross had experience with Junior Achievement when she was in high school—so she was quite familiar with the value of JA programs. Bernadine Venditto, president of Junior Achievement of Western Connecticut, shared Judy’s story.

Blue stock values“The recession took the importance of fiscal education from the back of the stove and placed it on the front burner,” Judy commented. “How can we expect our pupils to become responsible, contributing adults if they don't understand how to manage money?  

“Long before the rest of the world caught up, Junior Achievement was there. As a high school student, I learned how a business develops from the ground up. We elected corporate officers, sold stock, manufactured a product, shared the profits, and still had enough left over for a picnic,” Judy said.

“I carried what I had learned into the classroom with me. When I developed Bridgeport’s current Talented and Gifted Program, Junior Achievement played an important role in the curriculum. Your program opened the world of finance to me. My students participated in the Stock Market game, ran fundraisers to pay for field trips, and scheduled and ran successful school-wide projects.

“[The students’] many accomplishments led to my being the only Bridgeport teacher to be selected as a Connecticut state Teacher of the Year,” Judy concluded. “A great deal of what I have accomplished started off back in 1959, at Bassick High School when a shy junior learned to make bath salts at Junior Achievement.”

Thalas Steele: Teaching and Living Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur Thalas Steele has two passions: Giving back to his community and making his personal training business a success; fortunately, one goal informs the other. Thalas teaches Junior Achievement programs, including entrepreneurship curriculum, to area students.

"I tell all of my family and friends that we can't complain about the kids of our future if we are not involved in guiding them," said Thalas. Junior Achievement volunteers like Thalas empower young people with the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success. The life-changing education volunteers provide allows students to plan for their futures and make smart academic and economic choices.

Thalas offered his time and energy in a new way this year. His company, Team Endurance, hosted the first-ever JA Urban 5K run. The event brought awareness of Junior Achievement to a new audience and raised financial support for its programs. By volunteering in the classroom or hosting fundraising events, volunteers play a key role in bringing Junior Achievement to life. Thalas and other volunteers like him enable JA to reach more students, and they motivate all of us to do more for young people.

Volunteer Shares Reason for Service

There are many personal and professional reasons to volunteer for Junior Achievement. A Junior Achievement of Oklahoma volunteer recently explained her reason in simple terms: to make a difference for young people. Vice President of Programs Belynda Clanton tells the volunteer’s story:

“We are currently matching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals to STEM University students to deliver JA Business Ethics at a local high school,” wrote Belynda. “When introducing one of the university students to his professional partner, the student asked, ‘Why do you volunteer for Junior Achievement?’ The professional replied, ‘I see how much my own kids need to know, and they have opportunities and support from family, so I volunteer for Junior Achievement to reach those students who have the same need to know with so much less available to them. It is a way to make a difference.’”  

JA volunteers come from all walks of life—business people, college students, retirees, parents and grandparents. What is common among them is the sense of fulfillment they express as a result of their service. Volunteering with Junior Achievement leaves them feeling proud, energized and hopeful about a better future for our young people. For their part, the young people are left with the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. For volunteers and students, the JA experience is win-win!

JA Student Uses Business Knowledge to Start Her Own Venture

JA student Jill Hughes said that not only did Junior Achievement give her invaluable business knowledge, but with that knowledge she was able to start a school-supply drive organization, which she plans to turn into an official nonprofit organization soon. Paul Kappel, president of Junior Achievement of Delaware Valley, shared Jill’s amazing success story.

“I am so grateful for everything that I had the opportunity to learn. Thank you so much for everything that you taught me about business!” Jill said.

This summer, Jill said she was scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed and she saw that one of her favorite football players, Ray Rice (of the Baltimore Ravens), posted about a school-supply drive he started for classrooms in Maryland. This sparked an idea in Jill’s mind: What if there was a school supply drive for Philadelphia?Image

“The Philly school district is facing extreme budget cuts, and it is sad to see these kids being put at such a disadvantage. I immediately reached out to Mr. Rice, via email, explaining my goal and seeking his help to start a Philly school supply drive,” Jill said. “To my surprise, (Ray) emailed back in a couple of days! He was very excited for what I was doing, and actually put me in touch with his good friend, retired Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. After a month or so of communication with Mr. Westbrook and his assistant, (and additional establishments of the program), Mr. Westbrook generously donated 250 backpacks as well as supplies to the program!”

Jill had read a New York Times article about how Andrew Jackson School in South Philadelphia was receiving major budget cuts and how their 410 students would be without many school supplies. In addition to the supplies that Westbrook provided, Jill was able to raise additional funding for more backpacks. She also collected school supplies to put in the backpacks with the help of her local church. In addition to the book bags, she bought supplies for teachers and extra notebooks for the classrooms.

“This process and establishing the school-supply drive organization has not been easy, but it has been so worthwhile. Doing this was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only have I received more real-world business knowledge and skills, but I've been able to expand my network as well as help out with a cause I'm passionate about,” Jill said. “In the end, though, none of this would have been possible without the excellent JA program. Thanks to you and all of the volunteers, who taught me so much about business and really inspired me, I've been able to create this organization, and hopefully soon will be able to file for nonprofit status, as well as expand the program. Thank you so much, you really did change my life!”

JA Program Support Seen as Economic Evidence in Atlanta

Though it’s not surprising when a business leader supports Junior Achievement’s mission, a published testimony is still powerful and appreciated. Recently, Gerald Scott, vice president of Norcross, Ga.-based First Community Development and a JA employee for 36 years, shared an opinion editorial article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which touted the work that Junior Achievement of Georgia is doing to give more students access to financial literacy education.

Atlanta-Journal-Constitution-logo-designJenner Wood, chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank’s Atlanta/Georgia division shared a “silver lining” to Atlanta’s economic challenges. He contends Junior Achievement of Georgia’s planned Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center is evidence Atlanta’s challenges have “stirred leaders across Georgia to forge partnerships on financial education that will strengthen our workforce and benefit our state for years to come.” 

“The Atlanta community is marshaling the human and financial capital necessary to make significant strides in this area,” Wood wrote. “The most recent example is the Discovery Center, which will be housed at the Georgia World Congress Center.”

The center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013 and will include two interactive venues, JA Finance Park® and JA BizTown®, which will offer hands-on experiences so students can participate in simulated real-life financial and job situations. The process begins with four weeks of classroom instruction and culminates with the interactive elements. Approximately 30,000 sixth- through eighth-graders attending Atlanta, DeKalb and Fulton School Districts are expected to participate annually.

In an interview with the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Wood explains SunTrust’s passion for the project. “Our purpose for being is lighting the way to financial well-being. We can help these youngsters begin on their journey,” he said.

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  • "Junior Achievement has given me a sense of what adults go through with budget issues."

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