For the past year, I have spent time in the classroom at Crook County High School teaching students a course designed by Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement (JA) is an organization “dedicated to educating students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.”
The goal is to prepare students for the real world by teaching skills that will help them not only succeed in the workplace, but also in their own personal lives. JA relies on community volunteers to give of their time and knowledge to go into the classroom and spend time with students.
The subject matter I am tasked with is to teach students how to be their own CEO and role play how to run a manufacturing company. We discuss decision-making on six key elements of business: price, production, marketing, capital investment, research and development, and charitable giving.
I use examples from businesses in our local community. We talk about Les Schwab, Facebook and even small businesses that many of their parents work for. I make sure to make the subject matter relevant and interesting by discussing products they are familiar with. I have even challenged them to come up with ways to use social media for marketing, rather than just being on there for their own entertainment.
Although I never had the desire to be an educator, and never saw myself in the classroom, being able to step in front of a room of 25 teenagers and challenge them to think about their future has been rewarding. I ask the students important questions regarding their future. What do you want to do after high school? Who plans to go to college? Who wants to own a home in a nice neighborhood? Who wants a big truck with nice rims? Anyone plan on taking tropical vacations? And the most important question: How to you plan to achieve all of this? That question often results in me staring at a room of blank, sometimes scared faces and silence.
I encourage the students that their future goals are achievable. By working hard and staying in school, they can achieve those dreams. We discuss soft skills that can push them ahead when it comes to seeking out a job. The importance of showing up and being on time are crucial. Good communication skills and being able to be a positive part of a team can put you ahead in the workplace. I also spend time teaching students the importance of volunteering and giving back to their community — that the time and energy they spend giving to others will come back to them.
As much as being in the classroom helps the students, there is also a personal benefit. It has allowed me to give back to my community and keeps me learning. And it has been an excellent opportunity to develop leadership skills and forge relationships with the local youth. My hope is that I am helping prepare a better future for our workforce and our community by sharing my experiences with the students at Crook County High School.
For more information on Junior Achievement in our schools, or if you would like to volunteer, please go to https://jaorswwa.org/.