Andrew Hewat remembers Junior Achievement (JA) volunteers teaching in his elementary school back in Charlotte, North Carolina. Having the presence of a business leader right there, in his classroom, was one of the first times he can remember having a role model to look up to in another form outside of his teacher or parents.
“That connection to the real world, especially at such a young age, it was always so impactful for me,” Hewat says. “It really helped me have a sense of economics and it’s what started to drive my passion.”
Now, he’s on the other side of the table as a JA volunteer through his employer, Alliance Data. Having taught both second and fourth grades, he says the experience has been overwhelming and emotional.
“A lot of passion, a lot of realization of just how impactful the program is, seeing the kids’ responses, and seeing the influence that you have in the community, to me that’s what really embodies Junior Achievement’s program and what creates that bridge between the classroom and the community.”
For Hewat, it’s about giving back what he himself experienced.
“For me, the opportunity to give back, the opportunity to create that same impact that was given to me, and to have the ability to connect with tomorrow’s leaders, that is our future, and the more we can do for them the more we can help and show them that bridge between classroom and community, the better,” he says. “Being able to engage and relate with the next generation really helps pass along the values and morals that are important.”
The goodbyes to students at the end of the day are always bittersweet, but they also show how impactful the lessons were for the students.
“The kids kind of beg and plead for you not to go, they ask when you’re coming back, and the follow up letters that they send, it’s just so great to read their reactions after the fact. It’s great to see them kind of link and label what they’ve been taught and reiterate the themes that they’ve seen.”
As some students may not otherwise have access to hear the perspectives of business leaders, Hewat sees JA as a great opportunity to inspire future leaders.
“Junior Achievement allows leaders to share their influence and their perspective with a future generation of leaders who may not necessarily have that same opportunity otherwise to see those perspectives and to see the bigger picture. I think when you give a child a dream you help give them hope or just a vision into the possibilities, their imagination and minds really run with that.”