Students Giving Back as JA High School Heroes

Original Story from Junior Achievement of Chicago

This fall semester, we were able to begin implementing a truly impactful initiative in Hammond, Indiana. Through a partnership with the School City of Hammond school district, JA programs will be taught in every 8th, 11th and 12th grade classroom in Hammond, Indiana this school year. One of those schools participating is George Rogers Clark Middle/High School (aka Clark).

On October 25th, Junior Achievement volunteers presented "JA Career Success" to 13 classrooms of juniors and seniors at Clark. What the Clark students didn't know was that there was a second part to the High School event. Certain students would be chosen to participate in JA themselves as a JA High School Hero.

We decided to not automatically send the honor roll kids- we wanted to give every Clark student a chance! To do this, we left it up to the JA volunteers. While implementing "JA Career Success" to the juniors and seniors, we asked our volunteers to pay attention to who was really engaged and participating, and at the end of their JAID, each volunteer selected 2 students from their class that stood out.

As I sat with my Clark contact going over the list of students, she was shocked at who'd been selected. Sure, there were some students she'd expected to be on there, but at least half of the names were students that she did not expect!

In the end, 15 juniors and seniors from Clark High School were able to participate in the JA High School Heroes program at the neighboring Franklin Elementary School. They worked with the Kindergarten-2nd-grade classes, and had a FANTASTIC time!

As I watched them in action in the elementary classrooms, I felt extremely proud to be a part of Junior Achievement. This was a life-changing experience for many of these Clark students. First, they were told by a complete stranger that they had earned the privilege to participate, based on their behaviors. Then they were trusted with a lot of responsibility while preparing. Finally, they got to experience that warm fuzzy feeling our volunteers love so much when you give selflessly and help impact youth.

I know that JA programs have a number of wonderful benefits, but one of the challenging things is that most of the time we are only planting the seeds for many of those benefits, and we don't get to see them bloom. I often see firsthand that our programs educate students on financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship, but this was the first time I saw it impact self-esteem and self-worth. It was an incredible experience from beginning to end, and I can't wait to do it again in the spring!

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