By: Joe Acker, JA Business Week Company Advisor
Several years ago, I received an email regarding the need for judges at a Junior Achievement summer competition. Without really knowing what it was, I decided to show up and volunteer. I remember sitting there watching the students’ presentations about bicycles and reading their business plans. When I met with the kids afterwards and shared my thoughts from a judge’s standpoint, I knew that the following year I wanted to spend the entire week on campus working with students.
That first year as a company advisor (CA) for JA Business Week was a great experience that I will never forget. I was so tired following the week, I could not imagine going back. On top of that, I could not really envision spending one vacation week a year volunteering to mentor teenagers. More than 10 years later, I’m shocked by how long I have participated in this program!
I keep coming back because of the students. Their interest, curiosity and drive are inspiring. I also stay involved because of the quality and evolution of the program. I honestly wish that JA Business Week, presented by Arrow Electronics, had been available when I was in high school. Whether it’s teamwork, general business concepts, starting a business, networking, or professionalism, the students learn it all. So much of what they experience I learned on the job, and not very easily, I might add.
Understanding the importance of everything JA Business Week has to offer and the tangible impact it has on kids, makes it an easy choice for me to come back and volunteer. Serving as a CA allows me to help students possibly avoid the pitfalls I had to endure. Not to mention, I also learn a lot from my students. My former students are the ones who introduced me to social media, for example, and each year I take away new insights and inspiration from the kids I’ve worked with.
Something that is equally encouraging to see is when former students come back and volunteer with JA Business Week. Several of my former students intern or serve as CAs, which tells me that the program had a lasting impact on them. When Jennifer Smith, a former student came back as a CA, for example, I was so impressed by the way she carried herself as a leader; I felt like nothing will ever stop her.
To this day, I remain connected with students from my earlier teams at JA Business Week, and it is extremely satisfying and encouraging seeing the successes they have achieved. I am incredibly proud of them. I have had various former students (and even students that were not on my team) reach out for college reference letters, career advice, or to just say, “Hi,” and to share a little bit about their families. It’s amazing to see how just one week together talking about business, marketing plans and possibilities can create bonds that last a lifetime.