Junior Achievement: Preparing young people for the real world
By Dina Guralski
One of the memorable experiences from Logan Leske’s elementary school days is when the Junior Achievement volunteers would come to his classroom and teach lessons about the workplace. This memory is what inspired him to become involved in the Junior Achievement program as a college student. Logan, who is a UW-Eau Claire senior information systems major, decided to come back to Meadowview Elementary School when it came time to fulfill his service-learning requirement. He talked to his advisor who suggested different ideas, but he couldn’t help but remember his own experience with Junior Achievement and how involved his parents were as volunteers for the program. He knew this was the program he wanted to work with!
As a volunteer for Junior Achievement, Logan visits Meadowview Elementary School once a week, teaching two different hour-long sessions to both the 4th and 5th graders. Some of the learning points he covers with the students include financial literacy, entrepreneurship and fundamental business concepts. Even though these learning points are given to Logan by the Junior Achievement Program, they only provide him with a skeleton curriculum—basic learning plan—and it’s up to him to take that curriculum and turn it into interactive and engaging lessons for the students. Logan said, “It always kind of amazes me how much they actually remember and what they are able to grasp. The first lesson I ever taught I was probably talking down to them quite a bit, but I give them a lot more credit now. They do hold on to that information.”
Logan said one of the things he likes about volunteering for Junior Achievement is the fact that he gets to tie-in things he’s learning at the university into his lesson plans. Junior Achievement leaves it up to the volunteers to cater the curriculum so they can apply their own life, education, and/or company experience into the teaching points. Logan said he is always trying to tie things back to his degree at UW-Eau Claire whenever he can. One of the ways he does this is by creating PowerPoint presentations for the students to use as a visual aid. He also likes to incorporate fun into the classroom; and an example of this is when he created a jeopardy game that the students could use for review!
As the interview continued Logan shared how the project will impact his future career and also which of his personal characteristics were most strengthened. “It’s enabled me to start building professional relationships and networks. It’s nice to fulfill the service-learning requirement, but once I graduate I anticipate staying with the program, because I do believe in it. It’s a nice way to work with people, and there’s a lot of reward,” said Logan. Some of his strengthened personal characteristics include accountability, responsibility and comfort. He said that responsibility and accountability are important, because you need to have your materials prepared. Comfort is equally important because you need to be able to talk to a group. Logan said, “I hope someday in my future career I am able to apply some of that comfort in leading a meeting, working with a group on a project, and things like that where there is definite crossover.”
Logan said he would definitely recommend this for someone who is looking for a project that is personally fulfilling and a project that is beneficial. It is also a project for someone who has a drive to go and do something, and someone who cares enough to put the time in. “You will build a skill set, and you will help students build a skill set,” said Logan. Another nice thing about doing service-learning with this program is that there are not a lot of hours required at one time; it is spread out. Also, it fits your schedule! Logan worked with the teachers and the Junior Achievement office, and found them to be very flexible.
Logan will be completing his 30 hour service-learning requirement at the end of this semester, and will be graduating in December. Beyond graduation, Logan hopes to still volunteer with the Junior Achievement Program. He said, “Overall, what got me involved was the need to fulfill this requirement. But I figured that as long as I had to do it, I’d much rather do something I really enjoyed. I really feel that I’m doing something worthwhile. Even if I’m just going in for an hour a week, I’m still able to relate to these kids in a way that they don’t always get in the classroom. Every day I leave, I don’t feel like I changed the world, but I do feel like I may have actually made a difference.”
Dina Guralaski is a sophomore mass communications-public relations major from Athens, WI