That’s where Junior Achievement comes in.
The volunteer organization begins with kindergartners, teaching them some basic economics, how to handle money and that capitalism can be kind. The lessons continue through high school where students learn a little about life, about how to become successful and what it means to be successful, said Kimberly Hetrick, who is an Eagle Valley High School business teacher who joined the local Junior Achievement board this year.
“I have an opportunity to make the rubber meet the road,” Hetrick said. “They learn personal finance, career exploration, partnering and engaging the community and that what you do matters. I talk every day about making connections, because that’s the dirt and grit and what it takes to make it out there.”
Hetrick even breaks down how much taxpayers spend on the students in her classes and punctuates lessons with this bit of reality.
“The taxpayers of this community are investing in you every day. Are you giving them a return on their investment?” Hetrick tells her students. “The volunteers with Junior Achievement model that each day, putting their money where their mouth is.”
Local lessons, local support
The local United Way affiliate awarded a $5,000 grant to Junior Achievement to supports its fundamentals of free enterprise.
For now, Junior Achievement provides financial education to 250 students in 10 local schools. This year’s goal is to reach 2,000 local students, Larry Hendrickson said, Junior Achievement volunteer and a member of the local board of directors.
“Support from organizations like United Way allows Junior Achievement to bring local role models to local students at no cost to schools,” Hendrickson said.
The goal is to help students learn to spot opportunities, manage their finances and become self-sufficient adults, Hendrickson said.
They start early
Programs begin in kindergarten with “Ourselves,” a series of read-aloud stories and hands-on activities, which demonstrate helping, earning and saving.
By the time kids get to high school, they’re learning about entrepreneurial ventures they can start while still in high school. Students are introduced to the elements of successful business start-ups, myths and facts about entrepreneurship and early product development.
It’s not just about making money. In “Capitalism With a Conscious,” local CEOs teach business ethics, and students and CEOs work in groups to come up with solutions to ethical dilemmas.
Then again, it can be about the money. The Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge teaches students about investing and trading in a stock market through a hands-on, high-tech simulation of the New York Stock Exchange floor.
“The United Way of Eagle River Valley has a commitment to our donors to ensure their generosity is well placed,” said Gretchen Babcock, executive director of United Way of Eagle River Valley. “Youth education is one of our primary areas of focus.”
The United Way made its first grant to Junior Achievement this past year, Babcock said.
“It was an easy decision to continue our support again this year,” Babcock said.
Junior Achievement volunteers are recruited from such local companies as All Mountain Booking, Ballenger Asset Management and Research, Berglund Architects, Colorado Business Bank, Fillion Properties, FirstBank, U.S. Bank and Vail Resorts.
In this region, Junior Achievement’s 5,000 volunteers provide in-school and after-school programs for 114,000 students in Colorado and Wyoming. The programs focus on work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
Eagle County’s United Way chapter was founded in 1996. It has raised and distributed nearly $2 million since then.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.