How Volunteering Does a “Student Body” Good - JA360: Viewpoints | Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania

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How Volunteering Does a “Student Body” Good

Recently the Junior Achievement (JA) Erie District Board, along with staff from several Huntington Bank branches across Pennsylvania and Ohio volunteered at Jo Anna Connell Elementary on E. 38th Street.  Over 30 professionals filtered into the classroom on May 17 to teach Kindergarten through fifth grade students concepts on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and workforce development. 
If you haven’t heard about Junior Achievement yet, you’re missing out. Studies show our programs lead students to become successful employees, entrepreneurs or business owners, which lead to instrumental growth for places like Erie, Pennsylvania.  JA gives young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.  The “For Impact” organization has been delivering these concepts for 100 years - celebrating their centennial this year, and 80 years in Western PA.  The real impact is felt once these students grow up to become financially-educated adults that make significant contributions to their communities.   
This year was the first year all of Jo Anna Connell Elementary School was able to receive programming for the entire school.  In the past, only one or two classrooms per year could participate. Laura Misko, a fourth grade teacher at Jo Anna Connell, wanted to ensure the whole school got the experience and coordinated with the Junior Achievement District Board to make it happen.   
“Connell School was selected to participate in the JA in a Day program.   We were very impressed with the volunteers,” Misko said.  “Each volunteer and teacher commented on how important it is to use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential. From Kindergarten through grade five the JA in a Day program stressed the possibilities that lay before each child. They helped them realize they can choose different paths.”  
The volunteers in the classroom are everyday people just like you and me.  Having volunteers deliver the hands-on curriculum adds relevancy to the concepts.  Students hear from their teachers and parents all day, so sometimes important life lessons get lost in the noise.  Volunteers break through that clutter by adding their industry expertise to the already developed JA curriculum.  Volunteers do not need to recreate the wheel by developing what they are teaching.  It’s handed to them in a nicely packaged kit of materials that include the lessons, workbooks, games, and activities the students will experience.  If you possess the simple skills to read and public speak, you’ll have no issue delivering the curriculum to students who are excited to have you there.   
Jennifer Stewart is a Junior Achievement Erie District Board Member, and has been volunteering in the classroom for over 10 years, including the JA Day at Jo Anna Connell Elementary School.   
“Over the years, I have seen the impact we make as volunteers in the classroom.  The excitement in their faces as they see us walk in their classroom to the hugs we receive as we leave for the day.  The JA curriculum we teach enhances and brings life to what they are already learning in the classroom,” says Stewart. 
A phrase I often hear volunteers say after their first experience is, “I wish I was taught this in school.”  Junior Achievement is still growing in Erie County. As an adolescent serving the community for 13 years, most adult volunteers who grew up in Erie hadn’t had Junior Achievement in their youth.  They recognize the value of the JA programs for their children and are hooked after their first volunteering experience. 
Companies find value in volunteering as their corporate responsibility.  In fact, one in every five students in JA classrooms will follow in the same career field as their JA volunteer.   
“Huntington is committed to strengthening the communities we serve through partnerships with Junior Achievement across our footprint,” said Carrie Rosenfelt, Community Development Outreach Director for Huntington Bank and JA volunteer.  “Huntington strives to ensure that every member of our communities has access to resources that will help them make informed financial decisions and access credit.  We were proud to partner with Junior Achievement of Western PA, Northwest Region to empower young people at Jo Anna Connell Elementary.” 
If you, as an individual or company, are looking for a volunteer experience that will have a significant impact on our community’s employment pipeline, I encourage you to give Junior Achievement a try.  Training is offered and the curriculum is provided.  Just give me a call or shoot me an email. 
Erin Sekerak 
Executive Director, northwest region 
Junior Achievement of Western PA 
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