Nearly a century after its inception, a visionary approach to education landed on Kauai just three years ago. Junior Achievement Kauai launched in 2014 and hit the proverbial sand at a gallop.
The nonprofit organization bent on preparing young people for practical survival skills in a global economy is seeking volunteers for its burgeoning demand for more programming in grade levels from K to 12.
“Right now we serve high school and elementary only,” said Junior Achievement Kauai Program Coordinator Tiffany Wienand. “There is no shortage of schools or teachers wanting to invite us to do programming.”
Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement began as an after-school program for high school students. In 1975 the organization entered the classroom. Today, they’ve broadened their scope to include all school-age levels in school and after school in order to mentor youth toward more confident economic decisions.
“Kids learn multiple levels of calculus, chemistry and physics,” Wienand said. “When they don’t learn financial responsibility they’re at a deficit out in the world.”
The gap in education weighs heavily upon the ability to do practical budgeting that can ensure success as an adult. Their curriculum is delivered through experiential leaning in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship, the website states.
“In a nutshell, we teach all those things that help students be successful after high school so they can transition into the workplace with ease,” Wienand said. “I grew up on Oahu. So many of my friends and classmates couldn’t stay in the islands because they didn’t have the skills to budget.”
Volunteers are the fuel that make the machine go.
“Our success is bringing in the volunteers. We want people from all careers,” she said. “The more diverse the better.”
Role models and mentors from the community help youth envision their future.
“We want bankers, county workers, auto mechanics. We try to find a broad spectrum of volunteers so students can picture themselves being something else.”
The Junior Achievement Kauai “Pau Hana” held Oct. 20 was an opportunity for candidates to hear about the program directly from teachers and students who have been impacted.
Kapaa High School Principal Daniel Hamada shared about the successes he’s witnessed since JAK began at his school.
“He wants every student in every year to have it,” Wienand said.
Oct. 4, Kapaa High School hosted a Junior Achievement kickoff where teachers met volunteers and received lesson-plan packets. Teachers spend two hours of training with the volunteer, where they also confirm times and days for the five-session program for classes that run between 60 and 80 minutes long.
“JAK is a great support for teachers,” Wienand said. “I hear them say it’s good for the students to learn from someone besides them.”
One sample program listed on the website is JA Biz Town, which combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to a simulated town. It allows fifth-grade students to operate banks, manage restaurants, write checks and vote for mayor. The program helps students connect the dots between what they learn in school and the real world.
“Our programs help prepare young people for the real world and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace,” she said.
Presently, JA Kauai has 40 volunteers, but Wienand said the ideal number is closer to 100.
“We are looking for volunteers with the time and the heart,” she said. “There are so many great people out there who have such a lot to give and who can make a difference in a life.”
Visit juniorachievement.org or email email@example.com.