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JA of Central Virginia

Empowering Young People to Succeed

Grace Hessberg, a junior at Glen Allen High School, is one of three recipients of the JA Future Laureate scholarship, awarded last year
through JA of Central Virginia. Grace’s experience in the JA Finance Park program – sessions in savings, debt, careers, income, budgeting, and taxes – gave her tools to plan for a career. “Junior Achievement showed me how important it is to start thinking about my future now,” says Grace. 

Darius Gray, a past recipient of the JA Future Laureate scholarship, is a senior at Franklin Military Academy and a long-time JA student. He first participated in JA programs at Ginter Park Elementary School and continued through high school. “Junior Achievement programs showed me that I have chosen a good career path in civil engineering,” says Darius. “I have also learned a lot about how to budget my money.” 

For fifty-three years, JA of Central Virginia has inspired students like Grace and Darius in the Richmond area. Each year, approximately 25,000 local students in kindergarten through twelfth grade participate in programs with the help of 2,400 volunteers. JA of Central Virginia connects volunteers from the community and students in the classrooms to deliver proven, hands-on programming that inspires students to explore career choices.

Daphne Swanson is president and CEO of JA of Central Virginia. She says volunteers are what make the programs relevant. “When volunteers share experience and provide insight into the world of work, students make connections between what they are learning in school and what they will need to succeed as adults,” says Swanson. “Our programs – in the core content areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy – ignite a spark in young people to realize the opportunities and realities of work and life.”

A Program that Works Nationally

Educators value JA programs for many reasons. Not only do students gain insight into careers and work culture, but JA programs also correlate with Virginia Standards of Learning and align with the Profile of a Virginia Graduate, a framework for student post-secondary success developed by the Virginia Department of Education.  

Nine out of ten teachers and volunteers agree that JA programs connect what is learned in the classroom to the outside world. Ninety-five percent of teachers report that students who participate in JA have a better understanding of how the real world operates. More than half of JA alumni polled say their experience gave them an idea of how business works, and 30 percent said it gave them an idea of what to do for a career. 

This year, Junior Achievement USA celebrates its centennial. With 106 local offices across the United States, JA is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success stories, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.

Lynn Ahles with SunTrust Bank has volunteered with JA of Central Virginia for many years and recommends the program. “I have found that students – whether they’re in the classroom or at JA Finance Park – are always eager to listen to our message and gain knowledge for their future financial success,” says Ahles.  

Photos: Nancy Parker

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