Each year, a dozen employees from SDN Communications share their time and talents with students in the Sioux Falls School District through the Junior Achievement program.
JA is dedicated to “giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.” The organization has three primary focus areas — work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. JA is one of several organizations that SDN Communications supports through volunteering or donations.
“Getting out in the community and volunteering and having a relationship with these kids … it’s very rewarding,” says Jamie Stanley, supervisor of carrier management at SDN and a regular volunteer with the Junior Achievement program. “The kids are so cute. The best part is the stuff they say and the ideas they come up with.”
There are more than 100 local chapters throughout the United States with most working with students in first through fifth grades. Volunteers usually conduct five one-hour sessions per year with students.
Volunteers with the Junior Achievement program go into schools and work with students in one of the primary focus areas. It’s an opportunity to educate young students and give them a glimpse of their future, says Shamieko Leonard, service delivery supervisor at SDN and longtime JA volunteer.
“JA is dear to me,” says Leonard. “It’s a way for community members to connect with kids in schools and teach them about financial literacy, life skills and more.”
Leonard, who organizes SDN’s Junior Achievement volunteers, enjoys knowing that the children “have a better understanding of finance and then in general how businesses work.” She likes the idea that they will better understand what a business is and how it works. This knowledge helps them become productive and informed members of society, she said.
Stanley has volunteered with Junior Achievement for the past nine years. This year’s Junior Achievement program has her volunteering in a first-grade class at Garfield Elementary. The 2023-24 focus is Our Families, which teaches students about the different places people live, businesses in neighborhoods and more.
“We talk about money and different uses of money,” she said.
Junior Achievement also exposes students to the various careers available to them, Leonard said.
“We let them know what careers are available and how to get into certain careers … Many kids don’t know what the career options are,” she said.
For Leonard, one of the most exciting things about volunteering is when a student has a “light-bulb moment” when something that’s been taught to them starts to make sense.
“Just watching them be able to apply what we talk about to their own lives,” she says. “It makes it all worth it.”
Learn more about Junior Achievement and donate on their website.