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Firms find working with JA highly rewarding

Three companies share what it’s like to work with Junior Achievement students and why they take the time and effort to volunteer:

ACC Business
J.D. Baker, president and CEO, ACC Business, and chairman, JA Rochester’s board of directors

Every year, ACC, a local ATT affiliate, hosts a one-day program for at-risk JA youth under the ATT Aspire initiative. John “JD” Baker, ACC president, is chairman of JA’s board of directors.

How long has ACC been involved with JA in Rochester?

Since 2009.

What activities are part of your one-day program with at-risk JA youth? Where is it held?

The program is held at ACC Business headquarters at 400 West Ave. in Rochester. The Aspire/JA program started with a student observation format. Students listened to three speakers, watched skits that showed “good and bad” interview skills and job-shadowed an assigned manager.

Today, however, the presentation format has evolved to be more student-centric and hands-on, in an interactive format. Students write their own scripts and actively role-play scenarios such as “What to do if you’re stuck in an elevator with the CEO” and the student favorite, “the phone app I would love to own” contest.

How many students attend? What kind of feedback do you receive?

In the early days, we had 15 to 25 students. But in the last few years, we’ve had an increase in student head count, due to the efforts of the JA team, and we now average 30 to 40 students. The feedback from students and attending teachers has been exceedingly positive. We’ve received letters, emails and thank-you notes.

What do you hope to achieve through this one-day program, both for the students and for the employees who participate?

The obvious answer is to make a difference in the life of each student. That’s a tall order, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. I would say the more realistic goal is to introduce to the students the possibility of an altered path, that there are options of a different future open to them.

As for employees, it’s truly a special adventure. It’s humbling to think you might have a small part in the transformation of a student’s point of view.

What is the ATT Aspire initiative?
Students in the Aspire Mentoring Academy are at risk of dropping out of high school. The students we mentor are often underserved and underprivileged with a variety of factors working against their chances of graduating. AT&T is investing $350 million in Aspire to help ensure more students graduate from high school and prepare for careers and college.

CrazyDog T-Shirts
Brian Kelly, marketing and branding dude

Young professionals teach JA Titan in the Webster Central School District. 

Describe a typical session when you meet with the students. What do the students learn?

Using the JA curriculum as a guideline we would come up with lesson plans that appealed to the students. Most of the class comprised seniors, so we used our experience as “funny T-shirt guys” to relate the curriculum to that age group.

As young professionals who are helping to build a business, why is it important to you to volunteer with JA Rochester?

The JA program is actually a perfect fit for us! The students are in our target demographic, so we were learning from them just as much as they were learning from us. We also love getting involved in the Rochester community. This city has given so much to us; we always are looking for ways to give back.

What do you enjoy about it?

We really enjoyed interacting with the students in a comfortable environment. Coach (Scott) Deuschle (Webster Thomas business teacher) was great in letting us off our leash and allowing us free rein over the curriculum.  

PriceWaterhouseCoopers
Dan Book, partner

Employees participated in the JA in a Day at School 57 (nine classrooms). They filled another 16 classes at JA in a Day at School 3.

How many years has PwC Rochester worked with JA locally?

More than 20 years.

Has that involvement increased over the years?

Over the past couple of years, our involvement in Rochester has increased greatly. During this time, we have averaged 30 participants annually, including both individual classroom programs and JA in a Day, as well as JA’s annual fundraising Bowl-A-Thon.

 With all the corporate volunteer opportunities out there, why does PwC think it’s important to be involved in JA in particular?

JA is an important part of PwC’s Earn Your Future campaign. We believe that financial literacy provides a necessary foundation for success in life. As a firm, we leverage our people’s talents to work with young people in our communities to develop financial skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

What do employees say they like about volunteering for JA?

Our involvement with JA is meaningful in many ways, such as making connections with the students and seeing their knowledge and understanding grow over the course of a program.

What advice do you have for other companies considering it?

We definitely encourage companies to participate in their community with the help of strong and established organizations. The experience is incredibly rewarding, and the difference we can make in students’ lives is readily apparent as you spend time in the classroom.

9/30/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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