Junior Achievement of Arizona (JA) has been playing an important role in the state’s workforce and economic development for the past six decades.
“Junior Achievement prepares young people to succeed in work and life,” Junior Achievement of Arizona President Katherine Cecala told the Glendale Sun. “We educate students about financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship through experiential, hands-on programs.”
JA delivers programs to over 80,000 primarily low-income students in Arizona each year. The most popular high school programs are personal finance and career success, while one of the most popular programs in 4th grade is learning about entrepreneurship, where students create and run a hot dog business.
“Teachers love that students have to use a lot of math in the experiential game, but the students are having so much fun that they do not really notice how much they are learning,” Cecala said. “As with all Junior Achievement programs, the experiential component where the students apply what they have learned really makes the lessons stick.”
Cecala said there are a number of issues making JA more relevant nowadays compared to a generation ago. This includes financial illiteracy, deficiency in skills needed for entry-level jobs and many Arizona high school graduates not being qualified to enter the state’s public universities.
“Junior Achievement is a solutions provider,” Cecala said. “Who is better able to teach our youth about business, the economy and their community than the people who are in the throes of it every day—successful business and community leaders? JA partners with over 8000 volunteers to deliver programs that have impact.”
Cecala said JA’s biggest challenge is raising the funds needed to provide its in-classroom programs at no cost to the schools. She said fundraising for nonprofits has become more difficult due to decreased charitable funding from corporations, as well as increased competition.
“Contributions from generous donors are critical to our ability to provide Arizona youth with important life and work skills,” she said. “Arizonans are fortunate to have the tax credit program which offers taxpayers the opportunity to make contributions to schools and non-profit organizations that reduce the amount of tax owed to the state or increase the amount of the taxpayer’s refund, dollar-for-dollar.”