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Time for Junior Achievement a wise investment

As I See It

Fall is here and it’s back to school time at Junior Achievement. School programs for kids in first grade through high school are in session all across Mississippi. It is also time to raise some money to keep the Junior Achievement doors open.

Why should the community support Junior Achievement? Where else are kids going to learn to understand and appreciate the inner workings of our free enterprise system?

Or how to balance a checkbook and apply for a job? Kids don’t learn even basic financial skills without help from somewhere and Junior Achievement provides that help to thousands of kids every year.

Those of us in the adult world may not realize how foreign everyday financial management can be to youngsters, particularly those youngsters coming from a low-income environment. I speak of what I know first hand. It has been my privilege to teach JA courses in high schools in the Jackson area for the past several years and I have been gratified to see knowledge seeping into dozens of inquiring young minds. In fact, one of those students is now volunteering as a JA teacher himself.

It may be presumptuous on my part to assume that everybody is familiar with the work of Junior Achievement. As a primer for the uninitiated and a refresher for others, following is a brief explanation of what JA is and how it does what it does.

The purpose of Junior Achievement is to educate and inspire young people to understand free enterprise, business and economics to improve the quality of their lives. Its mission is to ensure that every child within the territory has a fundamental understanding of the free enterprise system. Junior Achievement was begun in 1919 in Springfield, Mass., by Horace A. Moses. It currently is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Junior Achievement made its debut in Mississippi in 1963 through the efforts of longtime Jackson businessman Jimmy Fowler. Mr. Fowler provided energy and leadership to the organization during its formative stages and continues to fill that role today. His efforts have provided training in free enterprise economics to several generations of Mississippians and he deserves our thanks for his devoted community service.

JA courses are taught primarily by volunteers from area businesses. The JA organization provides the instructional material and coordinates the classes with local schools. Volunteers teach from eight to 14 sessions during a semester.

Operating exclusively in the metro Jackson area for many years, JA has extended its reach in recent years. Local “District Boards” have been organized in major population areas throughout the state.

Plans include extending JA into more and more communities as funding permits.

Last school year, Junior Achievement of Mississippi touched the lives of almost 29,000 students in 1,200 classes. This effort cost roughly $800,000, or $28 per student. One must admit that’s a lot of bang for the buck. Nevertheless, the bucks must come from somewhere.

Over the next few weeks, Junior Achievement volunteers will be calling on businesses and individuals soliciting financial support for the current school year. Though we are all besieged by requests for charitable donations, I hope you will respond as generously as possible when the JA team comes calling.

Grooming future generations of responsible citizens and business leaders is a calling that deserves to be answered and, with our financial support, Junior Achievement is on the job and ready to carry out the mission.

Thought for the Moment — We, and all others, who believe in freedom as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the U.S.

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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