While JA’s mission centers on teaching financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship to as many students as possible, there is a concentrated effort to reach low income students in our communities. During the 2014/15 school year, 46% of the students who participated in JA qualified for free/reduced lunch, compared to 41% of the general student population in our area.
Through our evaluation efforts, we found that low income students showed substantial knowledge gains after experiencing JA. In some cases, low income students surpassed their higher income peers in learning, closing or eliminating the knowledge gap. In addition, participating low income students show statistically significant improvements in their attitudes toward school, and feel an increased sense of self-reliance and a reduced sense of entitlement.
There are other, and perhaps even more compelling, reasons to engage low income youth. We found that low income students have fewer opportunities to engage with role models who’ve enjoyed the success that comes from obtaining post-secondary education and working hard to achieve their goals. “A lot of these students feel like they are on the outside, and don’t know how to open the door to success,” states Eshauna Smith, President of the Urban Alliance.
JA’s Job Shadow program opens the door for these students by giving them the chance to experience a professional work place and meet role models who are eager to share their journey to success, making the impossible seem possible. Companies such as Air Methods, Charles Schwab, Comcast, Davita, Deloitte, DIRECTV, Encana, Microsoft, and PwC partner with JA to provide this experiential learning opportunity to high schools students so they can shadow professionals who introduce them to careers they can pursue if they continue their education.
“During the field trip to PwC I realized that I could do better too in my life because the host shared that he had a hard home life and is now a partner at his job,” said Jaylen, 7th grade student at McAuliffe International School. “It encouraged me to do better in life and to try harder to succeed in what I want.”
In addition, these companies introduce students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Of young minority adults in metro Denver between the ages of 19 and 30 years old, only 30% of Latinos and 43% of Blacks possess a post-secondary degree or are enrolled in post-secondary education. Yet the majority of future STEM jobs in our region will only be accessible to workers with a college degree (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).
JA Job Shadow and career exploration accomplished through other JA classroom programs can change the trajectory of a young person’s life. A study conducted by Princeton and Brown Universities found that when low income students were provided with information about the difference in earning potential they could experience through different careers, they would make different choices regarding their field of study.
We greatly appreciate our partnerships with our JA Job Shadow companies as we strive to open doors for young people in our community every day!