Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain (JA) is proud to name Tom Durkin as its 2023 Volunteer of the Year. Tom first became involved with JA after a trip to his home state of Wisconsin more than 10 years ago, where he was having a conversation about finances and the economy with his nieces, who were in high school at the time. It became apparent to him quite quickly that there wasn’t enough being done in schools to help students plan for the future.
“I was shocked at how little they knew about the American economy and the opportunities you can have in this great country,” said Tom. “I knew I had to do something. That led me to Junior Achievement.”
When he arrived back in Denver, Tom reached out to JA and got connected to some elementary school teachers who wanted to implement programs in the classroom. Ever since then, Tom has really enjoyed working with the younger kids. “They’re a real kick,” he says. “They’re wonderful.” Since getting involved, he has mainly worked with second through fourth grades.
Before retiring, Tom worked at FirstData, a company that he describes as “a place that moves money and moves data.” That, along with what he learned during that conversation with his nieces in the Midwest, made Tom feel that JA was the best place to volunteer so he could have a maximum impact on these students.
“There was a lot of economics and accounting involved in my work, and I enjoyed that,” said Tom. “Bringing that information into the classroom, that was the perfect blend for me.”
Tom feels as if he’s gotten just as much out of volunteering, if not more, than the students have gotten from him coming into their classroom. He loves working with the teachers as well, and the interactions he’s had with both parties, along with parents, have made him realize just how much of an impact he has made.
“Recently I was walking out of the classroom and was heading out to my car after a session,” shared Tom. “I had a mother come up to me and told me, ‘You’re doing a great job. This has been the topic of our dinner conversation for the whole week.’ That meant a lot to me. When one of the students raises their hand and asks a question and you’re like, ‘They’ve got it, they understand, and they’re challenging their knowledge’ – that’s a great feeling.”
Tom has been a part of his local Kiwanis Group, whose values align perfectly with JA’s as their slogan is “Serving the Children of the World.” He has gotten many of his group’s members involved with JA in the classroom, and they have enjoyed it just as much as Tom has over the years.
With no plans of slowing down, Tom is excited to get back in the classroom during the 2023-24 school year. It always has been a good and rewarding feeling for him to volunteer, and it will continue to be that way.
“I feel like I’ve contributed to the students’ growth and knowledge,” said Tom. “I have a great time with these kids. They are just wonderful.”