JA teaching students about 'real world'


Posted 2/4/18

Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region is looking for local adults willing to help teach students business and entrepreneurship skills. Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger, president of the JA chapter, …

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JA teaching students about 'real world'


Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region is looking for local adults willing to help teach students business and entrepreneurship skills. 

Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger, president of the JA chapter, made this appeal while speaking to the Cleveland Rotary Club recently. 

Pennell-Aslinger shared some statistics highlighting the problems such as students dropping out of high school and adults living with financial insecurity. 

She also shared the results of a national JA survey conducted with high school dropouts. Ninety-one percent  said they dropped out because they “could not find the relevance between what they were learning and the real world.” 

“We’re the solution-providers,” Pennell-Aslinger said. “We’re bridging those gaps. We are teaching students about the real world, and we’re tying everything they’re learning in the classroom back to staring their own business and being a good employee.”

Junior Achievement, founded in 1919, is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching students skills based on three “pillars” — workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. 

To do this, the organization recruits volunteers with this knowledge and equips them to help teach these subjects to students in their schools. 

JA’s Ocoee Region chapter serves the Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk counties. As such, the organization and its volunteers have been able to reach many students with their lessons. 

During the 2016-17 year, the chapter organized 196 classes, reaching 4,317 students from 24 different schools. This was done with help from 200 volunteers and 130 business partners in this area. 

“This would not be possible without our volunteers and business partners,” Pennell-Aslinger stressed. “The more volunteers we have, the more students we can serve.” 

JA offers a variety of programs for students in grades K-12. These programs teach soft skills, such as how they must show up to work on time and dress appropriately when they go to work. 

They also teach financial literacy skills, such as how to write a check, make a budget and avoid amassing credit card debt. They also learn entrepreneurship skills, discussing everything from how to make a business plan to how to market a product. 

JA is perhaps best known for its in-class programs. Using a ready-made curriculum and lesson plans, a JA volunteer teaches a series of five or six lessons to students in a local classroom. 

Each participating school also has the option of hosting an event called “JA in a Day.” Rather than teaching five or six classes, volunteers lead students in a full day’s worth of activities. 

The organization offers a program called “Reality Check” for eighth-grade students. During single-day events held at area middle schools, each student is provided with a pretend identity. Students then take part in budgeting activities based on their given life circumstances.

While she praised the outcomes of these programs, Pennell-Aslinger said she was especially excited about the JA Company program. 

JA volunteer Margaret Schenck introduced the Company program, which allows students to create their own businesses to make real profits. 

She and volunteer Rick Platz led a group of students at GOAL Academy through the program. The students had to work together to decide on everything from the product or service they would sell to how they would market their business. 

The students decided to make their own school apparel and formed a company called “GOAL Ink.” Selling T-shirts and hoodies to both their classmates and the community, they ended with a profit of $610. The students were allowed to keep their profit, but they chose instead to donate it to their school. 

“These students learned real business skills,” Schenck said. “They even went before investors … to get their capital to start GOAL Ink.” 

Pennell-Aslinger said volunteers are needed to help with this and other programs to help raise up the next generation of young entrepreneurs. 

Schenck, former co-owner of local company United Knitting, said she chose to get involved with JA because of the impact it can have on young people and their communities. 

“We’ve got to teach these kids how to run a business, or we’re not going to have good business leaders in the future,” said Schenck. 

For more information on how to volunteer, visit https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-ocoee or call 423-614-8776.


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