Westerville Schools, Junior Achievement Partner to Win Community Connectors Grant

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Westerville City School District (WCSD) students will have the opportunity to participate in Junior Achievement of Central Ohio (JACO) programs while in elementary, middle and high school, thanks to $149,362 in funding through the State of Ohio’s Community Connectors grant initiative.

Representatives from WCSD and JACO collaborated on the competitive grant and received notification in late June that they were among the 116 community partnerships selected to receive funding in the latest round.  The state established its Community Connectors grant program in 2014 to connect Ohio students to role models who can help motivate and inspire them, as well as help them develop skills that lead to success in school and the workplace.

“Junior Achievement already works with many of our schools, particularly at the elementary level,” said WCSD Superintendent Dr. John Kellogg.  “For most students in our middle and high schools, this will be their first opportunity to benefit from such programming at the secondary level.  Winning this grant will allow us to bring enhanced access, consistency, and continuity of JACO programming from elementary through high school.”

At the elementary level, fifth-grade students will continue to have the opportunity to participate in JACO’s BizTown, which involves weeks of classroom preparation studying careers, local economies, political structures, and how a community functions.  Classroom studies culminate in a visit to BizTown, where students step into a simulated town and apply what they have learned to real-world scenarios.  During their four-and-a-half hour interactive experience, students operate businesses, write checks, pay bills, use debit cards, and vote for elected officials.  Upon their return to school, students and teachers take time to reflect with each other about the experience.

WCSD middle schools will have three program options available:

  • “JA Economics for Success” gives students practical information allowing them to develop their understanding of personal finance and the importance of identifying education and career goals. Participants will be able to explore their skills, interests, values, and the world of work to make informed education, career, and life decisions.  They also will be able to apply learned financial-management skills regardless of income.
  • “JA It’s My Future” offers a blended learning model that provides students with practical information to prepare them for the working world.  The program consists of six 45-minute sessions led by a volunteer, with additional opportunities offered throughout.  Participants will be able to research potential careers, develop the personal-branding and job-hunting skills needed to earn a job, differentiate between soft and technical skills, create a basic resume, and recognize appropriate behavior for an interview.
  • “JA It’s My Business!” offers students a blended learning experience that takes them through the initial steps of launching a business.  Volunteers lead six 45-minute sessions, each of which includes a 15-minute optional extension activity available after school.  Hands-on activities engage students in authentic, entrepreneurial experiences that culminate in a product-pitch competition.  Participants will be able to develop a business startup concept, complete product/service design and prototyping, conduct market research, and pitch their new business to potential funders.

“The exceptional thing about these and other programs that we’ll be bringing to Westerville City Schools is that students are completing problem-based, experiential learning scenarios, it’s not rote memory learning,” said JACO Vice President of In-Class and Community Programs Mike Fulwider.  “Our staff will be working closely with individual schools to make sure program implementation works well with their schedule and curriculum.”

JACO programming at the high school level is more in depth and helps students prepare for life scenarios they likely will experience after graduation:

  • “JA Personal Finance” participants develop their understanding of basic money-management strategies and steps necessary to achieve financial health and wellness.  Concepts covered include employment and income earnings, budgeting, savings, credit and debt, consumer protection, smart shopping, risk management, and investing.  Participants will be able to identify not only how their personal finances affect their quality of life, but how financial decisions they make today impact their future financial freedom.  The program is delivered through a blended model consisting of eight 45-minute sessions with additional opportunities offered throughout. Basic and advanced implementation options are available.
  • “JA Job Shadow” prepares participants to become entrepreneurial thinkers in their approach to work.  Students research requirements needed to earn a position and discover how to navigate the demanding, ever-changing workplace once they are hired.  Program participants develop job-hunting and networking talents, craft resumes, hone interviewing skills, and identify the next steps toward their personal career preparation.  The program also entails a visit to a sponsor business, where students learn about the company’s products/services and global reach, explore career pathways in the industry, and tour the facility.  Students complete a case study, present their findings and have an opportunity to reflect on their experiences.
  • “JA Company” provides students an opportunity to fill a need or solve a problem in their community by launching their own start-up company.  Given the depth of this program, participating schools likely will offer this option on a semester basis.  Interactions with experts in business start-ups allow students to identify the key elements of creating and operating a business, such as supply chains, finances, and marketing.  Students will create a business, raise capital, complete a marketing plan, and pursue sales goals.

WCSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Jennifer Knapp believes that while BizTown plants the seed for entrepreneurial and career exploration in elementary students, new programming available to middle and high school students is where exceptional growth can occur.  “Our partnership with Junior Achievement brings us additional age-appropriate curriculum, developed by education and business professionals, that aligns extremely well with our existing business and social studies curriculum,” Knapp explained.  “Our team is excited about the opportunity to bring these programs to our students and put them in contact with mentors who can guide them toward successful experiences in school and beyond.”

Executive Director of Secondary Academic Affairs Scott Reeves said since WCSD and JACO representatives learned only a few weeks ago that they had won the grant, implementation for the coming academic year has been on the fast track.  “Principals have already been presented with the various implementation models available,” Reeves said.  “JA will be meeting with each building team to determine what programming option will work best at their school, as well as the timing of when the program will be offered.” 

Fall programming opportunities begin in October and winter opportunities begin in January. Spring opportunities also are possible, but school officials must consider the potential for conflicts with state testing and other matters associated with the final months of a school year. 

Coordinator of Career Technical Education and College Readiness Anne Baldwin said she is eager to see what becomes of this opportunity to connect school leaders, classroom teachers, and students with volunteers from corporations and non-profit organizations.  “In addition to being experts in their respective business fields, program volunteers are trained to work with teachers to deliver program content,” Baldwin explained. 

Kellogg and JACO staff indicated that this opportunity for WCSD students would not be possible without the many local partners that have agreed to become involved and support the initiative.  Partners include The Point at Otterbein University, Westerville Education Foundation, Cardinal Health, Westerville Area Ministerial Association, Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce, Westerville Sunrise Rotary, Education First Credit Union, and Mt. Carmel St. Ann’s. 

“We are so grateful for our partners from the Westerville community, and we are excited to get them engaged in the classroom to prepare students for the business of life,” said JACO President Mike Davis.