18,255 students in 841 classrooms at 78 Lincoln-area schools, mentored by 675 amazing corporate and community volunteers (all of those numbers represent significant increases over last year). Three completely new pilot programs that have expanded our reach and impact. An aggressive new social media strategy, an exceeded contributions/operations goal, and even a 2nd place team in the national JA Titan Tournament.
However you look at it, the 2011-2012 school year was a good one for Junior Achievement of Lincoln. Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to do what every non-profit hopes to do – continue to grow in both community impact and financial stability.
Of course, our major focus remained exactly where it always has been – bringing our message of financial literacy to as many local students as possible by putting caring, well-trained volunteers from the business community into classrooms armed with top-notch curriculum. We realized, however, that we had the opportunity to go far beyond that basic curriculum, reaching students in new and innovative ways.
To that end, we began the year with an entirely new idea that we called Driven Youth Invitational. The program focused totally on entrepreneurship in our changing economy, and it was pitched to local high school students. They were asked to attend once-a-week evening classes for just over two months, and in return would be given what we considered to be an invaluable experience &nash; the chance to learn step-by-step how to start their own businesses from the ground up. With some of the area’s top entrepreneurs serving as their mentors, they would come up with an idea, conduct market research, and even design their own business plans. In the end, a group of very motivated students came away with what they told us was a great experience. Student Tyler Hurley said, “The skills [I learned] don’t just apply to running a company. [They] are applicable in every facet of life, whether it be making yourself more “hire-able” on a job application, learning how to communicate in day-to-day life, and so much more.”
Moving from our oldest students to our youngest, this school year also saw the inception of Bank on Youth. The brand-new program began with a simple goal ‐ get our youngest students excited about saving. With help from State Farm, JA of Lincoln provided any kindergarten classroom that wanted one with a piggy bank, a lesson plan, and a challenge – let the students choose something they’d like to buy for their classroom or school, figure out how much money they’d need, and then spend the school year raising money toward that goal. To top it all off, State Farm agreed to double the savings of some of the classrooms that put in the most effort. As it turned out, State Farm was so impressed with how hard the students worked towards their goals that they decided to go far beyond their original pledge, and instead gave out grants of $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000 to classrooms a 5 different schools.
Also this year, JA of Lincoln wanted to find a new way to bring the promise and potential of the business world to the students who most need to experience it. Job shadowing has long been identified as one of the best ways to motivate students to work towards a career, so we began a pilot program to give our students that motivation. We began by focusing on LPS high schools with lower graduation rates, and then, in an effort to reach students when it’s most effective, targeted the middle schools that feed into them. We partnered with the Community Learning Centers at North Star High School, Park Middle School, and Dawes Middle School, and three of Lincoln’s biggest employers (Nelnet, Union Bank, and State Farm), and the JA Job Shadow program was born. Beginning in March, groups of students from each school began a nine-week after school program. They participated in career assessments, learned about job opportunities and work-readiness skills, and finally had the opportunity to visit our three corporate partners. They toured the businesses, met with employees in a wide range of departments, and had the chance to ask questions about their jobs.
So there you have it – a successful 2011-2012 school year in the books, and we couldn’t be happier about it! It’s not bragging, by the way, to talk about all that JA of Lincoln was able to accomplish– because we know that it was only possible because of our amazing network of corporate and community supporters, donors, stakeholders, and friends. It truly does take a village to give our young people the tools they need to own their economic success, and we’re lucky enough to be part of one of the best villages anywhere. So, on behalf of those 18,255 students who are more prepared for their futures– thank you! And here’s to an even bigger and better 2012-2013!