Junior Achievement strives inspire the next generation to be financially capable, tenacious, and equipped with the skills to manage risk effectively, solve problems creatively, and welcome opportunity in a complex modern economy.
During the 2014-2015 school year, Junior Achievement (JA) of Greater Washington served more than 55,000 students with more than 500,000 hours of classroom instruction led by JA volunteers.
“Essentially, we seek to give DC, MD, and VA students hope for the future and the vision to see what's possible,” said Sarah Dohl, JA of Greater Washington’s vice president of communications. “We believe we can do that through a continuum of experiential programs taught by a volunteer from the community.”
It begins with two simple steps: 1) A school requests one of JA’s financial literacy programs. 2) JA provides the school with a volunteer from the business sector and local community to teach that program.
JA’s programs give students hands-on learning experiences. “Our Board recently approved a $25 million, 5-year campaign to expand the JA Finance Park program and our work in the region's high schools,” Dohl shares. In the Finance Park program, students create real-world budgets.
IS THE AMERICAN DREAM ALIVE?
“Is the American Dream alive?” Junior Achievement of Greater Washington asked its students in the 2015 Junior Achievement Essay Competition. The competition is just one way that JA challenges its students to connect what they’re learning in school with what’s happening in the world around them.
The first place winners in the DMV receive $10,000 scholarships, and a grand-prize winner receives $20,000.
JA volunteer Eva Cichy has worked with Junior Achievement for four years, first in classroom programs, then as a judge for the 2015 essay competition. Eva started to volunteer when she worked for a financial regulatory company, and has continued now that she is retired.
“I get a sense of fulfillment every time I walk out of the classroom,” Eva said. “The best part of volunteering is talking to the kids and hearing their perspectives. Kids are our future. I believe that we need to give them all that we can.”
George C. Marshall High School senior Anya Karaman discusses her experiences as a JA volunteer and student.
DDG: What did you gain as a volunteer?
Anya: You get to see firsthand how these children are benefiting from information that really is overlooked a lot. Also, you as a volunteer get to learn and benefit from the information being taught. The information may seem trivial, but it’s actually the basic foundations of finance and economics that are also overlooked by grown adults.
DDG: How has JA impacted your goals?
Anya: It has given me the opportunity to do something—not just write an essay, not just plan an event. It put us, as high school students, in a place where we could actually teach other students and see how our impact was being received. It has made me reconsider what kind of fields I want to go into as an adult. It has shown me that there’s a whole world ahead of me; I haven’t even scratched the surface of how I can give.
DDG: Why should volunteers work with JA?
Anya: Thinking about doing something in a classroom, and actually going out to do something are two incredibly different things. To see yourself as a teacher, as a real leader— is inspiring. By being a volunteer, I am a leader.
All images provided by Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.
About the Author: Chanté Griffin is a former employee of Junior Achievement of Southern California. Tweet with her at @yougochante