Helping Young Students Learn about Careers

Junior Achievement pairs volunteer professionals with classrooms to help young people learn about future career options

Junior Achievement pairs volunteer professionals with classrooms to help young people learn about future career options. Contributed Photo

The more exposure young people have to adults in different careers, the better they can envision opportunities for their own futures. Junior Achievement is helping young people make these connections throughout Greater New Haven and Connecticut.

Last year, the volunteer organization brought its curriculum to more than 47,000 students in the state, including 3,000 in the City of New Haven and more than 7,000 in the Greater New Haven region, according to Junior Achievement of Southwestern Connecticut President, Jeremy Race.

The grade-specific lessons introduce young people to successful professionals from their communities who talk about what they do in their jobs. The curriculum also teaches basic financial literacy, how banks work, how entrepreneurs start businesses, and other practical lessons that help students take control of their economic future.

"For most of our students, when they receive a JA program, it's the first time they are ever learning these concepts," says Race. "What keeps me up at night is thinking about all the kids who don't get a chance to learn about household financial planning, who don't dream about being an entrepreneur, who don't meet other adults who are financially successful," says Race. "The power of exposure is huge."

In Greater New Haven, Junior Achievement recruits and trains at least 300 volunteers to provide programming in 35 schools. Junior Achievement is also bringing its programming to students in the Valley towns of Derby and Ansonia.

On a recent job shadow trip to the Hartford insurance giant Aetna, New Haven students from all different backgrounds learned about opportunities they might not have otherwise known existed.

"When you ask kids, 'Who wants to go into insurance?' not a lot of hands go up," says Race. "But when you ask, 'Who likes math?' you can show them what the finance people do. When you ask, 'Who likes to talk?' you show them sales and marketing. When you break it down like that, they can start to see, 'Based on what I'm good at, my skills will correlate into a job.'"

Junior Achievement was founded in 1919 by Theodore Vail, president of American Telephone & Telegraph; Horace Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Co.; and Senator Murray Crane of Massachusetts. Junior Achievement of Southwest New England was established in 1951.

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has awarded grants to Junior Achievement of Southern New England for more than a decade. Funding was made possible from unrestricted, donor-advised, and preference funds, such as the Lisl Karen Streett Fund, at The Community Foundation. In 2018 The Foundation awarded $10,000 through its responsive grant process to support financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship programming for Greater New Haven high school students.

That same year, the Valley Community Foundation awarded Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County a three-year $80,000 grant to support the Life-Prep Initiative, a financial education program for K -12 students in Derby and Ansonia.

Visit to learn more about Junior Achievement of Southwest New England and Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County.

Did you know?

Junior Achievement Alumni have a median household income that is 20% higher than the U.S. median household income, and JA Alumni are 143% more likely to have started a business compared to the general public. Source: Junior Achievement

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.