Guest Commentary: Volunteers, teachers inspire Junior Achievement students to succeed
It is undeniable that there are many exceptional students in our community that are at risk of being overlooked by society. These students can benefit greatly from the support of local business leaders. As a 14-year volunteer for Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida and recipient of the 2014 JA Lifetime Achievement Award, I have enjoyed the opportunity to share my years of expertise as a business person to encourage Junior Achievement students to prepare for their futures.
I had been teaching Junior Achievement programs in both high school and middle school classrooms when I met a teacher from Coronado High School. I was excited to learn about the diversity of the student body, ranging up to 21 years of age, and the obstacles some of these students face in their schooling and their home lives. I’ve taught Junior Achievement classes at this school for the past five years, and have been highly impressed by these young adults and their ability to overcome life’s obstacles. This year, I have completed education courses at Florida SouthWestern State College to further improve my teaching skills, which has enabled me to better reach these students as I work to instill Junior Achievement’s core values and share important communication skills that they can take into future interviews and professional settings.
Individuals within the business community can share wisdom learned from their own experiences, bringing impactful stories about overcoming the difficulties of life in a way that is relevant and interesting to students. I tell my students to envision life as a ladder. Even if you’re standing on the bottom rung, there is always an opportunity to climb. Therefore, when faced with the ups and downs of life, you can always make the decision to rise. The business values that Junior Achievement instills in students better prepares them for this climb to success.
The collaborative approach between teachers and volunteers greatly enhances the Junior Achievement experience for students. As a volunteer, my mission is to be an example to my students, teaching them Junior Achievement’s key principles of financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship, and beyond. I desire to be an emotionally and instructionally supportive educator they will remember for the valuable information we discuss and the life lessons I share during each class session, and I am grateful for the teachers who have so generously opened their classrooms to this encounter.
Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida will recognize the contributions of these phenomenal volunteers and teachers during the annual Volunteer & Teacher Appreciation Event on May 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Six Bends Harley-Davidson, featuring free food, refreshments, prize drawings and an awards ceremony for these outstanding volunteers and teachers.
We all need to be leaders, small or tall, and Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida provides an opportunity for business people and teachers to set a shining example for our younger generation through their knowledge, involvement and generosity. I hope you will join us on May 24 to celebrate the many volunteers and teachers who have committed their lives to making a difference for Southwest Florida students.
– Michael Schneider-Christians is a retired Realtor and Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida volunteer