Building a bridge between work and classwork

Program teaches kids to be informed consumers, workers, entrepreneurs

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2002

Junior Achievement of Alaska is gearing up for its winter and spring classroom consultants program in Juneau.

"Junior Achievement really aims to develop the desire in young people to value education, stay in school and have positive attitudes toward work," said Connie McKenzie, Juneau chairwoman. "Having business people as consultants in the classroom helps to create a bridge between the workplace and the classroom."

On Friday, Chief Petty Officer Tyrone Whitehead spent 50 minutes with Florence Hayward's fifth graders at Glacier Valley Elementary. Whitehead, who has been a Junior Achievement volunteer for three years, will return for four more weeks to work with students.

"We teach basic concepts such as the forms of business, production methods, how businesses use advertising and the forms of advertising," Whitehead said. "At the end of the program, the children are challenged to create commercials to advertise the product or service each group develops."

Whitehead is a contracting officer and can easily translate his Coast Guard experience into classroom lessons, he said. "I enjoy working with the kids," he added.

The workings of free enterprise will be defined and explained in Juneau this week by Helen Lee, program manager of Junior Achievement of Alaska, who will fly in from Anchorage to make appearances.

On Thursday, Lee will speak to Rotary members at their 7 a.m. meeting at the Prospector Hotel. At 8 a.m., she will appear on KINY's radio program "Capital Chat." At noon, she'll speak before Juneau Chamber of Commerce members and Legislators at the Hangar on the Wharf. In the afternoon and on Friday, she'll train volunteers, visit schools and meet with teachers.

Junior Achievement was founded in 1919, and is the world's largest and fastest-growing organization dedicated to educating youths about business, economics and free enterprise.

"It inspires them to get involved in business, to get involved in the free enterprise system and to get a good fundamental understanding of economics," Lee said.

The program starts in kindergarten, when volunteers tell stories about how students play a role as a consumer, Lee said. At the request of schools and teachers, volunteers working with a prepared curriculum interface with kids in every grade of school at least once a year. This is important, Lee said, "because, throughout the school system, economics is typically not taught."

Lee recently made presentations in Barrow and Wainwright. "There is a lot of opportunity in small communities like this," Lee said. "They don't even have a hairdresser or a movie theater yet."

Volunteers in Juneau for the fall semester included Rick Whitbeck of GCI, Ron Plantz and Michelle Zinger of Greens Creek Mining, Connie Munro, Mary Ann Gosling of the U.S. Coast Guard, John Logan of Logan General Tax Practice, and Lorene Kappler of Kappler Computer Service.

Being a Junior Achievement volunteer is not necessarily a one-time commitment. Logan, a certified public accountant, has visited Juneau classrooms for 12 years. During fall semesters, he appeared every Friday in Cindy Pastorino's Entrepreneurship Class at Juneau-Douglas High School.

"The kids get a realistic sense of the business model," Logan said. "We actually have them fill out resumes, role-play interviews, create a business plan, run a business, sell stock and buy products." At the end of the semester, the students liquidate the company.

During spring semester, Logan will appear at third-grade classes at Auke Bay School. "Regardless of what the students go into - business or politics or health care - a rudimentary understanding of business and economics is essential," Logan said.

Junior Achievement Programs reach more than 4 million students through 156 offices nationwide. This year, Junior Achievement of Alaska will reach more than 13,000 students in 48 communities.

For information, contact Connie McKenzie at 364-3327.

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