Junior dollars, senior achievement

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From left, Junior Achievement (JA) participants Jessica Weaver, Austin Hutton and Nick VanDerPaelt, and Barb Smith, president of JA for the region, chatted with members of the business community and the media recently as JA launched its quest for funding.
From left, Junior Achievement (JA) participants Jessica Weaver, Austin Hutton and Nick VanDerPaelt, and Barb Smith, president of JA for the region, chatted with members of the business community and the media recently as JA launched its quest for funding.

 Junior Achievement program seeks local funding support

 Most anyone would leap at an opportunity to see a 45-fold return on their investment in terms of personal finance. But what Barb Smith is asking for is that a business community do the same thing.

Junior Achievement (JA) statistics indicate that for every $1 invested in its programs, there is a return to the economy of $45, Smith said.

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To run Chatham-Kent programs for the approaching school year, Smith, president of the regional JA, said $43,500 is needed in operating capital. Community Futures Development Corporation of Chatham has covered the first $3,500 of that figure with a grant, so the updated target is $40,000.

“That’s a future economic impact of $1,957,500,” Smith said.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope urged people to support the program.

“We need to do more if we believe in our youth,” he said.

The three pillars of JA are entrepreneurship, financial leadership and work readiness. The program’s aim is to teach students to learn how to run their own businesses in a fiscally responsible manner and prepare them for doing so in the real world.

The community program is a 20-week program where secondary school students are exposed to the risks and rewards of starting a business, Smith said. Students team up to run the companies, and even go through “Pitch It,” JA’s version of the popular CBC TV show “Dragon’s Den.”

JA participant Austin Hutton said the program at the secondary school level lets students not only created their own business vehicle, but they also get under the hood.

“We build a business and break it down in 20 weeks,” he said. “There is a lot of teamwork and everyone has work to do to get to the destination.”

The refresh programs target elementary students in grades 5, 7 and 8. Smith said participants are exposed to the business world, investing intelligently, and working to succeed.

Nick VanDerPaelt, 17, is a proud JA participant. He’s also a very busy teenager, working at the Pickle Station and Tim Horton’s, all while running his own lawn-cutting business.

“I joined because my mom made me,” he laughed. “JA showed me I really like selling products and meeting new people. It taught me what it takes to run a business.”

VanDerPaelt, who is entering his third year with JA, plans on taking business when he reaches university.

“The business world and I get along very well.”

Hope said Chatham-Kent’s economy is heavily reliant on small business.

VanDerPaelt echoed the mayor in terms of the importance of small business to the municipality.

“Chatham-Kent is a very strong small business community,” he said. “It’s an economic driver. “When you introduce youth to business, it helps ensure Chatham-Kent thrives off of small business in the future.”

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