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Show Me the Money

Junior Achievement Teaches Kids About Finances and Business

On January 26, the Augusta District of Junior Achievement of Georgia will honor its 2011 inductees into the CSRA Business Hall of Fame. “These are successful business people who have invested in the community and given back. It doesn’t have to be with JA,” says Laurie Cook, JA’s executive director. “This is something JA does nationwide. Our mission is to celebrate business and free enterprise. It’s a great signature event we incorporate.”

This year’s inductees include Rick Allen, the founder of R.W. Allen, Jeff and Joey Hadden, owners of Phoenix Printing, and Retired Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, who has made a significant contribution to the community through his lessons on leadership. In addition, the late Joseph Greene, a businessman and former Augusta State University business professor, will be awarded posthumously.

Presenters for the evening won’t be current civic leaders but future ones, says Cook. Children dressed in business attire will introduce the inductees.

In addition, there will be a silent auction from the student art competition. Five winners will be announced in early December. High school students entered works depicting Augusta’s current landmarks, historical sites, landscapes, events or historical figures. Cook says there is no first, second and third place with honorable mentions. There are simply five winners, with each of them receiving $100.

The winners will also be present at the banquet to tell people about their art.

The silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. with the dinner and awards following at 7:30 p.m. The event will be held at the Augusta Marriott Hotel.  Tickets are $150 each or $1,000 for a table of eight.

Teaching Kids About Business

The inclusion of children and teenagers at the banquet is important, says Cook, because youth are the reason Junior Achievement exists. “JA has been around since 1919, and in Augusta since 1962, inspiring and preparing young people to be successful in business and entrepreneurship,” she says.

Many of the programs take place in schools. Curriculum starts at the elementary school level and deals with basics of money and finance. JA partners with schools and businesses, with business volunteers often taking the program to the students. “We explain to children why they need to learn percentages. They are important in sales figures. We teach how to balance a check and how to use a check register,” she says.

In high school, there are job-shadowing programs. Because of cutbacks in funds for busses, field trips are often limited so job shadowing has seen changes over the years. In some cases, businesses take the job shadowing to the students.

AT&T, for example, has a set-up they take into the schools, allowing students to see various types of communications equipment. They talk about past and present technology and the future of communications. Also, they talk about the politics of communication. “They have stations they set up and the kids rotate through every 20 minutes. They learn how to split and cut wires and use equipment,” she says.

Building Relationships with Government Agencies

Cook says the organization has a strong relationship with Fort Gordon and Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Hospital staff members often assist in the job-shadowing program.

In a spin on job shadowing, JA offered a program in November at the Morris Museum of Art called the Art of Business, teaching students about careers in art. “We had graphic designers, an interior designer, a medial illustrator,” she says.

Students were divided into small groups for roundtable discussions with the artists to learn more about their careers. They spent several minutes with each artist then moved on to the next artist.

Connecting with Higher Education

This past summer JA introduced a new program called Biz U with the Hull College of Business at Augusta State University. It was a week-long program for teens, introducing them to a model business.

“They started their own companies and elected officers,” says Cook. With $100 to start with and a product of pancake breakfast tickets, the students had to market their product and come up with their own prices. The product was pre-determined because of the time limitations, and it was one of the few choices the students didn’t make.

DeAnna Brunk, JA senior education manager, says the program was very successful. It brought in students from all across the area and from various backgrounds. Although they received no school credit for the program, students were excited about it, she says.
At the end of the week, they had to evaluate the business process and see whether they’d made a profit or came up with a loss. Then, they had to liquidate their assets.

“They were given the option to keep the money or donate the proceeds. They decided to donate the money back to JA so we could do Biz U next year,” she says. The pancake tickets brought in $2,000. JA hopes to expand Biz U to two weeks next year. With the additional week, students will have enough time to develop their own product, which they will make and sell.

Cook says this model is the one many people from a few decades ago most associate with JA—an afterschool program in which students create a business, make a product and then sell it. Over the years, it has shifted somewhat from that model in the United States as other programs have come in. However, it remains the model of the JA program internationally.

Last school year, JA served 8,189 students mainly in Richmond and Columbia Counties. The organization’s service area includes 23 Georgia counties, but many of the students remain underserved because of funding, says Cook. “We never charge teachers or students for our program.”

JA relies heavily on volunteer support, and Cook says the program could expand with more volunteers. To learn more about JA, volunteer or attend the Hall of Fame banquet, call 706-736-3070.

Charmain Z. Brackett is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of three.

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