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“Imagination at Work" with JA Alumna

ImageWhen Lauren Goldstein walked into GE for the first time as a high school junior to participate in the JA Company Program®, she had no idea she would end back up at the company six years later—this time as an employee. Lauren is now in her third rotation of the Financial Management Program (FMP), based at GE in Fairfield, Conn. She has come full circle in the JA program, now acting as a mentor to students as GE employees were to her. Jan Ursone, president of Junior Achievement of Southwest Connecticut, shared Lauren’s story.

“The JA program engaged my interest in business,” Lauren explained. “It really influenced my career path.” 

Lauren was introduced to Junior Achievement during elementary and middle school. During her sophomore year of high school, she participated in the JA Company Program, where she learned how to start her own business venture. Lauren was placed at GE her last two years and served as president of her JA company during her senior year, working with GE employees to create weekly agendas, develop the company’s strategy, and complete basic financial statements.

“I looked up to the volunteers and found a mentor who provided great insight and guidance during my early college years,” she said. “I had a deep respect for the company as whole. The GE culture is so committed to giving back to the community. We can’t even begin to understand the impact we are making on these students. To us, it is one day or a few hours out of the office, but it means so much to them.”

ImageLauren’s story is just one example of GE’s long-standing commitment to Junior Achievement. Through a combination of grant funding, skills-based volunteerism and employee contributions, GE works with Junior Achievement to support educational needs around the world; tutoring and mentoring in 27 countries. Over the last eight years, GE has given JA Worldwide more than $11 million, engaging more than 31,000 volunteers to impact more than 600,000 JA students. They recently pledged an additional $1.8 million and 6,100 volunteers for the 2013-2014 school year.

Lauren concluded, “If you have the time and really want to make an impact, volunteer to get involved with JA. It is great experience for students as well as yourself. JA is a great place to harness leadership skills and there is a lot to learn from the students.”

Photos courtesy of General Electric.

JA Company Program Experience Sparks Longstanding JA Engagement

Junior Achievement of Alaska’s president Flora Teo recently shared an article from the Alaska Business Monthly, which highlighted the many successes of the organization. Especially important was mention of a Junior Achievement of Alaska alumnus whose JA experience was so impactful, that it drove him to become a life-long volunteer and board member.

When high school student Rick Whitbeck first moved to Anchorage, he didn’t know anybody. So he signed up for a JA class and besides making new friends, he was instantly captivated by learning about business. JA Company Program® provided Whitbeck with entrepreneurial skills. By organizing and operating an actual business enterprise, he and his friends not only learned how businesses function, they also learned about the structure of the U.S. free enterprise system and the benefits it provides.

When Whitbeck was a senior in high school, he had the opportunity to attend the national JA conference where he met Donald Trump and Lee Iacocca. Business and economics have been his path ever since. His JA Company Program experience inspired him to join the board of directors of Junior Achievement of Alaska while he was in college—a position he still maintains. Additionally, he has spent hundreds of hours volunteering in the classroom, an experience that he said has been empowering.

One of the important lessons that Whitbeck learned from teaching Junior Achievement was that it isn’t always easy to make an impression on students. He remembers teaching a class in which one boy was particularly quiet while most of the other students asked and answered questions and participated in the discussion. After class, Whitbeck could only hope the boy had absorbed some of the knowledge he tried to share.

Several months later, the same boy recognized Whitbeck in public and approached him, thanking him for helping him understand that sometimes you have to give up something to get something else. The boy had put that realization to good use: He had been doing odd jobs for neighbors for a while and had saved his money to buy a brand new bike! He planned to use the new bike the next year as he started middle school.

Small School’s Career Day Makes Big Impact

Pewaukee High School photoWhen Pewaukee High School students become engaged, big things happen. Pewaukee High is a small Wisconsin school, with only about 750 students. But as is often the case, such small places spawn large dreams.

“Dream big, work hard,” are the principles that helped Pewaukee High alumnus J.J. Watt launch his professional football career with the Houston Texans. Using such time-tested principles, Pewaukee High’s wrestling team has won eight straight conference championships and its boys’ soccer team has been rated number one in the state the past two years. So it should be no surprise that Pewaukee High’s recent Career Day, arranged in concert with Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, was an overwhelming success.  

Suzanne Carlson, the Waukesha County program manager for Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, worked with the high school to coordinate the first career day. In partnership with the school’s counseling staff, Carlson created an event that attracted 80 percent of the student body. The students attended presentations from 33 career tracks. “With 600 students, obviously you can’t do a lot of specialization for a day like this, but you can give them a smattering of as much as possible,” Carlson said.

Junior John Hennig said the career day helped him consider the working world outside the classroom. “I think it’s really good to bring in some of those outside elements,” Hennig said. “There’s so much focus on testing, and we don’t look enough at what’s out there.”

Take Pewaukee High’s penchant for inspiring big dreams and add Junior Achievement of Wisconsin’s practical educational contributions and the result will no doubt be a successful future for graduates.

JA Finance Park Experience Has Lasting Benefits

The unique experience at a Junior Achievement Capstone facility frequently engages and inspires students, but a recent email tells how the magic of JA Finance Park® can have unexpected consequences.

JA Finance Park combines classroom learning with a day-long visit to a fully interactive, simulated town. Students have jobs and become providers for their families and must accommodate the needs of the family while creating and using a budget. Volunteers are able to share their professional expertise with students to help them make informed choices during the experience.

Sarah Connell, program manager of JA Finance Park for Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, shared what the JA experience meant for one father and son.

“A teacher from Carson Academy told me a truly touching story about a father and son,” Connell said. “This father and son in the past have not been particularly close. After a little persuasion from the child’s mother, the father volunteered to come to JA Finance Park today.

“They kept their distance from each other at first. But as the day went on and as the father helped many students understand the stock market and how to check stock prices, you could see how proud that child was of his father. He started telling other students, ‘That’s my dad over there!’ This JA experience has brought the father and son together and that this is something they will share forever.”

Birmingham Police Impart Economics Lessons to Middle School Students

The Ensley neighborhood of West Birmingham, Ala. sees more than its share of crime. Birmingham police officers are common neighborhood fixtures. But recently, 18 police officers reported for duty at Ernest F. Bush Middle School dressed as civilian Junior Achievement volunteers. They were there to deliver JA Economics for Success® in the JA in a Day format.

Birmingham Police PhotoJennifer Hatchett, director of marketing for Junior Achievement of Greater Birmingham, shared a story that aired on the local ABC station about the visit. The volunteers were led by Deputy Chief Irene Williams. Williams said the JA program materials provided clear instructions to help the students choose careers and then consider the pathways that lead to those careers.  

“Students need to get good study habits in place. To get these jobs and careers is going to require they put in some effort. We want to let the students know there are a lot of decisions along the way to get there. We want to chart a path to show them how to get there and that it’s attainable,” Williams said.

Williams says decisions aren’t just learned in the classroom or found in textbooks. They’re also about who the students befriend. “Friends can take you up or they can take you down, so you need to associate yourself with good people.”

Students seemed to grasp the concepts well. Miguel Page is determined to run for the nation’s highest office—after a career in teaching.

“College is going up $1,100 a year, so before I'm in 12th grade, I’m going to get a job and my own bank account,” Page said. “I want to change the world.”

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