Southwest Louisiana has benefitted this year from an infusion of vitality to the area's Junior Achievement program.
Meg Lovejoy, longtime resident of Carlyss, became the organization's district director in April 2012. Lovejoy, who has always been involved in various community and educational programs, has devoted herself to Junior Achievement of SWLA.
She believes strongly in its mission: the education of students from kindergarden through high school in entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through hands-on programs.
Finance Park, a Junior Achievement program designed for eighth graders, will begin next week, starting Jan. 9. Currently, there are five to six schools expected to participated. However, Lovejoy would love to have more.
"We sent out invitations to every Title One school with an eighth grade in southwest Louisiana. This mobile financial park is being brought to Lake Charles Boston Academy gymnasium from Houston. The students are provided with up to 18 hours of teacher-led, in-class lessons. The end experience is the trip to the park.
"Students will arrive at the park at 9 a.m. Each student will then be given a life scenario — work, salary level, family — that he must assume. Seated at a table with volunteers — this year from Capital One Bank, the student receives his first of many assignments of the day: figuring his net monthly income. There are between eight and 10 computer kiosks that each student will visit that have all the cost of living factors: food, household, entertainment, savings, medical, etc. Students are given choices to make at each computer. At the end of the day each student must have a $0 balance in their account," explained Lovejoy.
"We're trying to expand and reach more students. All these Junior Achievement programs are provided free to the students and to the schools. Contributions from local businesses this [past] year have made this possible. Every program has information that correlated it to the common course standards. That information can be provided to the schools and teachers. Students are exposed to excellent information in a fun way, so it becomes easier for them to retain. Teachers and schools are busy, but we're hoping for more participation with all these programs [next school] year," she added.
Junior Achievement of SWLA has also teamed up with the SWLA Economic Development Alliance, Workforce Development Committee to provide JA work-readiness programs to area students. JA Job Shadow has been offered to all Beauregard, Calcasieu, and Cameron Parish schools who, in turn, will send students to the January 23, 2013 Career Fair to be held at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The JA Job Shadow program includes lessons on making career decisions, writing resumes and job interviewing.
McNeese State University College of Education is also working in collaboration with the Junior Achievement of SWLA. During the fall semester, three professors had their students participate in the collaborative endeavor by having the teacher candidates utilize Junior Achievement programs in area classrooms. This opportunity has allowed JASWLA to reach more Kindergarten through 12th grade students with financial literacy, work-readiness and entrepreneurship programs than they have done in the past. McNeese students were also given more time in a classroom setting with a teacher observing them.
Page 2 of 2 - Dr. Tracy Scott-McLemore, Director for the Ann Rosteet Hurley Center for Economic Education at MSU, spoke on the venture.
"With the recent removal of Free Enterprise from the secondary [education] curriculum in the state of Louisiana, it is more important than ever that economic education be disseminated into the K-12 schools and that our students achieve college and career readiness and ultimately become competitive in the national and global marketplace. With the recent adaptation of Common Core Standards which integrate economic principles at early grades into all content areas, and partnerships like this one between JASWLA and MSU, Louisiana students will join the race toward sound economic competence along with students in other states," said Dr. Scott-McLemore.
Another program sponsored in 2012 by JASWLA involved financial literacy classes given to recipients of the KPLC Community Christmas program. JASWLA received additional help on this program from Capital One and the Salvation Army.
"We were really pleased with the material received, and the presentation of it all was great. No part of these classes could even be considered as intimidating," said Major Karen Craddock with the Salvation Army.
Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to empowering young people to own their economic success. It is an effort to help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to "generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace" (www.ja.org).
Part of the success of the programs is the acquiring of volunteers from the hometown community to present the curriculum while sharing their own personal experiences with the students. This approach makes the lesson more real and also provides community models that inspire and can empower the young people to the point they believe in themselves and in their ability to make a difference in their community and possibly the world.
Junior Achievement, also known as JA or JA Worldwide, is a non-profit youth organization founded in 1919 by Horace A. Moses, Theodore Vail, and Winthrop M. Crane.
Today, Junior Achievement annually reaches four million students with programs that teach financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness in grades K-12. Programs are delivered by more than 178,000 Junior Achievement volunteers. Globally, JA Worldwide reaches 10.6 million students in 117 countries.
For information on the educational programs for students or to learn how one can volunteer, contact Lovejoy by mail at P. O. Box 282, Sulphur, LA 70664 or by phone at her office number, 337-527-6168.