In 1919, Theodore Vail (President of AT&T) and Horace Moses (President of Strathmore Paper) raised $250,000 to start an organization for boys and girls activities that would become what we know today as Junior Achievement. In the words of Horace Moses:
"The future of our country depends upon making every individual fully realize the obligations and responsibilities belonging to citizenship. Habits are formed in youth…what we need in this country now … is to teach the growing generations to realize that thrift and economy, coupled with industry, are necessary now as they were in past generations."
Today, Junior Achievement is the largest organization in the world that is dedicated to children's financial literacy and entrepreneurship education. It has programs in 123 countries around the world and reaches 9.3 million students with nearly 300,000 volunteers.
In today's economic environment, many have recognized the need for kids to become financially literate in order to succeed in life. Thus, dozens of new organizations have popped up in recent years with the stated purpose of improving financial literacy. Junior Achievement, however, has been doing exactly this kind of work for ninety years now with impressive success. JA is unique among financial literacy organizations because it has the existing infrastructure to effectively provide free-of-charge educational programs to millions of students worldwide.
In recent years, school demand for JA's free programs has increased significantly. JA's ability to meet these increased demands is limited by the number of available volunteers and by funding. Since the programs are provided at no cost to schools, the actual cost of each program must be fully funded by donations. In tough economic times like these, charitable giving is harder to come by, when by definition, donations are needed the most.
Notwithstanding, Junior Achievement continues to grow and flourish as more and more people are coming to realize the importance of what JA has been doing for nearly a century now. Happy 90th birthday, Junior Achievement!
More information about volunteer opportunitites with Junior Achievement can be obtained at http://www.ja.org/ .
- Craig Everett is a classroom volunteer for Junior Achievement and also serves on the board of directors of Junior Achievement of Greater Lafayette.