My involvement with Junior Achievement has come full circle -- formerly as a JA Student to present day as a board member. I feel the biggest benefit to our students is the various types of practical knowledge this program teaches. These are life skills, primarily centered around being financially savvy, which helps create a responsible economic foundation for these young adults. It's a paradox that out local JA Chapter struggles financially...the more we do, the more it costs, and we always want to do more!
Prior to serving on the JA Board of Directors, I volunteered as a JA teacher and began teaching the elementary school programs to my daughter's class as she moved from 3rd through 6th grade. When I learned about the Economics for Success program, she moved on and I was hooked. I continued to teach the program to 6th graders and then to 9th graders. I can't think of a better way to provide such critical information to students that will prepare them for the "real world" after High School. I feel that I am making a difference by helping them understand more about what is available to them and how best to utilize and develop their talents and skills. The finanicial awareness provided opens up the students' minds to what they should and should not do with their hard-earned dollars. JA's programs are excellent and created with both the volunteer and student in mind. My daughter recently taught a 4th grade class and loved it!
I became involved with Junior Achievement in 1980 and have served in a number of capacities including Board Member, Board Chair, acting President, and volunteer. I was also fortunate to have been part of a Junior Achievement company a student growing up in northern New Jersey. JA's current tagline "empowering young people to own their economic success" is a fitting statement for the amazing work this organization does to bring superior economic education to youngsters from K to 12....delivered by hundreds of business volunteers across western Massachusetts. I have personally watched as Junior Achievement's classroom efforts turn students from a "lackluster " approach to education into an excited, participating and achieving youngster. Finally, JA is the perfect vehicle to help raise the financial literacy level of our youngsteers. I am honored to have been a part of this exciting program for thirty plus years.
I began volunteering with JA in 2007 at a Springfield High School. I was shocked at how many lacked such basic understanding that credit cards charge interest (or even had to be paid back!) I also volunteered at a fundraising event. Fast-forward to 2012, I've taught 14 different classes in 5 different high schools and 2 elementary schools, and wish I had time to do more. I've been told that as a school volunteer, if you reach one child, you've accomplished the mission. Judging by reactions in classroom after classroom, Junior Achievement reaches many more children. My daughter in High School taught a JA program for second graders (by herself no less!) and is eager to do more. Even at 15, she recognizes the invaluable role that Junior Achievement can play in these kids lives, and is currently planning a school-wide volunteering program at her High School to get other students to go out and become "High School Heroes" who teach these skills to elementary school kids.
I have been involved in JA for many years. It has been a very valuable experience in all aspects of life. I was fortunate to have had the experience of a JA class in 11th grade. It taught us reality! How the economy affects everyone. I have volunteered in many classrooms and have been a board member for many years. As we all understand, our children are our future. It is our responsibility to give them every opportunity that affords us. JA is one of the avenues to help them in achieving their success.
Today's youth have very few opportunities to gain exposure to career fields. Yet when they get to be seniors in High School they are constantly asked by parents and administrators what do they want to be when they grow up. What are they going to major in college. My experience with thousands of high schoolers is the answer "I don't know". JA is one of the few organizations that actually help students get that exposure with programs such as Job Shadow, Entrepreneurship and JA Titan Programs. Also from grades 1 to 12 JA has the best educational programs of any non profit. I am not aware of any teacher, who once exposed to the JA programs, doesn't want to continue it. I have been watching the positive results for over 30 years.
Review from Guidestar
I was a fairly good student growing up. My grandparents, who believed in education and instilled in me the same sensibility, raised me. However, early in life, a series of unfortunate events derailed my momentum. I soon lost the desire for learning and subsequently repeated the 9th grade - twice. As I entered my third go-around, I concluded that an education was not as important as my grandparents portrayed it and dropped out of school. Simply put, it was the worst decision of my life.
Now, I did not come to that conclusion immediately. After many years, I came to understand that my grandparents were correct and that completing high school and attending college are paramount to happiness and success. Thankfully, I had many great mentors along the way - people who saw something in me and encouraged me to see it as well. One of those individuals was Jacques DeVillier, former President and CEO, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts.
I met Jacques when I began volunteering for Junior Achievement. We became friendly and had great conversations about financial literacy, economic empowerment, and life. When he learned I was a dropout, he mounted a campaign for me to earn my GED and continue to college. I fought him on the idea, mostly because of the same youthful ignorance that led me to leave school in the first place. He was tenacious, and I eventually relented. Our friendship taught me a very valuable lesson - there are caring people who want to see you succeed. This success is different for different people. Some are successful in the attainment of wealth, while others inspire through knowledge or passion. Each of us has something to contribute, and we don’t always recognize it until we are challenged.
I continued to volunteer for Junior Achievement throughout college. Several years ago, I was invited a student ceremony. That night, several High School Heroes, which are student volunteers serving as peer-to-peer teachers, spoke. All of these kids said that, if it wasn’t for the education they received from JA programs, they would have dropped out of high school. Because of my own challenges, I was moved by their stories and impressed with the impact of JA’s programs. In our community, graduation rates are alarming low - approximately 50 percent in both Springfield and Holyoke. As one on my personal philosophies is, “You can’t complain about something unless you’re working to change it,” I requested to join the board of directors.
Fast forward to 2012. I’m a college graduate and serve Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (the birthplace of Junior Achievement) as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. I’m proud to work as a part of a team delivering this powerful curriculum to over 11,500 kids each year. We have hundreds of volunteers and contributors who support our efforts in helping children own their economic success.
As you’ve seen from my story, a relationship with Junior Achievement is transformative, and not just for students who come to understand the importance of an education and aspire to be a productive member of our economy. Volunteers, board members, and many others have had their lives changed through helping us achieve our mission.
Review from Guidestar