Making a JA difference
Apr 23, 2013 | 451 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A couple of years ago, a few misguided voices — some even in Washington, D.C. — questioned the continuing relevance of Junior Achievement in an era when advanced technology is taking precedent over all else in the world of education and employment.

Upon hearing these isolated opinions, our initial reaction was to scratch our heads while doing it with a pronounced, and perhaps elevated, “Huh?”

For the few who see the point as arguable, we do not.

Junior Achievement is more relevant now than ever in its highly respected past. Why? Just look around. Hear the voices of employers. See the desks of bankers and financiers piled high with stacks of paperwork of frustrated homeowners who have defaulted on mortgages for which they were never truly prepared. Observe the number of bankruptcy lawyers representing downtrodden clients whose level of financial literacy was suspect at best.

Obviously, much of the fault lies with America’s economic downturn whose roots are traced to late 2007. Workers lost jobs. Some were forced into part-time work or had to settle for lesser-paying opportunities. Businesses closed. Industries locked their doors.

Stir it all together and it spelled BIG MESS.

But, times are getting better. Some economists even spoke so boldly as to say The Great Recession ended three years ago.

Perhaps. But we’re not sure despondent Cleveland and Bradley County families still reeling from lost jobs and foreclosed homes feel any better knowing it.

Here’s our point.

Economy is a big player in the fortunes, and misfortunes, of many. But financial literacy, and the lack of, is just as big. It is especially so in cases of bankruptcies.

In short, too many young people are entering adulthood ill-prepared for what most call the “real world.” They fall short on understanding household budgets. They struggle to recognize the short- and long-term hazards of failing to balance spending versus income. They haven’t learned to say “no” to discretionary buying.

Some young people want too much, too soon, without the necessary financial backing.

Some are too focused on material possessions. Others find expensive amenities too appealing like all-in-one cellphones, brand names and new cars.

If this is sounding like an unfair indictment of today’s younger generation, our readers should be reminded bankruptcies, foreclosures and financial collapse can occur in any family regardless of level of income, age bracket or personal accountability in spending.

But too often such problems originate with lack of preparation for what lies ahead.

This is the purpose of Junior Achievement. Locally, JA of the Ocoee Region partners with school systems within the immediate five-county area — including Cleveland City Schools and Bradley County Schools — to supplement lessons in areas like work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy in public classrooms from grades K-12.

Any who question why this is JA’s role should remember the academic load already placed on public school teachers. Preparing students in the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic, and now far beyond — takes all available time and instructor preparation. Less opportunity is given for teaching life skills, yet our schools do exemplary work in the face of such demand, and their efforts expand by the day.

Serving as a partner to public education is the purpose of Junior Achievement. This is the role of JA volunteers whose countless hours of instruction are donated by area companies that make their employees available to work with students as trained partners to public schools.

Junior Achievement provides in-depth instruction in areas where teachers and parents sometimes cannot. Time and demand, both influenced by a rushed society, work against those in such pivotal roles.

This points to the value of JA. It opens our eyes to the importance of supporting nonprofit organizations that take a responsible lead in meeting such needs.

Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region has launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign for Fiscal Year 2013-14. For those who can donate, we encourage it. For those who can serve as volunteers, we urge it.

For those who want to know more, call the local JA office at 423-476-6772. Get your questions answered. Hear it for yourself.

And then offer your help.