"We are on target to reach 100,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12 in 14 counties this year," said Heidi Potter, senior vice president of programs for Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania (JASCP). "We can't do it without volunteers."
JASCP has been headquartered in York since 1961, and it merged with the Lancaster office last year.
"We are excited to bring these programs to the Lancaster community," Potter said.
The mission of Junior Achievement is to empower young people to own their future economic success. JASCP offers a range of programs tailored according to grade level that introduce topics related to workplace readiness, career opportunities, wealth generation and management, and more. The programs are available to any school in the JASCP's territories, with no charge for one-day programs offered to fifth grade and younger.
Thanks to the assistance of volunteers, JASCP operates on a budget of slightly more than $2 million, which is primarily provided through tax credits from businesses and two fundraisers, Potter said. Volunteers, who represent all walks of life, run the in-school programs under the guidance of JASCP staff members. JASCP provides all of the materials and the necessary training. The activities tend to be game-like and informal.
"We make it super easy for the volunteers. We provide constant support throughout the day," said Trisha Comstock, director of the JASCP program Your Economic Success! (YES!). "You can give a couple hours and make a difference in a kid's life."
Potter and Comstock noted that for the younger grades, the volunteers tend to be parents. For high school programs, the volunteers come largely from the business sector and the community, and those folks share their workforce experiences with the students as a way to add a personal element to the classroom learning.
This year, JASCP will need more than 8,000 volunteers, many of whom will help with three daylong programs: STEM Summit, which focuses on career exploration for freshmen; REAL Life, which focuses on personal finance for seniors; and YES!, which introduces careers and personal finance to students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
"Students get a different experience every year," Comstock said, adding that the sixth-grade program is being reworked in order to focus on trade skills as well as academia. "We want kids to be the best versions of themselves and be contributing members of society," she remarked. "Our goal is to encourage them to seek education beyond high school."
"College isn't for every kid," Potter acknowledged. "We need people going into the trades." One of the goals of JASCP programs is to impress on students the many opportunities through which they might make a living, she said, adding, "We want them to learn how to identify their passions and turn that passion into careers."
While the impact of JASCP programs is typically not instantaneous, Potter and Comstock have seen students who might otherwise be disengaged in class become involved with the JASCP activities.
"I've seen a lot of kids where the lightbulb goes on," Comstock remarked. "I've heard from parents that their kids come home (after learning about finances) and say, 'I don't know how you make ends meet. Thank you.'"
To learn more about the JASCP, readers may visit http://www.jascpa.org. Those who would like to volunteer may contact Allison Kierce, vice president of volunteer engagement, at 717-843-8028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.