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Junior Achievement

Insider Info

Looking for a fun way to get your feet wet in the world of business? Consider signing up for Junior Achievement (JA). JA delivers business education programs in schools across Canada, the United States and more than 100 countries around the world.

"It's a value-added take on what they are already learning in school, and, in some cases, material they may not ever get otherwise," says Edwin Bodensiek. He works with JA.

Junior Achievement teaches students how to build resumes, make basic business decisions and learn how to build good relationships. Students learn to handle personal money, too.

"We are growing in North America," Bodensiek says. "In the United States alone, in the last 10 years we have jumped from serving one million students to four million students."

Students can choose from many activities. Elementary students learn business basics. Older students can learn about banks, investments and running a real business.

The students learn from real businesspeople.

"JA programs offer a volunteer from the community, a caring adult with real-life experiences that often turns into a mentor. The JA experience is not complete without the presence of a volunteer -- that person represents the heart of what we do," Bodensiek says.

Volunteers may be small business owners or members of large companies. They work with students from kindergarten through Grade 12.

John Dale is a JA graduate and volunteer board member in Brainerd, Minnesota. Dale says local JA volunteers visit students' classrooms five to 12 times, depending on the age. They teach pre-developed JA material.

"The materials are easy to follow and are activity based. Not much lecturing goes on. They also do some sort of activity to teach the topics," Dale says.

So how do students put their new knowledge to work? They can create products and design advertising campaigns to sell their goods. Students' ideas range from gift baskets to media technology.

Adam Dickinson was in the JA Company Program in high school. "During the Company Program, the students involved were given great opportunity to learn and exhibit leadership skills," he says.

"Each night the executive teams, the peer-appointed leaders, would meet and decide on an agenda to follow. With this outline, the executives and the rest of the achievers, leaders in their own right, would work together to produce product, to set goals and policies, to run a company and to succeed."

Students learn about business, citizenship, economics, entrepreneurship, ethics, financial literacy and career development. There's even a job shadow program designed to introduce students to workplaces.

Getting Started

Teachers usually invite JA into the schools. But JA is not limited to the classroom. Students who want to try business on their own can tap into the Internet for free games and activities.

"One example is JA Titan, a fun business game where you can play against your friends," says Bodensiek.

"The programs are definitely fun," he adds. "We have been known for our fun programs for a long time. Whether young elementary school students are building a city, developing an ad campaign or, later in high school, playing JA Titan, they're having fun."

That kind of fun could lead to a good job. It can also open doors to business scholarships and opportunities to join trade trips to other countries.

"It is a resume builder, as many corporate types are very familiar with JA," Bodensiek says.

"The person interviewing you for a job may have been a JA volunteer! If they weren't, explain that you took JA in school and have an interest in the business world. That kind of interest in a young person says a lot to most adults."

Bodensiek says skills developed through JA go far beyond the business world. JA graduates have become vice-presidents, photographers and technicians.

"The experience applies to any field," Bodensiek says. "Even if you want to go into, say, still have to be in control of your own finances. You still have to interact with others in a positive way. That's what we are about: equipping our youth with success skills, teaching them about the economics of life."


Junior Achievement
The national organization

Student Entrepreneurship Guides
From the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance

Business Ideas for Teens
Teen entrepreneurs are on the rise

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.