By Sally Petty
Students tend to view their teachers as “part of the chalkboard,” according to Junior Achievement program manager Courtney Hahn. So sending volunteers into classrooms through Junior Achievement helps business and economics lessons come alive for them.
“You have the extra ability to influence (students) because you come from that outside world,” said Hahn.
JA organizers and volunteers from area businesses met for their kick-off luncheon Thursday, and in the next few weeks, they will infiltrate Washington and Washington Catholic schools with the JA curriculum. The program has expanded from last year, adding eight second and third grade classrooms to more than 30 fourth through sixth grade classes that have seen JA volunteers for the past seven years or so, said JA President Martin Rowland.
The program also has several new corporate volunteers this year, said local organizer and attorney Jeff Norris.
“I consider this a really good project, something we want to grow and build upon,” he said.
JA teaches about business, the numerous resources available in this county and the importance of continuing education to reach students’ potential, explained long-time volunteer Art Boddy of Midwestern Engineers.
“We often tell (children) they can shoot for the stars, but we forget to tell them how to get there,” said Hahn.
JA tries to show students that path.
For example, said Boddy, as part of the curriculum he teaches fifth graders, he uses math problems to show them how much a person can earn with a four-year degree versus a two-year degree, a high school diploma or no diploma at all.
But he also tells a story of a laborer who helped build Washington High School in the 1960s. The man was very good at digging trenches, enjoyed his job and worked for the construction company until he retired.
Not only is it important to get an education and try to earn a better living, he said, but it’s also important to enjoy one’s job.
Besides meeting national standards for social studies education, the JA program gets students in touch with inspiring volunteers, said Hahn. For some students, a male JA volunteer is the only positive male influence they have for months at a time, she explained.
The program also helps connect schools and businesses, show teachers that the community cares about what they do and give volunteers public speaking experience, she and Rowland agreed.
“It’s just a blessing on all levels,” said Hahn.
Currently, JA in Daviess County is funded about half by a Community Foundation grant and half by the JA organization. Rowland said JA directors would like to get donors to fully fund JA here in the next three to five years.