Local business groups co-hosted a networking event with Junior Achievement of Maine to recruit more volunteers to carry out the organization’s mission of teaching young people about work readiness and financial literacy.
Members of Startup Maine, Maine Accelerates Growth and Maine Angels were among the 100 people who gathered March 9 at the Portland headquarters of payment processing company Wex for food and drink from Navis Café and short presentations about Junior Achievement. Fourteen people signed up to get more information about volunteering.
“Our young people don’t necessarily know all the opportunities available in the workforce,” said Katie Shorey, president of Startup Maine and a Junior Achievement volunteer. “They want to hear about 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 close to 12,000 K-12 students from Kittery to Fort Kent.
“A lot of the work that Junior Achievement does is to inspire kids to be financially literate, career-ready entrepreneurial thinkers,” said President Michelle Anderson. “We’re a bridge between education and workforce so kids can see the relevance of their education and what they might be able to do in the future.”
Junior Achievement provides curriculum and training, and volunteers bring the program to life with stories of 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 about why I do what I do and how I chose to get there. So many students are interested in the entrepreneurial journey and starting their own business. They ask a lot of questions.”
Ryan Kelley, a bankruptcy attorney with Pierce Atwood, leads financial literacy classes at middle and high schools. “A lot of other financial literacy programming starts in high school or college,” he said. “But economic concepts can and should be taught at earlier stages.”
Morgan and Kelley are volunteering with Junior of Achievement of Maine’s Titan Challenge, a startup simulation game played by 300 students across seven locations on April 5. Students take their company through a series of contests and games that represent three years of business.
“When I was mentoring in a class in Westbrook, a student decided to make all their product in the first quarter,” Morgan said. “They had a year’s worth of inventory. But then in the second quarter, they had to lay off all their production workers and their corporate social responsibility score went in the tank. These students are learning that the choices they make in running their own business have impacts not only on the business but on the employees and 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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