For the last few months I have been visiting Ms. Lawrence’s 3rd grade class as a representative for the Junior Achievement Organization.  JA teaches kids about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy though a network of volunteer professionals.  The curriculum is tailored for kids K-12 and teaches a message that I am very passionate about.  Too many kids go on to be adults without the necessary skills to be financially independent.  Many kids do not know what majors are available in college or what careers are out there beyond professional athletes and entertainers.  Many also do not fully understand the dangers of consumer debt and spending more than they earn.

The 3rd grade curriculum is based on learning about the local community.  We discuss things like how cities are zoned and the important role of city planners.  We also started our own restaurants and talked about the considerations of starting a new business.  The kids used data of local preferences to choose a cuisine and set prices. I was surprised by the class’s understanding of how pricing affects the demand and profitability of a product.  The children were also very keen about hiring a proper employee from a list of resumes.  Next time I will discuss the vital role of banks in the local economy.

An important component of the JA program is the exposure to people in various careers.  I try to teach the children about working at HP and the careers available in science and engineering. I answered several questions about how I became interested in computers at an early age and it was fun to see the kid’s interest and enthusiasm as they handled the circuit boards I brought in.

Being a role model is a very important part of the program and I plan to visit low-income schools that may lack access to professionals in the tech industry.  I believe this program is a positive force in the effort to break the ongoing cycle of poverty in our country.

JA is available across the US and I implore you see if you can make a difference by volunteering your time.  I have found it be incredibly rewarding.  The children are excited to see me and hear about my experiences.   The thought of just one child being inspired to pursue a career in the tech industry is well worth the small amount of time I devote to the program.