junior achievement

Nonprofit of the Month: Junior Achievement of Arizona

For more than 65 years, Junior Achievement of Arizona has prepared local students to succeed in both work and life, empowering the futures of more than two million students. Here, Anne Landers, vice president of Strategic Impact, discusses ways locals can get involved with Junior Achievement, the 20th anniversary of JA BizTown and the upcoming JA Bottles for BizTown event.

What prompted the start of the nonprofit? Junior Achievement started more than a 100 years ago on the East Coast in an effort to prepare kids to succeed in a global economy. Over the years, the mission and presence of the organization has expanded. For more than 65 years, Junior Achievement has been empowering the futures of more than two million students, kindergarten through 12th grade.

In what ways does Junior Achievement set its students up for economic success? We’re empowering their futures by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to manage their money, plan for their future, and make smart academic, career and economic choices. Delivered by 8,000-plus business and community volunteer mentors, our hands-on, age-appropriate programs focus on three key areas: financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. At the foundation of all our programs is teaching students the ability to think critically.

JA BizTown

What is JA BizTown? JA BizTown is an engaging, hands-on program that introduces fourth through sixth graders to economic concepts, workplace skills and personal and business finances in a student-sized town built just for them. Kids first participate in a series of lessons in the classroom, using their new skills to explore careers, apply for JA BizTown jobs, create business plans and set sales strategies. The learning all culminates when they become employees for a day in our JA BizTown, an on-site learning facility that features more than 40 different businesses and industries.

During their time at JA BizTown, students operate a simulated economy and take on the challenge of running businesses. They get hands-on experience as both employees and consumers, paying rent, taxes and utilities, buying advertising from the radio station, conducting TV interviews, purchasing insurance, depositing paychecks and buying other goods/services, handling customer service, and more.

Quite frankly, there is nothing else like it – we meet adults all the time who not only remember their JA BizTown experience well, but even went onto to work in a career they learned about through the experience.

This year, we’re celebrating 20 years of delivering this program to AZ students – hundreds of thousands of futures have been changed for kids as a result. We are proud of the impact of our JA BizTown program as well as our more than 40 other programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

What is the greatest reward in being involved with the nonprofit? Our shared success in Arizona depends on how prepared today’s students are for the realities of tomorrow. These kids are our future leaders, employees, entrepreneurs and neighbors. We must prepare them to thrive in their careers and to manage their money well. And, Junior Achievement does that! Our programs are far-reaching and deeply impactful. By investing in JA programs–as an educator, a community member, volunteer, donor or employer–you’re making a measurable difference in our students’ futures, and ensuring a more vibrant robust future for Arizona. Not to mention how rewarding it is to the see the light bulbs turn on during a day of volunteering in JA classrooms!

What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? Has the pandemic affected the needs of Junior Achievement of Arizona? Like many nonprofits, our greatest challenges are financial support and volunteers. In more typical times, it takes more than 8,000 volunteers from the local and business community to deliver our programs in more than 400 Arizona schools. Today, we have a variety of ways to volunteer, ranging from virtual delivery to in-person. We are always in need of volunteers – bring your experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to shape students’ futures. Our most pressing volunteer needs are updated here. Additionally, we are funded almost exclusively on philanthropy – support from individuals and businesses in Arizona who see the value and long-term impact in investing in our kids today.

What are your goals for the new year? Reacting to the realities of the pandemic, Junior Achievement innovated, adjusted and learned (almost over night!) how to deliver our programs differently, digitally. This has opened many new opportunities to reach students in all corners of the state and in varying learning environments. Additionally, we’ve developed new programs and enhanced existing programs. Simply, we are committed to reaching Arizona students wherever and however they are learning today!

How can readers help? Volunteer! Invest! Be an ambassador!

This mission is only possible because of the Arizona community that supports our efforts at all levels.

  • Consider volunteering in a JA classroom this year – virtually or in-person, when it’s safe to do so.
  • Invest in our programs – donations to Junior Achievement are Arizona Charitable Tax Credit eligible. You can donate up to $800 per couple and get it all back on your 2021 taxes (you have until April 15 to apply it against last year’s tax return!).
  • We also have a variety of events and planning committees that are always in need of more local support.
  • Educators, bring JA to your classroom! Let us know you’re interested in partnering with JA to bring our programs to your students.
  • And finally, spread the word! Help others in the community learn about the important work we are doing together.

Does the foundation have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? During the pandemic, we have responsibly planned our upcoming events, in many cases having to postpone until it’s safe to be together. With that said, we do have a series of events that are slated for the coming months beginning with our JA Bottles for BizTown evening on Feb. 25. We are closely watching the evolving healthcare situation and will reschedule when prudent to do so.

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