Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta celebrating 50th anniversary

When Gregg Broks was in high school, he and some entrepreneurial-minded classmates got their hands on a “Slurpee” machine and started selling the icy drinks at their school.

Gregg Broks

When Gregg Broks was in high school, he and some entrepreneurial-minded classmates got their hands on a “Slurpee” machine and started selling the icy drinks at their school.

Broks attributes that venture, and his subsequent interest in business, to his involvement in Junior Achievement.

“I definitely have more of an entrepreneurial spirit than most of my companions that didn’t do it,” said Broks, development manager of Melcor Developments Ltd.’s land division in Red Deer.

Terri-Lynn Johannesson tells a similar story. The banking floor manager at Rocky Credit Union describes the lasting impact Junior Achievement has had on her since she participated in the program as a young girl.

“I always remembered it.”

Broks and Johannesson are now volunteers with Junior Achievement: teaching students lessons they hope will last a lifetime.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta is based in Calgary but has eight regional offices — including one in Red Deer.

“What we do is provide financial literacy and entrepreneurial programs to school-age kids, for free,” said Linda Sietzema, regional co-ordinator for Central Alberta.

Programming is available for students from Grade 4 to Grade 12, including business basics, financial literacy and financial planning. Older youths can develop and operate their own businesses.

But the lessons extend much further.

John MacKenzie, who is a Red Deer-based business coach, has been conducting a Junior Achievement program on the economics of staying in school.

He guides students through newspaper ads so they can calculate the cost of living away from home and the income they’re likely to earn with their education and skills.

“They’re shocked,” said MacKenzie.

“It basically teaches kids to stay in school and it teaches them about what they want to get out of life.”

Doreen Belliveau, director of marketing with Red Deer-based Chatters Canada Ltd., has led students through the same exercise. Such practical lessons, she said, resonates with youngsters accustomed to the traditional classroom curriculum.

“Kids are always wanting to know, ‘How’s this going to matter to me in my real life, outside of the walls of school, or when I’m finished school?’ This is what Junior Achievement offers.”

Johannesson also feels that her classroom time is favourably received.

“The kids enjoyed having someone else come in. It was fun for them.”

She and Broks have been teaching business basics. In Broks’s case, that’s covered everything from how to rent facilitie to how to shake hands.

“Teaching kids that fundamental entrepreneurial spirit,” he sums up.

During the last school year, said Sietzema, 68 Junior Achievement classes were conducted in Central Alberta, with more than 1,600 students and 105 volunteers involved.

This training stimulates entrepreneurial appetites but also produces other benefits, she said.

“I think the leadership skills that they gain, and the business skills — whether you become an entrepreneur or not — you’re going to take those with you.”

“It’s a very important link in the chain of rounding these kids,” agreed MacKenzie.

“You’re helping to shape the future leaders,” added Belliveau.

Sietzema said Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta is always looking for volunteers, and a strong business background isn’t necessary. The typical commitment is four hours of class time, with instuctor training running about one to 1 1/2 hours, and class preparation time varying from instructor to instructor.

Johannesson believes the time is well worth it.

“I think any kind of involvement and encouragement that you can give to kids is always a positive thing.”

Additional information about Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta can be found online at www.jasouthalberta.org.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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