Committed to Our Region’s Youth and Bright Futures - DEI and JA Initiatives - NEWS | Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania

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Committed to Our Region’s Youth and Bright Futures - DEI and JA Initiatives

It seems like we are living in a constant state of change. The challenges, hardships and uncertainties that 2020 brought forced us to adapt and adjust in so many inconceivable ways. As we slowly rebound from the permanent marks of a global pandemic and return to some sense of normalcy or “new normalcy,” one area that has been adapting to significant change is our workplaces. The workplace is changing in many profound ways – from the ways we communicate to corporate culture and how we do our jobs on a daily basis. Add to the mix the heightened engagement with new technologies, and it’s easy to see why companies must constantly innovate their practices and policies. Along with this is a renewed (and welcomed) energy towards diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Highly inclusive companies are more likely to hit their financial target goals by up to 120 percent. In fact, companies and organizations with more inclusive business cultures and policies see an increase in innovation, as well as consumer interest and demand. 
 
Junior Achievement is one of those organizations. Junior Achievement is a recognized leader in empowering young people to own their economic success through volunteer-led, experiential learning. More importantly, JA is dedicated to providing a positive, enriching learning experience free of bias. JA welcomes K-12 students, volunteers and potential staff regardless of race, religion, age, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected characteristic.
 
At Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania (JAWPA), there is a constant, ongoing focus on DEI, especially with training, individual skills and career choices. In addition to the invaluable programs and resources JA provides to students, one of the best examples is JA BizTown. Newly launched in early 2020, JAWPA’s BizTown provides diverse opportunities for our students (and our future business leaders) to learn hands-on, critical skills and life experiences at more than 20 different regional businesses in an experiential “mini city.” After completing nine hours of curriculum, elementary and middle school students in our region are welcomed at their selected “company” to experience the day-to-day functions of a real-world environment. And even a global pandemic couldn’t stop JAWPA’s commitment to empowering our youth, impacting nearly 42,000 students across western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia last school year through both in-school and virtual JA programs and resources. 
 
Looking ahead, JAWPA is setting DEI-specific goals for the next 3-5 years to ensure every child has an opportunity to succeed. Some of these goals include:
 
  • Provide programming for 100% of all underserved students, schools and intermediate units
    • Reach 25,000 students
  • Recruit and retain a diverse base of volunteers who can serve as examples to our young people
  • Create $1 million in scholarship opportunities
  • Hire a full-time staff person who can serve as a liaison to the community
With these goals in mind, JAWPA is looking to community partners for the financial backing to deliver. The total cost of JA programming for one student is $45. That means to serve 100% of all 100% economically disadvantaged students within JAWPA's coverage area, $1,125,000 is needed overall. 
 
Our young people are facing a pivotal moment in their education that will impact their futures forever. Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania has big plans of where the organization is going and how it will help bridge the achievement gap. Most importantly, JAWPA has continued its mission of inspiring and preparing young people to succeed. Now that’s an organization worth getting behind.
 
To learn more about how you can support these initiatives, please contact Bill Lucas at blucas@jawesternpa.org
 
Sources: www.forbes.com; www.juniorachievement.org
 
By: Phyliss Gastgeeb, Vice President of Marketing, A to Z Communications
 
 
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