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Thom F.

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Review for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, Inc., Springfield, MA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

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.

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Role:  Board Member