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Social Entrepreneur

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Many students don't know about jobs outside of what their families may tell them, and they don't see a path for themselves unless somebody takes the time to tell them and show them. — Kathy Panter

Students must get their passport stamped at each new destination or industry explored. Panter reminisced on a time when she spoke with an excited 14-year-old at a JA Inspire event. “Did you know accountants don’t just sit at their desks all day? They go out to other businesses and help solve problems!” The young girl nearly demanded an explanation as to why she did not already know that fact. “Children can’t dream what they’ve never seen,” Panter said. “Many students don't know about jobs outside of what their families may tell them, and they don't see a path for themselves unless somebody takes the time to tell them and show them.”

Shifting Focus

In the state of Florida, students can decide to drop out of high school at age 16. “Eighth and ninth grade is a critical time in a student’s path,” Panter said. “Because of that, our strategic plan has completely shifted over the last five years.”

Education dictates much of an individual’s aspirations, network, opportunities and, ultimately, life experiences. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers age 25 and older were $909 in the second quarter of 2017. Full-time workers without a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $515, compared with $718 for high school graduates with no college experience and $1,189 for those with a bachelor's degree. “We want to get students in Central Florida to look at higherwage jobs and to fill the job openings for the companies that we're building locally, bringing to town and want to bring to town in the future,” Panter said. “Ultimately, Junior Achievement is an economic development organization focused on building and encouraging tomorrow’s workforce.”

100 Years Strong

Until 2014, 75 percent of JA students were elementary school children. The JA board of directors decided the program would have a deeper impact if they were to shift that model to focus on middle and high school students where just-in-time programs are delivered.

Established in 1919 at the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution, Junior Achievement was founded to teach young people moving to cities from farms about economic development from an entrepreneurial and business perspective. Today, the organization and its programs still aim to enable students and communities to drive the economy forward by equipping them with the necessary knowledge and tools.

“The JA Inspire program has been offered to every eighthgrade student in Osceola County public schools, as well as private, charter and home schools.”

“The overarching mission,” Panter said, “is that we are in the business of getting students independent and successful in whatever success looks like to them.”

56 | MAY 2019 | i4Biz.com

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