What will inspire young people to prepare themselves to succeed in today’s global economy? That is the question that sparked the interest of local business leaders and county educators in a pilot program with the Junior Achievement organization. The Junior Achievement (JA) is a worldwide organization based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is the largest organization dedicated to educating students in work readiness and entrepreneurship.
Junior Achievement was founded in 1912 by Theodore Vail, president of the American Telephone and Telegraph; Horace Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Company; and Senator Murray Crane of Massachusetts. It started by offering after school programs to high school students. Today JA programs can be found in Elementary, Middle and High schools and includes in-class and after-school programs.
The Junior Achievement purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to grow and succeed in today’s competitive and complex work force. Volunteers involved with the JA program include business professionals, college students, parents, and retirees. These volunteers believe in the potential of young students and provide insight into the principles of a market based economy and entrepreneurship. They respect the talents, creativity, perspectives, and backgrounds of all students and implement motivational and relevant hands on learning. The JA program promotes active learning and global perspectives on the theory of life through the dynamic interaction between students and volunteers.
Three Junior Achievement programs were implemented in the fall semester of this school year in four different classrooms at Brevard High, Rosman High, and Davidson River School. The programs focused on personal financial literacy, success skills for quality employees, and the skills needed to be a successful business entrepreneur. The JA materials are integrated into the lessons already planned in each subject so as to complement what is already being learned. Each JA course is implemented over five to seven sessions lasting anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes for each session.
Dr. Scott Elliott, Director of Career Technical Education for the county schools, welcomes this new partnership with local business and industry leaders.
“We have two primary reasons for implementing JA in our schools. First, we want to increase the involvement of local business and industry leaders in our career and technical education programs. It helps us to better understand and teacher the skills employers need in the work force, and it also helps business leaders better understand the quality of the programs and instruction we have in place.” Elliott stated. “ Second, we have to be doing more to educate our young people about their financial decisions. How to budget their money, how to use credit cards responsibly, and how to plan for their financial futures are important topics where I believe JA can help.”
The 2009-2010 JA pilot program was funded by a grant provided by United Way of Transylvania County. The program is being supported by volunteers from local businesses as well as members of the Senior Resource Network. According to Bill Layton with the Transylvania County Department of Economic Development, the Senior Resource Network is a group of local business professionals who are willing and dedicated to volunteer in hopes to produce globally competitive students. These volunteers attended a training session with JA staff members before entering the classroom. During this training they received lesson plans and materials needed to carry out objectives based on the specific goals in the classroom program.
“We are especially grateful to the United Way Executive Committee for approving our application and for funding Junior Achievement course materials. The majority of the volunteer instructors are from the counties Senior Resource Network. They are talented people who are committed to doing a excellent job with this pilot program.”- William Layton, Senior Resource Committee
Below is a brief glance at the JA program objectives at each participating school and a few quotes on the impact the teachers and volunteers noticed.
JA Success Skills at Davidson River School- helps students develop work-readiness skills necessary for professional success. This course has been incorporated in Laura Smith’s career management class in order to emphasis the importance of business etiquette.
Laura Smith, teacher at DRS, commented: “It was very rewarding for me as a teacher to see students feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after their job interviews. My students greeted local business with an introduction and a handshake and discussed career goals and ambitions in a networking exercise. Validation from the business community was just they right prescription for their self esteem and self worth, and they gave the whole program 100% of their effort.”
Joe Kolinsky, a Senior Resource Network member, volunteered at DRS and participated in the mock interviews as part of the program objective. He stated: “With the exception of a slight case of the nerves, which is to be expected, the students came equipped with Cover Letter, Resume, and Application. I got a firm handshake and 5 minutes of eye contact with their focus on giving me solid examples as to why they are the “Best Candidate.” They all exhibited maturity, confidence, pleasing personality and to contradict what you hear about today’s youth, they all had a realistic career plan for their future. I don’t know how the pre/post test will turn out but I can tell you from my observation of these students, the practical application of the skills learned all deserve a A+.”
JA High School Financial Planning Program at Brevard High School-introduces students to the importance of making wise financial decisions. The program emphasizes the significance of planning, goal setting, and thoughtful decision making within the context of personal financial decisions. Rebecca McCord and Mark McCann integrated this objective within their Civics and Economics classes were students begin to study personal finances.
Mr. McCann, teacher at BHS, speaks highly on the impact the JA program has had in his classroom. “This has been a very enlightening program for my students. Having someone from the community with practical experience in financial matters speaking to them about making smart economic choices has opened knew academic goals. The students really enjoyed the interactive activities that were part of the Junior Achievement lesson plan. I think it is very important for students to cultivate relationships with adult members of the community as it can conceivably help them with their career once they graduate high school or college. “
JA Be Entrepreneurial at Rosman High School- challenges students to start an entrepreneurial venture while still in high school. Key learning objectives help students understand what it takes to start and carry out a business professionally. Lisa Gillespie has included this program with her small business and entrepreneurship class to emphasize the importance of understanding the global economy, business demographics and strategic business plans.
Kim Green is a local Bank Manager who volunteered to assist in Lisa Gillespie’s business classes. After his experience at RHS he noted that: “This program is an excellent opportunity for our high school students to have interaction with local business leaders. This interaction is an opportunity for them to discuss important issues that impact small businesses. Students have shown a desire to learn how a business is operated and the issues that a business owner faces in their day to day operations. The JA program is a good supplement to the business curriculum that we have in Transylvania County Schools.”
Each program at each school had positive results and all students were motivated throughout the entire course. A certificate of course completion was given to each student to represent graduating from the JA program. The motivations sparked by the JA program continue into the standard course of study for the class. Teachers have seen a students begin to think globally and are more aware of the competitive work force and job opportunities found in today’s tough economy. Many now see what skills should be acquired at the secondary level to be successful right out of high school whether it be post-secondary school or an occupation.
Dr. Elliott hopes to continue working with Layton and the Senior Resource Network to incorporate the Junior Achievement program into more Career Technical education classes and into middle schools as well.
“Our students benefit greatly any time we have the opportunity to bring in business and industry experts into the classroom. Seeing the volunteers and our teachers working together, and seeing how well our students have responded to the program, is very exciting,” stated Elliott.
“We will be systematically evaluating the courses and measuring the results of this project so that it can be continued in future school years. We are already planning to extend simplified versions of the program into the Middle Schools” states Layton.
The JA program not only helps prepare students for the real world but teaches by example how to manage it. The potential these students have to generate wealth and create jobs for their communities is outstanding. When you see students put knowledge acquired in JA lessons into action, they will strengthen not only their own futures, but the futures of their family, school, community, and global society.