Published February 21, 2012
Volume 20, Number 2

Junior Achievement Looks for Partners for Student Economic Education Programs     

Committed to teaching work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy, Junior Achievement (JA) is the largest provider of economic education programs for youth in the state, a critical function. Junior Achievement of Northern California reaches roughly 120,000 students in 23 counties throughout the Greater Bay Area and Central Valley.

In the Tri-Valley, the organization expects to serve more than 8,000 students in grades K through 12 in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin in the current school year, reports Julie Strand, Vice President of Development for the East Bay.

“We have over 23 different programs we bring into the classroom, starting in kindergarten teaching what coins look like,” Strand explains. “We give the children a little savings bank and talk about how to make and save money so they can purchase things they need vs. want.”

Subsequent programs build on that early introduction to the financial world, progressing to thought-provoking challenges like creating actual companies to manage and market a product. In the higher grades, students have opportunities for job shadowing, occasionally through telepresence,  as well as competitions and business plan presentations.

“One of our most exciting programs, Finance Park Virtual, is just being launched,” Strand relates. “This is the first time JA has stepped so deeply into the world of technology.” The computer game-based simulation  guides students through a series of important life decisions. Using customized individual avatars, participants face real-world situations, from budgeting and paying taxes to buying groceries and saving for a car, essentially learning how to plan for the future.

The JA programs would be impossible to sustain without the extensive network of partnerships Strand has forged in the region’s business community, including Hacienda occupants ADP, AT&T, Bank of America, Cisco, Walmart, and Wells Fargo Bank. The companies help financially—JA’s costs total a very reasonable $25 per student—as well as supply volunteers to lead classroom activities and serve as local role models who inspire students.

Large and small companies alike enjoy JA Days, where a group of volunteers spends the day in an elementary school, fanning out to K through 5th grade classrooms with age-appropriate personal finance and economics lessons. “It’s exciting for the students and the teacher to have someone new come in and teach the class,” Strand says. “It’s an opportunity for business professionals to explain what they do, where they went to school, and what they needed to study to attain their current positions so the students understand what they must do to accomplish their dreams.”

Most JA programs are provided at no cost to schools, which is critical at a time of state budget cuts, she points out. To supply these programs, JA of Northern California has two upcoming fundraisers. The East Bay Bowl-a-Thon is at Danville Bowl on March 8 from 4 to 6 pm. “ADP has committed to bring six teams to raise money to support our Tri-Valley programs,” Strand says.

On March 10, the Annual Taste of Success benefit will treat guests to wine pourings, artisan food tastings, and live and silent auctions at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio. Now in its 14th year, the event attracts roughly 450 professionals from throughout the Bay Area.

For information about the events, visit www.janorcal.org. To explore partnering possibilities, email  Strand at jstrand@janorcal.org.

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