“I recall thinking I was not going to have enough time in my schedule to prepare before I walked into my first JA classroom,” says Ridgley. “I wondered what the teacher was going to expect of me and how quickly the class would move through the material. But I soon realized it really wasn’t critical to be overly prepared. JA staff provided everything I needed, including a well thought out and organized curriculum.”
Four years later, and with 15 JA classes under his belt, Ridgley, the owner of an insurance agency specializing in financial solutions for educators, encourages others to get involved.
“If you enjoy teaching, coaching, or working with kids, JA is a great outlet,” he says. “In addition to a captive audience, you have a great curriculum that is provided for you and supportive teachers that allow you to be yourself, or kindly redirect you if you get off track.”
Some schools are not able to provide business courses. Ridgley, a Mullen High School graduate, remembers some of his friends from other area high schools, participating in business programs. “I was stuck studying A.P. Chemistry,” he laughs. For today’s youth, he sees a huge need for students to hear real life workplace scenarios from businesspeople.
“Students are focused on G.P.A., and have no idea what a credit score is. I think both are important. Kids in schools need and appreciate someone from the outside coming in to share real world experiences, especially when it comes to job search and career readiness. I explain to them as a business owner why I hire individuals and why I fire individuals. I share real life!”
Ridgely keeps coming back to the classroom because of the value he sees for both kids and teachers.
“I know I’ve done a good job when a teacher recommends me to another teacher,” he says. “And, there is nothing quite like the look on my teenage daughter’s face when I get a ‘Hey Mr. Ridgley,’ from a former JA student when we are out together. I’ve seen my former students working at Starbucks, Great Clips, Panera Bread, King Soopers. Each one has referenced their JA learned skills as one of the reasons they were hired.”
Ridgley hopes others will consider volunteering for Junior Achievement.
“Judging by the positive reaction I receive from kids and teachers, I hope more people will join in, and JA will continue to flourish. It is a great opportunity to integrate business professionals with students interested in business.”