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
"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
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.
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
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, nursing...you 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
The national organization
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