JA Igniting the American Spirit
In 2010, JA-Rocky Mountain launched an exciting three-year demonstration project, Igniting the American Spirit (Ignite) with the purpose of proving and improving the impact JA can make on young people’s desire and ability to participate in the free enterprise system. JA began by saturating low-income, K-12 school feeder systems with JA programs and volunteer role models as well as providing unprecedented training resources for teachers and volunteers. Each of the Ignite districts has a demonstrable need, virtually no financial resources and, most importantly, a strong desire to have their students excel in the classroom and on state-mandated tests. Conversely, JA has been delivering free enterprise and economic education programs in Colorado since 1950; is currently reaching more than 110,000 students each year; has a ready-to-deliver curriculum, and a proven track record of identifying volunteers and placing them in classrooms; and offers its program to districts, schools and students at no cost.
The award-winning Ignite project recently concluded and has provided JA substantive insight and direction for the organization. Ignite was implemented in 44 schools within five low-income feeder systems, reaching 17,000 students during year three. High school participation increased most dramatically, impacting just 416 students before Ignite to nearly 3,800 student experiences in the project’s final year.
JA and Colorado Council for Economic Education (CCEE) trained 409 teachers, approximately 37% of all Ignite teachers. Teachers reported gains year-over-year in their confidence and knowledge to teach financial topics. In fact, school districts now acknowledge the need for this type of education and are exploring ways to provide personal financial literacy (PFL) training to every teacher directly with CCEE.
During the three year project JA proved and improved:
- Sequential reach works: JA programs over multiple years improve student knowledge more than a single program experience.
- The economic literacy gap can be narrowed: Project students learned economic concepts at rates equal, and in some instances greater than, higher income youth.
- JA improves attitudes about future success: JA significantly improved attitudes about education for first time low-income participants. Over time, project students showed improved attitudes toward school engagement, aspirations and job preparation, including more interest in education & training after high school, than higher income youth in the control schools.
- JA is committing to sequential and disciplined program implementation. JA will add six new feeder systems and continue working with the original five feeder systems to reach 27,000 students in 2013/14. Feeder systems will now include low and moderate income schools and partnerships will begin at the high school grade levels.
- The JA volunteer orientation was successfully developed locally with PEBC and implemented nationally. JA will follow same formula to develop a teacher orientation program to better prepare teachers for their JA volunteer and classroom experience.
- JA is adjusting success metrics to better align with our content focus on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. We will continue to track and measure student behavior changes in our original and new Ignite schools.
Ignite was made possible through significant financial support from: Adolph Coors Foundation, Anschutz Foundation, Daniels Fund, CenturyLink, Nelnet, Newmont Mining Corporation, Noble Energy, Suncor, and Bridgepoint Education.
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