Society Notebook: Junior Achievement seeks business people to connect with children

Local business groups partnered with Junior Achievement of Maine to host a networking event to recruit more volunteers to help fulfill the organization’s mission of teaching youth employability and financial literacy.

Members of Startup Maine, Maine Accelerates Growth and Maine Angels were among 100 people who gathered at payments processing company Wex’s Portland headquarters on March 9 for food and beverages from the Navis Café and brief presentations on Junior Achievement. Fourteen people signed up to receive more information about volunteering.

“Our young people aren’t necessarily aware of all the opportunities that are available in the workforce,” said Katie Shorey, president of Startup Maine and a Junior Achievement volunteer. “They want to know what we do and how we got there. For people in the startup space, this is an easy way to give back.”

Six hundred volunteers lead Junior Achievement of Maine programs in 140 Maine schools, reaching nearly 12,000 K-12 students from Kittery to Fort Kent.

“A big part of Junior Achievement’s work is inspiring children to be financially literate, career-ready entrepreneurial thinkers,” said President Michelle Anderson. “We are a bridge between education and the workforce so that children can see the relevance of their education and see what they can do in the future.”

Junior Achievement provides curriculum and training, and volunteers bring the program to life with stories about their career experiences and lessons learned.

“Rarely do students want to talk about what I do,” said Tom Morgan, owner of Breakthrough Sales Solutions. “They want to hear why I’m doing what I’m doing and how I decided to get there. So many students are interested in the entrepreneurial journey and starting their own business. You ask a lot of questions.”

Ryan Kelley, a bankruptcy attorney for Pierce Atwood, teaches middle and high school financial literacy classes. “A lot of other financial education programs start in high school or college,” he said. “But economic concepts can and should be taught earlier.”

Morgan and Kelley are volunteering at Junior of Achievement of Maine’s Titan Challenge, a startup simulation game being played by 300 students at seven locations on April 5th. Students guide their business through a series of competitions and games representing three years of business.

“When I was mentoring a class at Westbrook, one student decided to make their entire product in the first quarter,” Morgan said. “They had a year’s inventory. But then in the second quarter they had to lay off all of their production staff and their corporate social responsibility score went through the tank. These students are learning that the decisions they make in running their own business have an impact not only on the business but also on employees, the community and the state.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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