Tommie Barfield Elementary second graders were in for a treat this year when Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida brought the “Our Community” program to each of their classes. Special guest speakers included local businessmen and women, from financiers, government officials, entrepreneurs and more.
So what is Junior Achievement? JA’s website indicates, “JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. The program allows volunteers from the community to deliver our curriculum while sharing their experiences with students. Embodying the heart of JA, our classroom volunteers transform the key concepts of our lessons into a message that inspires and empowers students to believe in themselves, showing them they can make a difference in the world. Students put these lessons into actionand learn the value of contributing to their communities.”
One community volunteer is partnered with each individual class. The six volunteers teaching the programs at Tommie Barfield this year were: Tarik Ayasun of Taray International, Jamie Bergen of Harbor Investments, Raul Medina of Suntrust Bank, Bruce Graev of Diagnostics Financial Group, Jennifer Stanley with Mutual Bank of Omaha and Bonnie Zaikov with Realty Executives, each successful in their careers. Tarik, Jamie, Raul and Bruce are all members of the Marco Noontime Rotary.
In November of last year, Brittany Dixon, Program Manager at Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida (JASWFL), spoke to the Rotary members to raise awareness of JA programs and to drum up additional community volunteers to teach the programs in the classrooms. William Laimbeer, Sr., a Rotarian, was instrumental in bringing the current program to Marco Island.
The commitment asa JA volunteer is less than 10 hours total, spread out over the course of 5-7 weeks. The lessons are typically taught once a week. The ‘Our Community’ program covers: production (unit and assembly); employment both government and private sector jobs; the role of taxes in a community and how decisions are made through voting. All of the materials are provided as well as comprehensive volunteer training before their first visit to the classroom. This training is conducted by Brittany Dixon and only takes about 30-45 minutes to complete.
The students are exposed to positive role models from the local communities who bring the curriculum to life as they share personal examples and stories within the context of the lessons. The materials include a guide with easy to follow lessons, fun games, interactive discussions, and group activities. About 80%of the program involves the volunteer teaching the JA curriculum and the other 20% is what the volunteer brings to the classroom. As an example, Bonnie Zaikov, a parent volunteer, arranged to bring in special guests such as State Senator Garrett Richter, Legislative Assistant Michael Nachef and Jim Grifoni of Dunkin Donuts to assist with her presentations. They were eager to volunteer.
Tarik Ayasun, a local businessman and winner of the Economic Development Council’s Export Excellence Award, volunteered his time to come to the classroom. This is Tarik’s second time bringing the program to students. Bringing JA to the young students touches his heart, “It is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, teaching second graders about community, government, jobs and opportunities. Some years ago, I participated in the program and liked it. So when the opportunitypresented itself, I signed up immediately.”
Of course, JA’s courses are not limited to elementary education. The JA Economics for Success program is taught to middle school students. With an ongoing middle school initiative in Collier County, this program is taught in approximately 60- 8th grade classrooms across the 10 Collier County Middle Schools. This is a very practical program every student should experience before his or her first year in high school. The program focuses on career exploration (what are the students’ skills, interests and values and how do they align with various career choices?), the importance of staying in school, and teaching students how to be financially savvy (simple budgets, credit scores and how decisions affect it, paying cash vs. credit, and why insurance is needed).
The projected classes JA will bring to the schools this year total 224classes (over 4,200 students) in Collier County in both the public and private schools, but there are still several classes that need to be filled with volunteers in order to reach that number.
These programs are designed to help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.
JA’s unique approach allows volunteers from the community to deliver our curriculum while sharing their experiences with students. Embodying the heart of JA, our classroom volunteers transform the key concepts of our lessons into a message that inspires and empowers students to believe in themselves, showing them they can make a difference in the world.