Last week I celebrated my 29th anniversary with JA. As they say–where did time go? During this unusual time, I wanted to note a few things on my anniversary.
When I first started at JA in the early 90’s, Denver and Colorado’s economies were just starting to come back from years of battering. For those of you who lived here at that time, you may remember people would say Denver’s buildings were “see-through.” Unemployment was so high and buildings so empty that people would say you could see right through one side of windows to the other side. Sound familiar?
JA-Rocky Mountain was in a very difficult place financially at that time too, so much so that we barely could afford the classroom materials to run JA lessons. We persevered, and so did the business community, and all Colorado families and workers. Not only did we bounce back, the free market provided opportunity for new innovations, and we experienced unprecedented growth. At JA, this allowed us to exponentially expand our reach, eventually exceeding 100,000 students each year, and enabled volunteers to instill lessons of perseverance and optimism those students would need as adults.
You may have been one of those kids who benefitted from these lessons by a JA volunteer in the early 90’s. Again we find ourselves in a time where lessons of perseverance and optimism are needed. We must continue to stay focused on the future, and that means making sure our young people’s questions about the economy are answered, and that they understand the free market will spring us forward and provide opportunities for them in the future.
A lyric from “Tin Man” by America is imprinted on one of JA’s office walls: “Oz never did give nothin’ to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have”. That phrase perfectly sums up what our JA volunteers do — help young people discover the gifts they already have, but may not know they possess…like their entrepreneurial spirit, resourcefulness or grit. JA and my JA volunteer, Mr. Peery, did that for me when I was a JA student. And despite the wacky detour this spring — I know we’re going to continue to do that in the future for thousands more like me.
So on my anniversary–I propose a virtual toast–Here’s to the real wizards–our JA volunteers, and our JA Board and staff—-to your gifts of heart, courage and mind.