It is no secret that I am a huge advocate for childhood development. I have involved myself with many organizations that focus on teaching children about core life skills while building self-esteem. Our volunteer experiences with many great organizations has increased my exposure to and admiration for the work that is done in our community to serve our youth. One of my passions in life is to lead, teach, and coach. Whether it is as a business leader, a father, or a sports coach I have always enjoyed teaching others and watching them grow. This week’s volunteer experience with Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana gave me the opportunity to do just that. Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about financial literacy, workplace readiness, and entrepreneurship through experiential, hands-on activities. I volunteered to teach a sixth grade class about the JA Global Marketplace.
I was nervous as I drove to Blackhawk Middle School. My stomach was filled with butterflies in anticipation for the day. I was looking forward to interacting with and engaging the students, but I was a bit uneasy about the material. I am not an expert on the global marketplace and I had limited time to review the materials due to a crazy schedule. I did receive training a few weeks before the experience so I was relying heavily on the knowledge I picked up that morning. I was also a bit unsure about how the day would flow. I would be teaching the class for approximately four hours and I was questioning if I could keep them engaged the entire time. I was excited about the challenge and could not wait to get started. One great thing about me is that I am a human icebreaker. What I mean is that my height of 6’9″ instantly creates reactions from children. As I approached the classroom, I started to hear the “oohs and ahs” from the students. They were talking with others, mesmerized by my size. One step in the door and the question was asked, “How tall are you?” I have embraced being a mutant so I am very comfortable with these reactions. I have these types of experiences every day. It quickly breaks the ice by opening conversation that puts all at ease. They also liked watching me duck to get through the door. After answering the questions about my height and a quick introduction, we jumped into the JA content.
We spent the day talking about the global marketplace and everything that it encompasses. We defined trade and talked about imports and exports. In one lesson the students were asked to walk around the classroom in search of items that were made in other countries. After just a few minutes, I could see how surprised the students were. Most items that were in the classroom, including the clothes they were wearing, were imported from another country. This gave us a great opportunity to discuss how and why. My favorite lesson consisted of the students starting a fast food restaurant in another country. They had to learn about the culture and the do’s and the don’ts of running a business in a given country. We had a great time discussing our findings and talking about each restaurant. The students enjoyed the activity and were very involved in the discussion. I was pleased with the engagement of the students throughout the day. There were times where they were talking, loud, and disinterested. What should any volunteer expect? They are sixth graders. I would walk towards those talking and stand by them as I taught the lesson. It was a tactic I learned as a student when the teacher stood by me many years ago. It worked for me just like it worked on me back then.
I enjoyed my experience with Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana. It is a great organization that teaches students about real life. They serve 100,000 children within a 25 county area each year. The lessons learned can be utilized in life as they grow up and become adults. The classroom sessions are just one way that JA reaches students. The JA Biztown program combines in-class learning with a day long visit to a fully interactive simulated town. The students get to take the classroom lessons and incorporate them into a real life setting. I recently experienced JA Biztown as a volunteer during my daughter’s field trip. It is great tool to teach students about the challenges of real life. Everything about the experience for a child is fantastic. I am very impressed with Junior Achievement as an organization and the services that they provide. I look forward to finding ways to get more involved with them in the future. I encourage you to do the same. There are Junior Achievement organizations all over the country. You can find out more about JA in your area by visiting www.ja.org. For those in Northern Indiana, go to www.jani.org to find out how you can impact the lives of students in our area. Volunteer at JA Biztown or teach students in a classroom. It is up to you what you want to do. All you have to do is act!