Junior Achievement (JA) is a global nonprofit dedicated to providing young students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the future, helping young people make smart academic and economic choices by gaining experience in work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

Joy Global is proud to support Junior Achievement by investing financially and with employee volunteer support. Employees at various locations throughout the United States have volunteered their time to teach JA’s curriculum to young students at local partner schools throughout the year.

Recently a group of employees from our Milwaukee facilities volunteered at JA’s BizTown facility. JA BizTown combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to a simulated town. Students learn to operate banks, manage restaurants, oversee manufacturing, run a newspaper, manage finances and participate in the civic process by voting for mayor. The Joy Global Foundation is a proud sponsor of the JA Biz Town facility in Milwaukee, making Joy Global one of the many businesses the students get to operate for the day.

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As volunteers Joy Global employees helped oversee the day and coach students throughout the process. The students participating in the day’s activities were fifth graders from Morgandale Elementary, Joy Global’s partner school for JA in a Day. Stephan Hodgson, Global Manufacturing Fulfillment Manager, has volunteered for Junior Achievement before but this was a new experience.

“Biz Town takes the things we teach them at JA in a Day, combined with what their teachers show them and applies it to a life like situation, without the risks of spending real money or having a job you don’t like. The kids can learn from it and use it to motivate their own lives” shared Stephan.

Beyond seeing how the lessons at Biz Town applied to what the students have been taught in the classroom, Hodgson noted how it was clear that the experience was helping students.

“It was completely apparent that the kids were learning what they may want to do when they grow up or what they know they don’t want to do. There was a student in my group that was the CFO for the day and you could tell he is going to make it into high level management when he grows up. Other the other hand there were children who didn’t like their jobs at all. It was a good opportunity to coach them into pursuing their education and being successful so they don’t have to do a job like that when they grow up.”

When asked what he liked most about the volunteer experience Stephan shared that he liked the challenges the kids faced throughout the day because they were teachable moments.

“I liked helping the kids understand how working together helps them do better. We used the challenges to show that life is not always fair, but that is ok because they can always make their lives better.”

Stephan volunteers at several company-led volunteer experiences but those that involve inspiring kids are some of his favorites.

“Some people volunteer at animal shelters, some at food kitchens, but I enjoy volunteering with the schools because they are the future. Some or a lot of the kids we work with won’t have the chance to do great things in life due to their living situations, by helping them we can help them to understand they control their future, regardless of their current situation.”

At the end of the day it was evident that Stephan made an impact. Stephan probably had the toughest assignment of the day. He was the only adult assigned to work at the town’s utility company, his “business” for the day. He also learned half way through the day that three of the fifth graders working in his business were only achieving at the first grade level. His patience and commitment to helping the kids learn through the experience proved to be appreciated. At the end of the day as awards were passed out Stephan was the last to be called, receiving a special award.

“I appreciate the gratitude of the kids. They are always very thankful that we are there to help them. I got hugs from one kid, another kid stood up in front of everyone and thanked me for teaching him all sorts of new stuff.”

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At the end of any volunteer experience it is rewarding to learn that you made an impact. Stephan was one of twelve Joy Global employees that day who volunteered their time and talent to help motivate and inspire kids to achieve educational and professional success, be financially responsible and play an active role in their local community.

Joy Global values the important lessons taught through the Junior Achievement experience. By educating today’s youth about financial responsibility, the power of entrepreneurship and how our global economy works we help build a strong knowledgeable foundation for the future.