Children learning through experience with the Junior Achievement program in school

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

Alan Obermiller helping a student in Ms. Troutman’s  class.

Alan Obermiller helping a student in Ms. Troutman’s class.

Knowledge is power, and having knowledge and personal experience is a double threat that the Junior Achievement (JA) program is trying to incorporate into the school districts of Lincoln County. Junior Achievement is a program ranging from grades K-12 that brings parents and businesses into the classroom to teach lessons to students. JA provides the curriculum and guidance to teaching a class, but volunteers bring their life experiences and their different outlook to the table. JA programs all focus around three major foundations when guiding children down the right path: work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

Junior Achievement has been around the Lincoln County area since 2003 and has reached 14,440 students in the past 11 years.

Four year volunteers, Alan Obermiller, and his wife, Caroline Obermiller, have been using their expertise in business and finance and counseling to help students see the reality of the workforce that they might be interested in.

“I believe that JA gives the kids exposure to the bigger world around them, and they learn that no matter what career path they take, they can make a difference,” said Caroline. “It’s great to see them connecting with the material and learning new things while we (the volunteers) are in the classroom.”

Alan has been an active volunteer through his career at Edward Jones. There are about 30 other individuals that participate throughout different school districts from Edward Jones. “Each year we set a goal for the number of hours we want to volunteer. Every year we raise our goal in order to spend more time educating the youth,” said Alan. “It’s a program that I believe should be expanded and in more classrooms.”

Alan and Caroline have four kids within the school district. Caroline recently finished her Masters Degree in Counseling and has been busy working and volunteering with the JA program when she is not with her family. In one year Caroline tries to teach at least two classes in the fall and one more in the spring. This past school year Caroline has been in first grade, third grade and fourth grade.

Alan enjoys teaching in his children’s classes and getting to spend time outside of the office and teaching students things like making a business and learning the difference between wants and needs. He has been in many different grade levels and would love to expand out to different schools in the Troy district.

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Caroline Obermiller helps a student decide where to put a business as they discuss options and the best placement. The students were very engaged in the activities and were able to use their own creative ability to build their towns.

There are many options for JA programs such as, Traditional Volunteering, JA-in-a-Day, JA-in-2-Days, JA Job Shadow and JA Capstone. Traditional Volunteering will bring a volunteer into a classroom once a week for five to seven weeks. Each lesson can be taught in 30 to 60 minutes per visit. JA-in-a-Day will bring a volunteer into the school for a full day and will present the JA curriculum in just a single day. JA-in-a-Day is the perfect way to bring businesses into the districts to teach and make an impact. JA-in-2-Days is the same concept but the material covered will be completed in two days. JA Job Shadowing provides students with a special opportunity to visit a business and experience a days’ work through a mentor. JA Capstone takes place at JA Biztown and JA Finance Park and offers experiential learning programs. This includes an all day visit in simulated communities that provides the students with a lot of learning experience.

Each grade level focuses on a specific lesson to learn so they aren’t repeated. JA is a 501 non-for-profit program that has many fundraisers throughout the year and donations so they can provide the packets for volunteers to teach the students. Each volunteer gets a bag full of hands-on learning tools that help students learn and a guided curriculum to use for each lesson they volunteer for. All volunteers are encouraged to bring in their life or work experience to the curriculum to better connect with the students.

“Our goal is to bring awareness of this program to the community and to bring more teachers on board,” said Tracie Roberson, Program Manager of Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis, Inc. “It’s such a great learning tool and gives parents and businesses in the community a chance to teach lessons through the eyes of an expert in the field. Parents can even step into their child’s class to teach the lesson of their choice.”

To register to become a part of the Junior Achievement Program, call Tracie Roberson at 636-728-0707 ext. 224, 800-342-7119 ext. 224 or visit www.jastl.org for more information and to register.

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