Currently, the local JA affiliate serves classrooms at all levels in Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Meigs and Polk counties. Its instructional programs are reaching 4,100 students, but the demand for JA assistance to local school systems continues to grow — especially with the expanding global economy, according to Rick Platz, JA board chairman who is also working to lead the local affiliate into a new era following the announced retirement of Sandy Moore, JA president.
A 20-year JA veteran, Moore has served in the local presidency since 2001. She has announced her retirement effective Aug. 31 (see related story in this edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner).
“Are the teachings of Junior Achievement still relevant in today’s global economy?” Platz asked rhetorically. “If you believe that our future lies with our young people, that the key to that future is education and developing students to deal with the ‘real world,’ then the answer is a resounding yes!”
Like all JA affiliates, the Ocoee Region provides needed programming in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and career awareness. The organization relies on volunteerism — especially by members of its unpaid board of directors — for a variety of roles ranging from extensive fundraising, to recruiting other volunteers and to providing their own hours as classroom instructors in area schools, including the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems.
In a recent interview with Moore, the outgoing JA president pointed to the strong relationship between the local organization and the school systems in Cleveland and Bradley County. Like Platz, she said JA is being called on more and more by school systems to provide classroom instruction in relevant areas that are not covered through the mainstream academic curriculum of public schools.
Like other nonprofit organizations, Junior Achievement relies on donors for its funding; this means the number of classrooms and students that JA can reach is tied directly to the results of annual fundraisers. Donations are used to purchase the materials used in classrooms. The instruction is provided at no cost by community volunteers.
Platz pointed to current surveys of teachers, volunteers and students who have worked directly with JA programming. All point to the same conclusion — that the financial literacy, business and career counseling provided by the organization is even more relevant now than in past years, he said.
“Over the past few years, Junior Achievement has aggressively evaluated the effectiveness of its programs,” Platz said in a statement to the Banner. “The results are noteworthy.”
He stressed, “Eight out of 10 teachers state that Junior Achievement programs connected what students were learning in the classroom with the real world. Study data also shows that participation in Junior Achievement programs develop the skills necessary for future success. Teachers and volunteers agree that participation in JA has a positive impact on students’ work-readiness skills including critical thinking, decision-making and interpersonal communication.”
Platz said volunteers get involved in Junior Achievement because they believe in its mission and the importance of its partnership with local school systems. However, much of the responsibility still lies with the students.
“As we all know, staying in school is a must if young people are to achieve their potential,” Platz said. “This is a message that JA programs are very successful in getting across.”
He also pointed to JA surveys of students which identified eight of every 10 students as reporting that instructional programming reinforced to them the importance of staying in school.
“In studies comparing students who have been involved with JA programs with those who have not, JA students were significantly more likely than their peers to plan to graduate from high school, pursue postsecondary education and even graduate from college,” Platz said.
The board chairman said these surveys answer any questions about JA’s relevancy.
“Junior Achievement is not only relevant, it is essential to the welfare of our young people and our community,” Platz stressed.
A JA of the Ocoee Region newsletter dated April 2012 quoted a few area students who have participated in JA-sponsored instruction, including one of the newest, and most successful programs, called “Reality Check.” A few examples include:
- “I need to complete high school and college to get a good job and earn some good money. I need that money to buy all things necessary and extra money is for extra stuff.” (Andrew)
- “It made me realize how expensive things are and what it is like to be on a budget.” (Rachel)
- “Life now is very expensive. Especially if you have a child. Plus, sometimes you have to get another job just to pay for all your bills.” (Megan)
- “(I learned) not to beg my parents for money any more. Life seems hard!” (Tyler)
- “(I learned) that being an adult is a lot harder than you might think as a kid.” (Adrien)
The local JA affiliate was chartered in 1965. The organization provides programs for students in grades K-12. JA’s goal is to teach in 226 classrooms this year.
This year’s fundraising chairman is Ken Jones of Legacy Investment & Retirement who joined the JA board of directors in 2009, and who has taught JA classes for 16 years.
“It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t involved with JA,” Jones said, according to the organization’s newsletter.
Additional information about JA, and the fundraising campaign, can be obtained by calling 423-476-6772, or sending an email to email@example.com.