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Volunteers needed to teach Junior Achievement

By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor

WILBRAHAM Sharon Dufour, Junior Achievement (JA) coordinator for Memorial and Mile Tree Schools, is looking for a few more volunteers to help bring economics alive for kids in Kindergarten through grade six this spring.

Ten more volunteers, to be exact.

"We can always use volunteers from the community ... grades four, five and six are where we need the help," Dufour told The Reminder during a recent interview in our East Longmeadow offices.

Everyone can teach JA

You don't think you're qualified? Think again.

All you need is about 45 daytime minutes a week for five weeks, and a desire to help young people learn how the world works when it comes to business and the concept of free enterprise.

As a JA volunteer, you'll be helping the kids in your classroom understand how they will fit into the world as the consumers, workers, and potentially, entrepreneurs, of the future.

"We don't have a list of qualifications," Pam Tardiff, director of education and marketing for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, told The Reminder during a telephone interview about the Wilbraham JA program. "Our volunteers are comprised of parents, retirees, college students and people from the business world."

"Most employers actually support allowing people to leave their place of business to [teach Junior Achievement]," said Dufour, who herself taught JA in inner city schools when she worked for Providence Gas in Rhode Island.

You'll get training & materials

Dufour said JA volunteers receive a half-hour to 40-minutes of training "it covers how to interact with children and how kids learn" as well as complete, age-appropriate lesson plans.

"Each volunteer is given a kit and a syllabus that outlines what to cover each week, and a hands-on lesson for each class session," she continued.

Tardiff explained that the volunteer and the teacher who has requested the JA lesson for his or her classroom then "coordinate a time during the school day that is convenient to both of them."

After that, Dufour said, it's up to volunteers to make the lesson their own.

"When I did the first-grade 'our families' program [for my son's Mile Tree class], there were flash cards [of 'wants' and 'needs']," Dufour said. "Knowing how kids are today, I went around my house and collected items in a big bag to illustrate the concepts. It kept their attention, wondering what I was going to pull out next."

Dufour said, by the end of the lesson, she had convinced every child in her classroom save one, that "TV is a want, not a need."

Soule, Stony Hill need help, too

According to Tardiff, this is the third year that Junior Achievement volunteers have been teaching age-appropriate economics in the town's elementary classrooms.

Last year, nine kindergarten and first-grade classes at Mile Tree, 13 third through six-grade classes at Stony Hill, and one second grade at Soule Road School participated in the program.

This year, a total of 42 teachers from the town's four elementary schools requested JA lessons for their classrooms.

Tardiff said in addition to the 10 volunteers Dufour is looking for, Soule Road still needs six more people to teach JA.

At press time, she didn't have a current figure for the number of volunteers Stony Hill Road School needs .

"Each one of the [Wilbraham] schools has a volunteer coordinator it's the only community like that," Tardiff said.

And a business partner

Tardiff added that the Wilbraham JA program is also looking for a local business partner to help support them financially.

"There's no charge to the schools for JA. Our funding comes from grants and fund-raising," she said.

To get involved

To volunteer to teach JA in a Wilbraham classroom this spring, or to become a business partner, Tardiff asked that people call her at 747-7670. She will put volunteers in touch with the appropriate school coordinators.

About Junior Achievement

In 1919, Western Massachusetts business tycoons Horace Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Co. and Theodore Vail, president of American Telephone & Telegraph, with the help of Massachusetts Senator Murray Crane, started a collection of small, after-school business clubs designed to teach students how to think about and draw up a plan for a business.

Eighty-six years later, the organization now known as Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to teaching students in grades K-12 about business, economics and free enterprise. To date, JA has helped approximately 7 million students world wide better understand the world they live in.