With the job world becoming increasingly more competitive, it’s critical that students leave school with more than just an education. Closing the 2018-19 academic year with record numbers and providing additional summer programs through partnerships with human service and other organizations, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida has helped more students than ever get ready for business. In 2018-19, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida’s kindergarten-12th grade programs used experiential learning to inspire 12,498 students in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, up 7% from the 2017-18 school year. The increase was a fitting way to celebrate Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida’s 25th anniversary of dedication to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their own economic success, plan and make smart academic and economic choices.
“Junior Achievement has continued to grow in Southwest Florida through strong support from our community partners and the never-ending commitment from our loyal volunteers,” said Angela Fisher, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida. “Our goal was to reach more students than ever this year, delivering valuable lessons on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship at both public and private schools, as well as after school programs and special at-risk groups across the region.”
Participation in Lee County was up 12% to 7,748 students. Collier County had an 11% increase in participation with a total of 4,509 students served. A total of 70,196 instructional hours were provided throughout the tri-county area.
In addition to impactful programs and learning opportunities provided during the school year, Junior Achievement also reaches students during the summer through partnerships with organizations that provide similar services, supplementing programming and helping to fill gaps.
This year, Junior Achievement also delivered programs on financial literacy, career readiness and business skills to hundreds of young people at Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Collier Juvenile Detention Center, Grace Place Community Center, Lee Adolescent Mothers Program (LAMP), Pace Center for Girls in Immokalee and Youth Haven, as well as ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) summer programs in Bonita Springs High School and Dunbar High School.
A summer job shadow experience with Youth Haven, an emergency and residential shelter for children ages 6 to 18 that have been abused, abandoned or are homeless, visited Progress Rail, a local manufacturer of steel pumps for trains. The two-hour program showcased opportunities available in the manufacturing industry, explored what education is needed, and opened participants’ eyes to opportunities they can pursue with and without formal college education.
“We are so thankful for our community partnerships with organizations such as Junior Achievement,” said Jinx Liggett, Youth Haven’s executive director. “With their support, our teens were exposed to new opportunities with the potential for future growth. Our teens deserve to grow up to have successful lives and we’re so appreciative of Junior Achievement for all they do to better the community and our youth.”
Junior Achievement relies on volunteers from the business community and sponsors to carry out its programs. This school year a total of 273 volunteers participated, up 92% from the previous school year. Jonathan Marquez, owner of Champion Roofing, volunteered for the first time this summer to teach ESOL students about financial planning and employment. As a second-generation Mexican American, he said he really connected with the students, having come from a home where his parents struggled financially and didn’t speak English.
“I know what these kids are going through, and I wanted to stress to them they don’t have to settle for manual labor,” he said. “There is always more.”
Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida is part of a national network dedicated to preparing young people for the workforce. Junior Achievement USA, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, honored Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida with its prestigious five-star rating. One of 45 Junior Achievement areas selected nationally and one of just three in Florida, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida was recognized for meeting Junior Achievement’s standards for compliance, student impact, operational efficiency, financial stability and sustainability.
“These Five Star Award winners represent the best Junior Achievement has to offer,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “They set the standard by which Junior Achievement’s success is measured at the local level. Their commitment and dedication to young people is reflected in their achieving this honor.”
With a new school year underway, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida is poised and ready to give students the tools to succeed and grow the organization’s next 25 years of programming. To learn more about Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida and its programs, visit www.JASWFL.org.