Today was my first day as a Junior Achievement volunteer. It was exciting, exhilarating and exhausting. I was in Junior Achievement in high school, and I thought it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. Junior Achievement gives students a chance to learn about the various career paths available to them in our country. It also gives students a chance to gain financial literacy and take advantage of the opportunities available to them. As it is stated on the JA website: “Junior Achievement’s purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.” Junior Achievement’s core values are as follows:
BELIEF IN THE BOUNDLESS POTENTIAL OF YOUNG PEOPLE
COMMITMENT TO THE PRINCIPLES OF MARKET-BASED ECONOMICS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
PASSION FOR WHAT WE DO AND HONESTY, INTEGRITY, AND EXCELLENCE IN HOW WE DO IT
RESPECT FOR THE TALENTS, CREATIVITY, PERSPECTIVES, AND BACKGROUNDS OF ALL INDIVIDUALS
BELIEF IN THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIP AND COLLABORATION
CONVICTION IN THE EDUCATIONAL AND MOTIVATIONAL IMPACT OF RELEVANT, HANDS-ON LEARNING
In case you are not familiar with Junior Achievement, Junior Achievement is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to make the right choices to be successful in their lives, both academically and economically. JA reaches more than 4.8 million students per year in 209,651 classrooms. JA programs are taught by 237,680 volunteers in all 50 states. JA is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students achieve their maximum potential.
Junior Achievement was founded in 1919 by Theodore Vail, president of American Telephone & Telegraph; Horace Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Co.; and Senator Murray Crane of Massachusetts. Its first program, JA Company Program®, was offered to high school students on an after-school basis.
When I was in JA, we learned how businesses operated. We met once a week, and pretty much organized our own companies. We named our company, elected officers, and decided on a product. We sold shares of stock for $1 door to door to pay for our supplies. After assembling our product, if you were lucky you were able to pay back your stockholders. We were particularly lucky, in addition to paying back our stockholders we paid out a 25% dividend and still had enough money left to take our entire company out for a fancy dinner!
In 1975, the organization entered the classroom with the introduction of Project Business for the middle grades. Junior Achievement now has activities both during and after-school. students.
I decided to give back some of what I gained from Junior Achievement and the volunteers who guided us on our way. Junior Achievement has come a long way from my JA days. For one thing, now JA has programs for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. I was so anxious to get started I volunteered for two fifth grade classrooms at a local school. I was very nervous before my first session, but I needn’t have been. JA supports its volunteers every step of the way with wonderful preparation materials and program guidance.
The five sessions for “Our Country” went so fast! Too fast. Before I knew it, it was time to say good-bye to the students and teachers. I received so much more than I gave. Those kids touched my heart and I will remember them always. I look forward to volunteering for Junior Achievement again next school year. If just one student leaves our time together with some inspiration I will consider this endeavor one of the most valuable and rewarding of my life.
The only thing holding Junior Achievement back from even greater success is a lack of volunteers. You don’t have to have any special qualifications, just a willingness to try. You won’t regret it.
Till the next time,
“Nothing Liberates Our Greatness Like the Desire to Help, the Desire to Serve.”