The pursuit of Junior Achievement seeks to build a better understanding of tomorrow

Junior Achievement is in the constant pursuit of explaining to children how the outside world works and where they might fit into that world after completing their studies. (Submitted photo)

The old adage, “ignorance is bliss” could be a mantra for the development of a young adult coming to terms with the trials, tribulation and responsibility of becoming an adult.

But an Arizona 501(c)3 nonprofit organization has one mission: Teach Arizona students how to succeed in a fast-paced and competitive 21st Century economy.

Since the days of the early Dow Jones Industrial Average, Junior Achievement Arizona has been seeking to meet the charge “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.”

“Junior Achievement is preparing more than 80,000 Arizona students each year to succeed in work and life,” said Junior Achievement Marketing and Development Senior Director Anne Landers.

“We do this by giving our students the knowledge and skills they need to manage their money, plan for their future, and make smart academic, career and economic choices. The best part — we know our programs have a deep impact.”

According to Ms. Landers, children who participate in the Junior Achievement programming — specifically an endeavor coined, “JA BizTown” — are 33% more likely to graduate college and 67% more likely to receive an advanced degree.

“Additionally, research shows that JA alumni earn 20% more in their careers, are more likely to start a business and demonstrate higher critical thinking skills, when compared to the general population,” she contends data shows.

Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement was the first United States organization offering entrepreneurship education to children. Junior Achievement officials say since the organization’s inception nearly 2.5 million students have gone through the program.

Ms. Landers says today, Junior Achievement is filling a critical gap in public education.

“This need is even more pressing for low-income students, as many of their adult influences may not have the education or background to teach financial and career skills outside of the classroom,” she said of the reality facing many local students. “JA provides this important education to kindergarten through high-school-aged students using a volunteer-led delivery model executed through partnerships with 400 schools, nearly 3,000 educators and more than 8,000 programmatic volunteers.”

Ms. Landers explains Junior Achievement has two specific programs. One that is simulation-based and, the other, which is in-classroom programs.

“An example of our simulation-based programs is JA BizTown an experiential curriculum that provides fourth through sixth-grade students 14-plus hours of classroom learning, culminating in the opportunity to work in a child-sized economy and gain a sense of adulthood,” she explained. “In JA’s in-classroom programs, volunteer mentors deliver engaging, activity-based financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship education during the school day.”

Turns out, the Scottsdale Charros support this idea of Junior Achievement and this current grant cycle provided the nonprofit — through The Charro Foundation — a $10,000 grant to fuel BizTown operations.

Addressing a vital need in Scottsdale Schools

For Scottsdale Charro Marty Schwarzkopf Junior Achievement programs are drastically needed in Scottsdale Schools and in public education everywhere.

“I think what is honestly so special about Junior Achievement is I really just believe in the education that they give children, boys and girls,” he said of his support for Junior Achievement. “With the most recent recession and all that has happened I think more kids need to be more aware of how the world works around them. I think the skills gained help not only in business but in leadership. It is not just how to take care of a business, but also how to work as a team and be collaborative.”

For nearly 60 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

Public education is a keystone to the Charros organization, Mr. Schwarzkopf says.

With the funding provided by The Charro Foundation 227 low-income Scottsdale students from 17 schools participate in BizTown programs.

“We are all about education especially with children and sports with our partnership with the San Francisco Giants,” Mr. Schwarzkopf said. “The education they provide is so well-rounded. I believe Scottsdale is simply improved by the work of Junior Achievement.”

As times change the business climate, processes and stature of those enterprises evolve — and education needs to keep up, Mr. Schwarzkopf says.

“I think companies or what the workforce looks like is a lot different than what it was 10 to 15 years ago,” he explained. “Critical thinking is critical. Junior Achievement provided the glue for everything that gives it context. Knowing a bunch of information is good, but being able to apply that knowledge is needed.”

Ms. Landers echoes a similar sentiment pointing out day-in and day-out Junior Achievement is working to bring that context of information to the forefront of youthful minds.

“These types of experiences are important for students because they are receiving limited real-world education, either in school or at home,” she said. “Our volunteers are the magic behind our programs, imparting their real world experience and helping students connect the dots between what they learn in the classroom and the real world.”

Go to jaaz.org.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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