JA prez meets with Galion business, education leaders
By Sarah Einselen
Ten Galion and county business representatives learned about Junior Achievement opportunities in the area at a Jan. 19 gathering in the Galion Area Chamber of Commerce office with JA of North Central Ohio president Dave Best.
Junior Achievement was founded in 1919 to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. JA programs educate youth about work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy with the help of real-world business mentors. “This was the businessman’s answer to 4-H,” Best said. The North Central Ohio chapter was founded in 1964 and Crawford County’s six-county chapter merged with it in 2008.
Each community business volunteer teaches five to eight hour-long sessions a year in a local K-12 classroom, using a pack of materials that JA provides. In a few classrooms, a volunteer might deliver the session series twice, once in fall and once in spring, and occasionally a class will request a one-time, daylong session called “JA in a Day” instead of the five– to eight-week series.
JA is meant to complement what teachers are already doing in their classrooms.
“Many of our educators are teaching very important skills,” Best said, “but many times when a successful business person comes in, students make a connection—say, ‘ah, now I see.’”
Jennifer Kuns, the lone JA volunteer in Galion schools, illustrated how one of her students connected what she’d been learning to real life.
“We did the pretest and talked about jobs that they may want,” Kuns recounted. “One little girl raised her hand and said, ‘naw, I don’t want to work.’” Then during the session, Kuns taught from the JA curriculum about what taxes go to pay for—the fire department, better streets and other purposes. “And then at the end of it when we did our post-test, she said ‘I want to work now because I want to support my firemen.’”
As of Jan. 18, nine Galion kindergarten and second grade teachers had requested JA for this spring, Best said. One volunteer so far had been connected with a class. More teachers may be interested in having JA visit their classes, according to Galion schools curriculum director Sandy Powell. She was one of the ten in attendance at the JA meeting.
“It is part of our social studies curriculum, but what JA can do is bring in real business people,” Powell said. “Teachers teach it but it’s just so nice to have a person in the community talk about business. It takes a business person to be able to answer some of the questions.”
“And it’s exciting for them (the students) when they see someone new,” Kuns added.
Another advantage for teachers, Best said, is that JA programs align to Ohio state learning standards and are free for the schools. “We have, as long as I can remember, always had more demand from our schools than we can supply,” he said. He wants to have more JA programs in this area now, since last year the number of programs decreased more than was desirable.
Best outlined the values that drive JA’s efforts. They include a belief in young people’s boundless potential; a commitment to market-based economic principles; a passion for the work and honesty, integrity and excellence in how it’s done; a respect for everyone’s talents, creativity and perspectives; a belief in the power of partnership and collaboration; and a conviction of the motivational and educational impact of relevant, hands-on learning.
It’s the only youth development organization dedicated to the relevancy of education to future economic success, Best said, and that focuses on helping youth realize the opportunities and realities of the 21st-century workplace. Besides connecting business leaders and young people to inculcate free market principles, the organization provides philanthropic and volunteer opportunities for business who want to train, engage and empower employees, he continued.
“I have talked to so many CEOs and I ask them, ‘what is your greatest challenge today?’” Best said. “And they say, it’s finding qualified workers.”
JA conducts formative, summative and longitudinal studies of the students who have gone through JA programs. It also has independent evaluations conducted of its programs, something that sets JA apart from other youth organizations, Best said. The studies gauge the knowledge students gain, the skills they develop and the changes they experience in their attitudes and behaviors. JA also measures teachers’ and volunteers’ satisfaction with the program.
For more information about JA in Crawford County, e-mail JA senior district director Denice Schafer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (330) 434‑1875.