Junior Achievement Engaging Volunteers in New Ways

This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.

Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore (JAES) is a non-profit organization educating youth, grades K-12, on financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship. The organization is dedicated to providing possibilities and powering potential for students on the Shore through an innovative, needs-based curriculum that is brought to life, in the classroom, by volunteers in the community.

JAES is currently serving seven counties on the Eastern Shore (Accomack, Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties), with Accomack County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore being newly added this year. Instead of its volunteers teaching in the classroom this year due to COVID-19, the organization has been engaging them in many new ways.

Junior Achievement, and their volunteers, teach students concepts that equip and inspire students to live within their means, build wealth, identify fulfilling career pathways, prepare for the “new norm” of work, and explore entrepreneurial thinking. Volunteer partners have been creating pre-recorded video lessons that are being used in JAES’ virtual Program Sites – virtual versions of their traditional elementary, middle, and high school programming with interactive lessons.

According to Ivory Bandoh, Marketing and Events Coordinator for JAES, “These videos allow our volunteers to teach JAES programs, while still providing the signature interactive experience that our volunteers and students have grown to love. It’s important for our students to continue to see role models and members of their community showing up and caring for them. Our volunteers continue to bring their own expertise and life experiences to each lesson, and that is what makes each program so memorable for our students.”

Junior Achievement’s interactive, hands-on approach and their fun and engaging curriculum help students connect what they are learning in school to real-life experiences; encouraging students to stay in school and making life after graduation a possibility. With the help of its community of volunteers, also known as “Game Changers,” JAES’s programs are provided to area schools at no cost to ensure that all students, no matter where they find themselves in life, have access to JAES’s vital programming.

“This school year we have watched educators, parents, community members, and students do an amazing job with virtual learning. We made sure we developed our virtual JA Program Sites to be easy to access, to adapt to different learning environments, and to provide the same game-changing curriculum that our schools and teachers need and want. We knew this year was going to look different but stopping was not an option. Last school year, we were able to reach 10,000 students on the Shore. When meeting with our education partners, the excitement and interest in additional programming was evident. This year, with the increase in program requests from our schools, we are aiming to reach 17,000 students,” Ivory comments.

Another program launched in 2020 is the JA Ambassador program. Ivory adds, “This year, we wanted to find a creative way to keep our volunteers engaged and sharing the amazing work they do here at JAES. Our JA Ambassadors use their personal social media accounts to share JAES’s mission, message, and all the amazing things we do for our students. It’s also an opportunity for our Ambassadors to share their accomplishments of being a “Game Changer” with their family and friends. Our volunteers are super excited about this new program, and we are too.”

On the Mid-Shore, in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties, there has been significant growth. Last school year, in Caroline County, JAES reached 1,271 students in 58 classes. In Dorchester County, JAES reached 997 students in 47 classes. In Talbot County, JAES reached 1,571 students in 56 classes.

One of the most exciting new initiatives on the Mid-Shore is JA’s Ag Day. “Ag Day started in Talbot County during the 2018-2019 school year focusing on our fourth grade JA Our City curriculum,” said Ivory. “Our Agriculture community noticed a lack of interest in the industry from the future workforce, so we sought to change that. Our Ag Day event shows students while being a farmer is one component of the industry, it isn’t the only pathway to a career in agriculture.”

This school year, Ag Day is going virtual and expanding to both Caroline and Dorchester counties. According to Ivory, “With this expansion, we will increase our reach from 344 students to over 900 students in three total counties. Local business sponsors in the industry will be providing interactive videos and lessons for students to get an inside look at all the industry has to offer.” This year’s Mid-Shore Agriculture Day is presented by Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit.

Junior Achievement is also working on its annual JA Inspire event, which will be virtual. The event will be held on two days – one day for 8th graders and one day for high schoolers and current job seekers. Lisa Thornton, JA’s Development Director, states, “We are super excited about JA Inspire being virtual this year. Last year, we were able to reach 3,000 students. With location not being a factor this year, even more students and businesses will be able to participate.”

She continues, “We are using a virtual conferencing platform that actually looks like a convention center when students enter the simulation. Local businesses will have the ability to provide students with tons of information regarding their business and their industry, all while being safe at home.”

Junior Achievement also believes that more local businesses will be able to get in on the action this year. Lisa adds, “Those smaller businesses that may not have the personnel to send to a two-day event, or the ability to close down for two-days, now have the opportunity to be a part of this event. Our staff is preparing and training to assist businesses in the preparation of their virtual booths. We are helping our local businesses as much as possible to ensure that the transition to this platform is as seamless as possible.”

“We are currently serving 22% of the student population here on the Shore,” JAES President Jayme Hayes comments. “While we are super excited about our progress, 78% of students on the Shore are still without JAES’s programming. We believe in a world where every child’s story ends with success, and we won’t stop until that happens.”

Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore is participating in #GivingTuesday this year on December 1. With the support of its community of “Game Changers,” JAES can provide free programming in financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship to six counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Accomack County, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. JAES is asking the community to join them, and hundreds of other Game Changers in our community, and Give the Game this #GivingTuesday.

With the help of the community, JAES is changing the game for students on the Shore, but “before we can change the game, we have to give it.” For more information on the #GivingTuesday campaign and how to get involved or to sponsor the JA Inspire virtual event, visit www.easternshoreja.org or JuniorAchievementEasternShore on Facebook or contact Junior Achievement Marketing and Events Coordinator, Ivory Bandoh, at ivory.bandoh@ja.org.

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