Crystal Law, Director of Financial Literacy Experiences, and Laura Goodman, VP of Volunteer Engagement join us to discuss Junior Achievement.
Junior Achievement has been around for 100 years. In the beginning, Junior Achievement started as an after school program where students would learn more about business from a company. Since then, it has expanded to include entrepreneurship and financial literacy in its programs.
Our programs are taught by volunteers. And they’re truly the backbone of what we do. They’re the reason we exist. They’re really what differentiates Junior Achievement from any other organization.
The organization works with close to 250,000 volunteers that reach over 4.8 million students.
With over 100 local offices, there is at least one in every state. The programs in each local office are driven based on the local markets. The offices work to cater to the needs of their community. That might include creating individual content for some events or meeting the needs of the school or business partner.
Evolution Through The Decades
The first program of Junior Achievement was an after school program that focused on students learning more about business and creating products to sell. Over the decades, the programs have evolved. In the 1990s, Junior Achievement added capstone programs. These programs, JA Finance Park and JA Biztown, focus on hands-on learning after an in-class curriculum taught by the teachers. At the end of the curriculum, the students attend a virtual or live stimulation where they apply the lessons they learned in the classroom.
Since the original program, JA has grown. The company has over 20 programs across elementary and high school grades. Based on the feedback from local offices, they’ve been able to add on even more programs.
The main focus throughout the decades has been student success. Junior Achievement strives to get them on the path to productive adult lives with solid financial foundations.
As the company continues to spread the message, they are working to be a better experience provider through JA pathways. They are working on ways for students to focus on competencies, such as financial literacy. The students can master that content and take it with them.
How To Start Talking About Personal Finance
As many of us know, it can be extremely difficult to get a personal finance conversation started. If you are volunteering with JA, then you would be guided through the process in a course outline.
A good place to start is to see what your audience already knows. For example, a JA program might start by asking how many in the class have been to a bank and what they remember about that experience. Then you might lead to a story about your own experience at a bank.
I think starting that conversation, being able to tell a story, and get people comfortable and related is great.
If you were volunteering for JA, then you would be trained on this.
The three pillars of JA are Work and Career Readiness, Entrepreneurship, and Financial Literacy Skills. JA is striving to be a better solution provider, with being a stronger partnership with local schools and business. This will help students be prepared with financial literacy for changing and competitive economic landscapes.
JA “Ah-ha” Moments
Crystal was in the banking industry and did not have any teaching experience. She was first exposed to JA as a volunteer in the classroom. Crystal found that the program was turn-key for a volunteer. It had talking points, prompts, and discussion questions to bring to the class. For example, she talked about saving and asked about what these children have already saved up for.
…getting a chance through any of the JA programs we offer; students being able to think about, make a decision on their own, and apply their knowledge–you really see their eyes light up. The light bulb moment comes on.
When she participated in a stimulation, she found that high schoolers were very interested. They were tasked with creating a budget based on the needs of their fictional families from the scenario. It was great to watch them have the ‘ah-ha’ moment.
Junior Achievement And FI
Since this show is dedicated to FI, Crystal and Laura shared their views on how it is being incorporated at Junior Achievement.
We teach financial literacy. It’s really that first step for anyone, whether you are a student or an adult, to have and gain the knowledge and skills about managing your financial resources, right?! And then we’ve seen a lot of trends and a shift from financial literacy to financial capability. So really, you know, taking all the knowledge and skills, having the attitude and making the decision, the conscious choice to change your behavior and take action in making better and smarter money management decisions.
The goal is for these students to reach a point where they can take the information to make better financial decisions. The end game is for these students to reach a point of financial well-being or financial independence based on their financial literacy.
If you are interested in helping spread the message of financial literacy in schools, then you’re in luck. Junior Achievement has a myriad of volunteer opportunities available to you based on your interests and available time.
For grades K-5, the focus of the programs are Financial Literacy, Work Readiness, and Entrepreneurship. In middle school and high school, there are more in-class, after school, and capstone experiences available. The kids are older, so the curriculum is able to dive into more detail that includes employment, income, budgeting, saving, spending, financial institutions, bank accounts, identity theft prevention, investing, charity, and different economic perspectives.
If you want to get involved, contact the local office. Local office staff will be able to find the program that will work best for you. You can volunteer as an individual or a group. Volunteering with JA is really turn-key, everything is ready for you to “plug-in and play.”
The most traditional volunteer experience is an in-class program that you do on a session by session basis that each last about 30-45 minutes. A four to six-hour volunteer opportunity is JA in a Day which teaches a program to an entire grade level or participates in a JA Finance Park or JA Biztown. Another opportunity is the JA Company program where students think through a business with assistance. You could also get involved through JA Job Shadows or JA Inspire events.
The JA Experience
Most students that work with Junior Achievement receive approximately 5 to 10 hours of contact. As the students get older, the programs become longer. JA is even in the process of developing semester-long courses about economics which includes a useful e-book.
It does vary by area but we are seeing more and more areas who are saying we are going to be intentional in this district or in this county that every student in third, fifth, seventh, ninth, you know whatever the grade mapping looks like. That they are going to get that consistent and consecutive dose of Junior Achievement.
Parents can get involved in JA because each program has a take-home component. JA My Way is a great place to get started. The site has a career assessment that will suggest careers and ideas for scholarships and grants that parents are welcome to explore. As the JA Pathways program develops, the parent journey and involvement will become more important as students start to use JA outside of the classroom.
Junior Achievement is working to redevelop the JA Finance Parks to expose students to a broader span of adult life. The redesign and update will help to further enhance the student experience.
The Hot Seat
Favorite Blog: Crystal. Not a blog but a book. The Harry Potter series but specifically the Goblet of Fire.
What is an inflection point in your life that was especially memorable or meaningful? Laura. She has spent 14 years with JA and it was her first job out of college. In that first role, she worked for an amazing woman in a male-dominated world. Learning from her was very pivotal for a successful journey.
Favorite Life Hack: Crystal. She carries around different size binder clips for all kinds of uses such as an airplane phone holder.
Biggest Financial Mistake: Laura. Dating someone who had a bad financial history. She learned the hard way that supporting someone without being able to change their financial ways doesn’t always work out well.
The advice you would give your younger self: Laura. Don’t ever think you can’t do it. Just try it, what if it works?
Bonus! In the last 12 months, what purchase has brought the most value to your life? Crystal. A premium subscription to the Calm app.
New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!