Teaching students the basics of Entrepreneurship through Junior Achievement

I am a Junior Achievement (JA) volunteer and I started this semester’s program 3 weeks ago.

JA Worldwide is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.

I was a Program Assistant for PREP (PreFreshman Engineering Program) back in 2001 and this was when I discovered my passion to inspire our youth. When I started working at Rackspace back in 2003, I was introduced to Junior Achievement. I love Junior Achievement because it allows me to take business practices from my work life and share it with students. Students are learning their basics in school – which is needed – but they need to understand how it pertains to the real world.

As members of this community, I feel that it is our responsibility to inspire our youth. We can’t leave it up to only our teachers. I know that I would have never gotten to where I am at today without certain individuals inspiring me throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I am still being inspired, not only by accomplished individuals but from our youth. I learn so much from the students I teach.

This semester, I am working with middle school students.  It’s something about this age group that I feel like I can connect to the most, more so than elementary or high school.

The topic for this semester is Entrepreneurship. Yay! My favorite!

The first day I met  with the students, I was so nervous! I got all these butterflies in my stomach. I kept thinking “will they like me?” “will they listen to what I have to say?” “do they care?”  I had done this before but when you meet a new set of students, it’s like going in for an interview.

No matter what, I had to come in very confident. They needed to know that I knew what the heck I was talking about. I am already young so sometimes I may not be taken seriously.

I first had to introduce myself and let everyone know what I did for a living. We were going to go over the basics of Entrepreneurship. Then we were going to play a game, structured like Jeopardy, where I gave them hints of CEO’s and/or companies and they had to guess the name.

I had a very energetic group of kids. It took them a while to settle down. I introduced myself and explained what I did. I educated them a little about the Internet. As soon as I mentioned YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, their attention level went straight to 100%. These were things they knew about and could relate to. I talked about the founders of these companies and how they had a vision. They loved it!

Phew! I was in. We went on to play our game and not only did they learn but I actually learned about CEO’s I didn’t know of before.

Last week, they had an exercise to develop a blueprint of their Teen Club. This was essentially teaching them how to build a business and think of ways that they would sell it – who would come and how much it would be. They designed their entire Teen Club.

This past week, they created slogans and commercials for a  preselected product. These were products that were unheard of and weren’t necessarily real. The products we used were spray on pantyhose, an alarm watch that only woke you up when it sensed you had enough sleep and then programmable paints for your home. All were real products except the programmable paint (which makes me think…).

They were so creative! They came up with slogans and even promotions. They are very smart kids. I hope they remember the lessons we are learning:

  1. Fill a Need
  2. Know your Product and Customer
  3. Be Creative and Innovative
  4. Believe in Yourself

(Sometimes real world businesses need to be reminded of these basics.)

More updates to come as we continue our sessions.

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