Brownsville students thank Junior Achievement of Western PA for their work in the school district (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)
By Alyssa Choiniere
Junior Achievement of Western PA is dedicated to giving students the skills they need to succeed in the real world, including financial literacy and workplace readiness, said its leaders.
“Our goal is to get students 100% ready for real life,” said Kimberly Sterling, the organization’s communications and marketing manager.
Junior Achievement develops curriculum that volunteers teach to kindergarten through 12th grade students in local schools and throughout the country. Volunteers include parents and business partners, said District Operations Manager Ed Chess.
“We understand that, obviously, there’s a need for the reading, writing and arithmetic, but there’s a need for the specialization as well,” he said.
The organization has operated for 82 years, Sterling said.
- IF YOU WANT TO HELP: For more information, including ways to donate and volunteer, visit www.jawesternpa.org.
Chess said the programs expose students to a variety of careers and the possible career paths available to them in their communities. Programs also focus on financial success, he said.
“It prepares them for their financial future, giving them a leg-up. We’re teaching kids as young as second grade the difference between a debit card and a credit card, teaching kids as young as third grade what an entrepreneur is,” he said.
A 2021 survey by the national organization showed 39% of teen respondents believe they are “behind educationally” due to the pandemic and 37% of teen respondents believe they are “behind permanently.” The vast majority of students – 91% – said they need additional support for the 2021-2022 school year.
“This is an organization that is vital to the economic success of western Pennsylvania,” Chess said. “We’re trying to make sure that the economy is viable for everyone.”
Chess said they held virtual programs throughout the pandemic, and volunteers are now returning to many of the area’s schools to continue their programs.
Their recent and upcoming programs include the JA Inspire Virtual Career Fair; She Leads, She Learns; Eighteen Under 18 and JA Careers in Skilled Trade, Sterling said.
The career fair is an annual event that was moved online in 2020 and “vastly expanded” participation among students and businesses, with 20,000 students and 70 businesses participating. She Leads, She Learns “aims to help high school girls achieve their passions, potential and power,” Sterling said.
Eighteen Under 18 recognizes 18 students for their entrepreneurial spirits, leadership success and community service. The JA Careers in Skilled Trade is a pre-apprenticeship program held in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, businesses, unions and trade schools, Sterling said.
Alyssa Choiniere is a reporter for the Uniotown Herald-Standard. Readers may email her at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
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