JA Company Program Shapes the Life of an Alum

A recent graduate of the JA Company Program named Alexander Walker-Griffin from Hercules, California shares how the impact of Junior Achievement shaped him into the young man he is today.

In addition to going to college, Alexander also helps the JA Northern California office with student recruitment for the program. He attributes his success to JA, specifically the JA Company Program and Herban Movement, the student company he participated in.

Under Hercules High School’s Academy of Hospitality and International Tourism, the JA Company Program provided over 200 students with entrepreneurial experience. Herban Movement sold products such as Herban Dishes, a cookbook-encyclopedia hybrid written entirely by students. The company also worked on Project Gaia, a line of reusable multipurpose bags supporting California’s ban on plastic bags. Portions of Herban Movement’s profits were donated to the California Autism Foundation and to Free the Children.

In addition to attending college and helping out JA of Northern California, Alexander is running for a seat on the Hercules City Council, making him the youngest person running for office in the state of California.

Alexander says: “I am on a one way trip to achieving my dreams. For anyone who wants to be a part of something great, this is the thing for you. Junior Achievement will bring out the inner leader in all of us and will leave you with lifelong friends, connections in different careers, and more opportunities and memories that will last a lifetime. I can truly say I am a blessed person to be a part of such an amazing company!”


Volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base Teach More than Financial Lessons to Area Students

Original Story from Junior Achievement of Rocky Mountain

The men and women who serve the United States of America at Buckley Air Force Base are guided by three core values –” integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” Service before self. This tenant holds true in the work that these airmen and women do as committed community volunteers for Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain (JA).

In 2014, JA launched a partnership with Buckley Air Force Base to recruit and train interested personnel to serve as JA classroom volunteers. Since that time, more than 40 individuals have contributed their time and talents to students in K-8 classrooms in Denver and Cherry Creek Public Schools.

“Given their hectic and demanding jobs, we’re grateful that so many service people have made the time to volunteer and to help us reach an increasing number of young people,” said Angie Moran, K-8 Program Manager for JA.

“It’s important for kids to meet and learn from military personnel who are serving our country. They not only learn about the economic and financial lessons that our volunteers teach, but also learn what it’s like to serve in the military and about the sacrifices many individuals make to protect America’s freedoms.”

In 2015, Buckley Air Force volunteers taught nearly 20 classes at Indian Ridge Elementary School in Aurora, and in 2016 have worked with students at Aspen Crossing Elementary School and Holm Elementary School.

“I believe that understanding personal finance, economics and the free trade system is so important for our nation’s kids,” said Aleksey Lazarev, SrA, USAFR. “And it’s rewarding to see that military personnel can share unique perspectives and experiences with students, which can enhance what’s happening in the classroom. I’ve volunteered six different times for JA in a Day programs, and I plan to continue,” added Lazarev.

Schedules can be difficult and individuals are deployed at varying times, but this doesn’t keep a steady flow of service men and women from fulfilling an ongoing commitment to serve as role models and teachers to local students.

“I encourage others – on and off base – to volunteer with JA. It’s a rewarding opportunity to work with kids and to build relationships with the local community,” added Lazarev.

Service before self – it’s a value that is alive and well among the dedicated JA volunteers from Buckley Air Force Base.


JA’s Long-Lasting Impact

Original Story from Junior Achievement of Kansas, Wichita District

Aggie, a longtime JA volunteer of Meritrust Credit Union, recently learned how long-lasting the positive impact of JA can be. Her oldest daughter, a seventh grader, was cheering at a football game. As Aggie watched Madison cheer, she kept thinking that one of the other cheerleaders looked really familiar. At halftime, Aggie walked up to her daughter and the cheerleaders.

“I know you!” said Bailey, the familiar-looking girl. Aggie was Bailey’s JA volunteer when she was in first grade at Bostic Elementary, the very first school where Aggie started her JA volunteering. Bailey told Madison that Aggie had been an awesome volunteer.  Aggie was so touched that six years later, that little first grader she taught for such a brief period of time would remember her.


Madison, Aggie, & Bailey 

“You volunteer and you wonder if you’re really making a difference. Last night reinforced my passion for Junior Achievement, knowing that I am making a difference in these young lives,” Aggie said.

JA Business Plan Challenge Offers Sweet Rewards to High School Entrepreneurs in Birmingham

Original Story from Junior Achievement of Alabama

Six teams of students from local high schools competed for top honors in the seventh annual JA BusinessPlan Challenge on May 3, 2016 at RSM US LLP. Presented by Vulcan Value Partners, the JA Business Plan Challenge focuses on challenging high school students through interactive classroom activities to start an entrepreneurial venture.

Prior to the competition, the finalists participated in JA Be Entrepreneurial, a seven-session, volunteer-led program sponsored by the UPS Foundation which pairs teachers, mentors, and JA volunteers from the local business community with students to create business plans based on their unique product or service ideas.  Nearly 50 applications were submitted to this year’s JA Business Plan Challenge. Six teams were chosen to advance to the final round where they pitched their plans to a panel of judges. Participating students explained their plans for producing, distributing, and marketing their product. They also addressed social and ethical responsibilities, and explained their personal management style and past business experience.

William Judy from Hoover High School took top honors with Twist-It, a cleaning tool for racing spikes. Judy, a cross country track athlete, was passionate about solving a problem that so many track athletes face: clogged up spikes affecting performance.

Judy was joined at the JA Business Plan Challenge by the following finalists:

Carlee Bennett and Emily Leonard from Hewitt-Trussville High School received the second-place award of $2,000 for ConnectPG, an app that allows parents to monitor their kids social media accounts.

Akira Bell and Saniya Widerman from Huffman High School received the third-place award of $1,000 for their business Sugar & Spice, a home-based bakery that provides sculpted pop cakes made fresh to order.

Spencer Hurst from Hoover High School, owner of Bamboo – a social media advertising service; Jarred Turnbow from Hewitt-Trussville High School, owner of Put It Down – a subscription based app that allows parents to disable their child’s texting capabilities while driving; and James Aguirre and Jarrett Anthony from Hoover High School, owners of Kreative Threads – a t-shirt business catering to individual designers, each received $500.

“The JA Business Plan Challenge shows how Junior Achievement is fostering the next generation of startup founders in the Greater Birmingham area – which is extremely important to our community and the burgeoning entrepreneurial opportunities of the area,” said Richard Murray, President of Junior Achievement. “Programs like the Business Plan Challenge allow JA to work with schools and community leaders to promote entrepreneurship and the importance of new local economic opportunity to all generations.”

2016 Judges:

Matt Campbell, BBVA Compass & Tavern on 1st

Isaac Cooper, Boundary Stone Financial, LLC

Chad Trull, Hospicelink

Jewel Williams, Learning Little People

Lee Ann Petty, Regions Bank

Dr. Anthony Hood, UAB Collat School of Business (Keynote Speaker)



Dr. Sylvia A. Price & Patricia Hickey

Junior Achievement (JA) an organization dedicated to educating young people to learn about money, careers and starting businesses.  JA USA is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to educating students in K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs to help young people understand the economics of life. Volunteers representing the Manatee  County Branch,  American Association of University Women (AAUW), Manatee County Branch, the Anna Maria Island Kiwanis Club, Junior Achievement Organization and the community participated in this program for second, third and fifth graders at Anna Maria Elementary.

We transferred to a JA day format this year, where we went to the school for a half-day and volunteers present all five lessons in one sitting.  This works better for volunteers because they are able to set aside one day to come in and serve the students, and teachers are able to free up one morning to bring financial literacy information into their classroom.


Priscilla Sewald taught Mrs. Newhall’s second graders How a Community Works. Since this was her initial experience teaching Junior Achievement, she was apprehensive but stated “What a delightful experience it was.”   They discussed businesses and jobs, distinguishing unit versus assembly line production and the decision making process and how money flows through a community.   The concepts of individually (unit production) and in groups (assembly line production) were used to produce donuts.

A few days later, Priscilla received a packet of thank you notes tied with a green ribbon.  They thanked her for teaching them about jobs in the community, money and especially that everyone pays taxes.  One of the students stated, “The day was fun. I learned so much and the donuts were so great, I would have paid $50 for it.”  All had a good day!

Taylor Vogelsang worked with Karen Newhall’s 2nd grade classroom where they covered looking at the variety of careers that people have in a community, practice producing goods and services by making donuts. Students also practiced paying taxes to pay for government services such as roads and schools. They also practiced decision making and voting by holding a mock election in the classroom to decide what their school needs, and learned how money moves from the US mint and throughout our community.

OUR CITY        

Adam Ksiazek’s goal was to present a meaningful and educational program on “Our City” to Mrs. Ensworth ‘s third grade class. The level of participation was outstanding as the discussion focused on planning, zoning, residential, business, industrial, farming and mixed).  Money was emphasized since banks, saving accounts, checking accounts, credit cards; debit cards and currency are involved.  Next, a restaurant was selected to start a business since an entrepreneur, staff; type of food and location was needed.
Since a city provides services  (police, fireman, water, schools and more) is one of the reasons for property taxes.   Each student had a $250 bank account and the game, similar to monopoly, they played focused on receiving or paying money. Then, each student disclosed how much money they had in the bank and the differences were discussed.

The program was presented in a workshop format, three hours rather than five one-hour sessions.  The disadvantage is that they were unable to take home materials and review them with their parents or siblings.

Patricia Hickey worked with Dr. Laura Redeker’s third grade classroom and stated, ‘that in a three hour workshop format, we built a city!”  Students learned to identify the different zones used in city planning and apply the information to organize businesses.  Also, they decided where homes, condos, businesses, schools and churches, farms and an airport should be placed.   Additionally, students focused on the interdependence of consumers, producers and entrepreneurs. The concepts of communication via newspaper, television, radio, and digital communications were also emphasized.


Sylvia Price enjoyed working with Mrs. Mary Miller, as she was an integral part of the fifth-grade class during the session.  Sylvia discussed the concept of free enterprise that permits individuals to make choices in their economic roles and entrepreneurship–imagination, innovative thinking, and management skills that are needed to start and operate a business.

The important concepts discussed were the importance and differences between human (people who do work that a business needs), capital (buildings, tools, machines and money} and natural resources (air, water, minerals, trees, graphite, clay). The need for workers with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM SKILLS) was also stressed.  The students using these concepts incorporated their ideas into forming new businesses.

They examined and analyzed the skills needed for jobs, and the ones they would be most interested in acquiring.  The importance of interviewing skills, writing a resume and career opportunities were discussed. Lastly, they explored how our nation is connected to the global economy competing for business or workers around the world.  The students played a fascinating game  “Mystery Puzzle Cards” where they walk around the room in search of others who have a puzzle card that matches their own piece of the product.  Once they discover their product, they discussed the resources needed to produce that product. Since global trade specialization lowers the cost of making products it will reduce prices enabling consumers to benefit from more choices and lower prices.

We appreciate the volunteers who contributed to the success of this program and to Taylor Vogelsang, Education Coordinator, Sarasota/Manatee/Pinellas JA, for her guidance and support.

2015-2016 JA (of Abilene) Educator of the Year – Leslye Roberts

Original Story from Junior Achievement of Abilene

We all have educators who inspired and prepared us to become better people than we were before meeting them. For some, it’s a coach, others a music instructor, and classroom instructors affect us all. Sometimes, however, the counselors and administrators don’t get recognized due to the nature of a job that isn’t on the front lines of education. In the case of selecting the JA Educator of the Year, it was easy to see the impact of the Instruction Coordinator at Abilene ISD‘s Lee Elementary School.

Leslye Roberts is not in the classroom each day anymore now that she is no longer a teacher, but now affects a larger number of students in her role as the campus’ Instruction Coordinator. Leslye also served as the campus’ JA Coordinator. Leslye took it upon herself to study the correlations between the JA programs and state standards for each grade level (K through 5th), compare this to the time on the calendar scheduled to teach their financial literacy curriculum, and chose to place the JA in a Day at Lee Elementary School square in the middle of the Spring semester to raise the students’ awareness and ability to comprehend financial literacy components.

The relationship between JA and Lee Elementary School began a year ago when JA of Abilene received a $13,000 grant from the Dian Graves Owen Foundation to increase JA programs in AISD’s lower income elementary schools. After a thorough selection process, Lee was chosen to be the most recent school added to the JA program mix.

Leslye scheduled an in-person training for each teacher by JA staff, allowed JA staff to present at an in-service meeting, helped JA personnel each step of the way, encouraged students and teachers to anticipate the JA experience, and collected same-day thank you cards from each student for their volunteer to receive. Leslye went above and beyond to make Junior Achievement as effective as possible. Leslye chose to inspire and prepare the students at Lee Elementary School to be successful young people

Thank you for everything Leslye Roberts!


After School Club Inspires Financial Awareness for Campus Youth

Board Member Valerie Muka of Evans Bank brings Junior Achievement program to Lynde School

As a commercial loan officer at Evans Bank, Valerie Muka understands the significance of strong financial awareness at any age. As a member of our board of directors, she recognizes the importance of engaging youth who struggle through the ins and outs of financial stability. And as a mom of two, she has a heart for equipping future generations of our community  by volunteering her time.

Led by Valerie, Evans Bank kicked-off an after-school program for youth residing on our Main Street Campus. The four week initiative was in collaboration with Junior Achievement of Western New York.

“I learned as much from the kids as I hope they learned from me,” said Valerie. “We talked through aspects of personal finance, but the group really excelled. They had to create a business, come up with budgets for advertising and meeting payroll, and look to make a profit at the end of the day. It was amazing how creative this team could be!”

Upon completion of the program, Evans Bank hosted youth for a tour of their Clarence Branch. They also presented each participant with  a certificate of achievement and provided a celebratory dinner.

Thank you Valerie Muka and Evans Bank for making a difference by providing students with financial education.

Original Story from Gateway-Longview, Inc.