The Standard-Times and other regional news outlets were kind enough to cover Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts’s recent student program — the Titan Business Challenge at UMass Dartmouth. This year’s Titan Business Challenge brought together nearly 170 local high school students — from 11 regional high schools — to learn what it feels like to run a business, to refine their teamwork skills as they compete alongside classmates in a business simulator for college scholarships, and to get the chance to meet with some of our region’s top leaders.
While our team at JA has been thanking our many partners over the last week it struck me that it would be valuable to share this collaboration more broadly as it says a lot about our community and the good that we can do when we work together. When I reflect on this year’s successful program two main points stand out: the generosity of our community to make this a free program for students and schools and the collaborative effort focused on preparing our local students for their academic and career success.
Importantly, the Titan Business Challenge (like all JA Programs) is 100 percent free for students and schools and that is only possible because of the generosity of so many in our community. UMass Dartmouth stages their world-class library for the program free of charge and provides all the food and logistical support that makes an event of this size possible. Nearly 40 local businesses and business professionals contribute to cover all the program’s costs — from providing free transportation to all the schools to putting together a scholarship fund of nearly $7,000 that is awarded by day’s end. This level of generosity speaks volumes about our community, both who we are and our collective desire to make this region a better place.
In terms of collaboration, one of our favorite aspects of this program is that it brings together students from across our region and at lunchtime you could sit next to students from New Bedford, Fall River and Taunton all around the same table. This broad engagement of our regional high schools also demonstrates the commitment of local schools to preparing their students for their futures. A consistent piece of feedback that we hear from this program is that by having students spend a day on the campus of UMass Dartmouth, and after having the chance to speak to local business professionals about what they do, students return to school with a new level of excitement for all of the possibilities that lie ahead for them.
Finally, the backbone of the Titan Business Challenge and all JA Programs is the commitment of people in this community to volunteer their time and talents for the benefit of others. Our programs overall have grown by over 60 percent in the last year due to this fact. At the Titan Challenge, we had outstanding speakers share important lessons, community volunteers take a full day out of work to serve as Business Mentors, and a small army of volunteers led by our fantastic Board of Directors manage every detail of this program to ensure it was a success for the students.
In the end, it was a successful day as nearly 170 local high school students were able to see all that the world has to offer them and how bright their future can be. We hope that these students, and the rest of the community can also see this effort as an example of what can be done when many different people come together around a common cause.
Jeffrey Pelletier is president of Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts.