Community-minded SouthCoast businesses reflect the philanthropy we’ve come to recognize as one of our region’s strengths, and we know full well that their leadership encourages many private citizens to give, even when budgets are tight. With that in mind, we want to share with readers, one and all, an opportunity to give that won’t hurt your bottom line, whether it’s your corporate balance sheet or in your household.
Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts reached 4,000 students in the 21 cities and towns it serves in the 2015-16 school year, and is on track to reach significantly more this year with many new requests. With a staff of only three, including New Bedford native and newly installed President Jeff Pelletier, the local JA office has been coordinating volunteers who visit schools, hosting students for job shadowing, and exposing budding leaders and entrepreneurs to networks, career path and other aspects of the modern business world.
Mr. Pelletier recently told the editorial board about volunteers in classrooms across the region — from New Bedford to Attleboro, Fall River to Wareham — teaching kindergartners the difference between needs and wants on their path to financial literacy, teaching middle schoolers about career pathways and entrepreneurship, and teaching high schoolers all that, plus giving them opportunities to demonstrate their own leadership. In one example, New Bedford High School students have become JA mentors themselves in the city’s Gomes School.
These students are also learning the “soft skills” needed in the job market, such as how to dress and groom themselves, not only for job interviews but for jobs. The entrepreneurial among them are learning through programs like Spark the invaluable lesson that their ambition needn’t be a one-man or one-woman upstream slog, by introducing them to the resources found by networking. Spark is a summer program launched this summer at Bridgewater State University for ambitious 12- and 13-year-old girls that gave them a look into the way business works behind the scenes. They listened to experts, shared business cards while dressed like professionals, took field trips, participated in workshops, and attended business meals. These self-identified leaders now realize that it’s not just one girl and her dreams against the world, but that they now have a business network, and they have support.
JA does this on an annual budget of $230,000, provided by individuals, foundations, companies, and fundraisers, and all of it local.
It’s the donations of time that got our attention, though. Besides the high schoolers in the Gomes project, the volunteers of New Bedford-based JA of Southern Mass. range from college students to retirees. It’s the working leaders we would hope hear our message today, however. We know your community giving is often set when you build your annual budget, but consider the return on investment when you or your CFO, or your line supervisor or your HR director goes into a welcoming SouthCoast classroom, armed with the tested JA curriculum and your wealth of experience. You’re talking directly to your future workforce (or future competition), working to fill that pernicious, persistent skills gap lamented by so many of you. You’re helping those creative, ambitious young people to understand that their daily lessons aren’t preparing them for tests. No, those tests are just making sure they’ve learned what they’ll need to reach their dreams. You can help them on their way.
Everyone has something to give, Mr. Pelletier told us, and we know it to be true. We strongly urge you to become volunteers by contacting JA of Southern Mass. at jasouthernma.org/get-involved/, jasouthernma.org/volunteer/, or 508-997-6536.