JA In The News | Junior Achievement USA

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Students from Oakwood, an elementary school located in Portland, Oregon, combined entrepreneurship with a craving for breakfast to create the Sweet O's Donut Shop.

Through JA Our Community, the Oakwood students learned the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce, as well as how citizens contribute to a community's success. By identifying careers, understanding taxation, and government services, as well as the flow of money within a community, the 100 second-grade students determined their next step for their startup donut company.

These young elementary entrepreneurs got a taste of starting a company when their Principal used her community connections to introduce the students to Tom's Food Center to help them turn their business dreams into a sweet reality.

Steven Antaya, vice-president of Tom's Food Center, pitched the students with a business offer they couldn't refuse. He told the students that if they created a sign to market their product, he would set up a table at the store and sell the donuts at his store.

Deborah Smith, vice-president of education for JA of the Michigan Great Lakes reflected, "We wanted the kids to see that it really does happen in real life and that they are only in second grade, but their ideas matter. This is a wonderful opportunity and the kids are super-excited. They think now they're going to be famous."

Through community involvement, Oakwood's second-graders turned a delicious concept into a reality and got a lifelong taste of entrepreneurship.


Money and Millennials: Budgeting 101

As a child, I never noticed a budget in our household. There were no coupons trapped under a magnet on the fridge nor did a budget-conversation occur at the kitchen table when it was time for my brother and me to get back-to-school supplies. It may come as a surprise, but many families don't discuss money with their young children. In fact, a Junior Achievement (JA) survey reported that 84 percent of teens look to their parents to learn money management skills, yet 34 percent of parents don't talk to their children about personal finance as they want to let their "kids be kids".

According to Jayne Pearl, an author of financial parenting books, there are two reasons why parents don't talk to their children about money. The first revolves around the idea of not living up to being the “money role model” they want their child to have. The other reason? Parents don't feel that they are fluent when it comes to money topics. "We think we need a Ph.D. in finance to be able to teach our kids, when it's not true at all. All you have to do is talk out loud about what you're doing as you're going about your business," advised Pearl.

My personal narrative about this dissonance between parents, kids and money conversations came to me a decade later. As a "legal adult", I found myself in a financial pickle when a calculator, that was required for one of my college courses, was going to cost me $300 and the "recommended" textbooks (which of course, as a studious college student, I always bought) would cost an additional $500. I’m no math-wiz but $800 for ONE semester’s supplies seemed a little steep. An increase in my nannying hours during my college career was not going to alleviate the stress of swiping my debit card at the campus bookstore. Therefore, I had one option—create a budget.

I quickly discovered that getting my nails done, clothes shopping with friends and going out to eat didn't make the cut for my "need or want" budget. As much as I WANTED to do all of those things, it was not as important as making sure I was prepared for my college courses.

The secondary phase of budgeting was evaluating my income. Fortunately, my summer job provided enough income for me to go through a year of textbooks. In fact, most semesters I even had some money left over, which, of course, went straight into my emergency savings account. Through this (intimidating but necessary) process, I quickly learned how to be resourceful in the way that I purchased textbooks and school supplies (Note to my freshman self, use half.com).

Recently, I asked my parents about budgeting and personal finance as my focus on saving money has transitioned from buying college textbooks to now, saving for my first home. Turns out the reason my brother and I never noticed any budgeting items was because my parents were having conversations one-on-one about spending and saving. While I was not included in those conversations that would bring light to the importance of a budget, my bad money habits forced me to educate myself on personal finance a decade later in my early 20s.

For the 34 percent of children (or those in your 20's), you're in luck! Organizations like Junior Achievement and with the millennial go-to app, Pinterest, personal finance is just a click away.

Check out our Junior Achievement USA Pinterest page for tips and tricks for creating a budget and saving for your future.


Kelly Wallace, CNN. "Why Don't Parents Talk To Kids About Money?" CNN. N. p., 2018. Web. 24 Jan. 2018

Juniorachievement.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 24 Jan. 2018.

Junior Achievement Students Hatch Entrepreneurship

Susan Hunter Wallace, a first time Junior Achievement volunteer, taught “JA Our Community” and received more than just a few raised hands. As she and the students grew through the JA lesson, the second-graders were inspired to share their project with her.

The second graders at Clinton Elementary were trying their hand at entrepreneurship through hatching chickens. Unfortunately, their progress came to a stop when the chickens were ready to find their forever homes, but no one was available to adopt them.

It was in that moment that Susan realized what she had to do. The volunteer offered to take the chicks to her farm for to join her other chickens. By doing this, she not only adopted some homeless chicks, she also encouraged her students to continue their entrepreneurial journey.

Reflecting on her experience, with every egg she collects from the chickens it makes the time she gave to the second-grade classroom invaluable. “Time that I can give is very worth it.” She said. “Students need to know about opportunities in the community so that they can become successful.”

Her positive experience as a volunteer was shared throughout the community, which enticed three additional volunteers to teach. These additional volunteers gave JA the ability to share entrepreneurial, work readiness and financial literacy lessons to an entire grade level.

Looking to hatch some volunteer experiences of your own? Click HERE

“You Were Born To Change The World”

Being given a purpose in this world is what we are all searching for. Luckily for Malachi Kern, destiny came in the form of a JA volunteer teaching in his third-grade classroom when he was a child in Chicago. The volunteer told Kern during his time teaching the class, “You were born to change the world”. This quote resonated with Kern, especially since, at the time, he was struggling to find his way. Unsure of what the future held for him and overcoming pressures from others to be involved in gang activities in his community, he needed someone to encourage and guide him to reach his full potential. 

It wasn’t until he was a junior in high school that fate brought his third-grade mentor to him again—on a metro bus. It was there that Kern recognized the man that changed him as a child and they began to catch up. The JA volunteer ended up introducing him to a school competition for the title of “Mr. Business.” It was with this opportunity that Kern’s life changed forever.

Kern won the title of Mr. Business, as well as the full-ride scholarship that came with it. Through destiny, he met a JA volunteer that changed his life and by fate he met him again when he needed guidance the most. Today, Kern is “paying it forward” by being a JA volunteer in his adopted home of Kansas City.

At Junior Achievement we believe that every volunteer opportunity has the chance of changing at least one life. Help a student find their purpose today.

Click to find a life-changing opportunity nearest you!  

An Entrepreneur with a Sweet Spot for JA

Students are not the only ones who learn from JA…our volunteers do, too!

Meet Denis Ring, the Founder of Ocho Chocolate Candy, located in Oakland, California. A candy store that prides itself on great tasting organic candy bars.

In November, Ring decided to trade in his chocolate for a richer experience—volunteering with Junior Achievement for National Entrepreneurship Month.

“The students at Madison Park responded both intellectually and emotionally to the idea that they should really give themselves permission to dream,” Ring stated. “As the time passed, it was clear they were listening and engaged because of the questions they were asking.”

Yet, Ring didn’t expect his invitation into Madison Park Academy 7th grade classroom to be as sweet of a realization for the future of business.

“When I was in 7th grade the term ‘entrepreneurship’ was never heard, so we never really thought about these kinds of possibilities. It’s healthy and promising to see kids listening and thinking about how entrepreneurship happens,” Ring reflected.

Further proving the importance of exposing young people to the impact of entrepreneurship, research indicates that entrepreneurial mentorship creates more than an engaging experience through programs like JA, it also has the potential to create more entrepreneurs. 

A study conducted by Stanford determined that 37 percent of students who had entrepreneur-mentors went on to start or join new companies, compared to 28 percent of those whose mentors were not entrepreneurs.

Ring hopes his involvement will inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs: “When they got home that night, they talked about the guy they heard at school who started a candy company. But, more importantly, I hope they fell asleep thinking about what they might do as entrepreneurs.” 

" How The Right Mentor Can Foster Young Entrepreneurs." School of Engineering. N. p., 2017. Web. 9 Jan. 2018.

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