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Junior Achievement of Alaska Educates and Inspires Students

JA Alaska Native Initiative Helps Prepare Alaska Native Youth for Lifelong Success

As the president and CEO of Koniag Inc., Will Anderson understands the importance of reaching out to young people. “Koniag is committed to funding the education of shareholders and our intent is to educate our shareholder base to become leaders of the corporation,” he explained.

In just over a decade, the Koniag Education Foundation (KEF), supported by Koniag Inc., has awarded more than $1.8 million in scholarships to shareholders pursuing college degrees, short-term training or career enhancement opportunities. The corporation also supports outside agencies that put an emphasis on education, including Junior Achievement.

“I think the job that Junior Achievement does – educating students about the business world in a tangible way – is fantastic,” Anderson explained. “It is important to provide students with information about the various career paths and different opportunities that exist in the world; everyone has individual aptitudes, strengths and interests, and students need to know about the options that are available to them.”

To this end, Junior Achievement of Alaska is poised to launch the JA Alaska Native Initiative, a powerful project that provides a vehicle for motivating and preparing Alaska Native youth for lifelong success. The JA Alaska Native Initiative identifies and addresses specific challenges confronting Alaska Native youth and their families, including economic challenges and cultural barriers.

“Junior Achievement of Alaska recognizes the complexity of the challenges confronting Alaska Native youth and believes that education, early intervention and a united community effort are prerequisites for providing a vision for Alaska Native children that will allow them to grow into productive, successful adults,” said Flora L. Teo, president, Junior Achievement of Alaska Inc.

During the 2010-2011 school year, Junior Achievement partnered with the Kodiak Community Committee, chaired by Luke Fulp, finance director for the Kodiak Island Borough School District, to present programs in Kodiak and seven surrounding villages.

“Junior Achievement volunteers flew to these remote villages to present programs emphasizing the importance of staying in school, how to be financially successful and how to become an entrepreneur,” Teo said. “They also helped students to develop many work force readiness skills.”

On average, student test scores improved more than 40 percent, and more than 200 students participated in the weeklong program. “Through this partnership, Junior Achievement hopes to help improve the high school dropout rate, encourage students to stay in school, and help them develop the skills they need become work force ready,” Teo said.

JA Supplement Introduces Students to Travel and Tourism Careers

After running a business for more than three decades, Robert Dindinger knows what works. And he’s been willing to share his knowledge with Junior Achievement classes over the years, as well as with other organizations.

“It’s always been really important to me to talk to young people about being in business, whether that’s through entrepreneurship presentations to Junior Achievement or working in entrepreneurship programs with the Chamber of Commerce,” Dindinger said. “I’ve been politically active all of my life and one of my ongoing messages is the need to create jobs and opportunities in the private sector for our children.”

Dindinger believes that this is especially important in Alaska where the state is, in large part, a government community. “Between military, State, federal and municipal jobs, a disproportionate part of Alaska’s population works in the government,” Dindinger said. “Small businesses are often overlooked for their contributions to the economy. Alaskans don’t pay for the cost of government here; they don’t pay State sales tax or State income tax. Those costs are borne by businesses exclusively.”

To this end, Dindinger has spent years speaking out about entrepreneurship and the struggles and successes that come from running a business. “I believe in teaching young people how challenging and rewarding it is to run a small business because if they don’t get that message, they may not see the private sector as an alternative for going into public service,” he explained. “Young, creative people can really thrive in the private sector.”

According to Flora L. Teo, president, Junior Achievement of Alaska Inc., Dindinger’s willingness to share his experiences with the younger generation was one of the qualities that cemented his nomination. “Bob Dindinger was selected as a laureate this year by a committee of his peers who felt that his pioneering spirit of entrepreneurship, integrity and success makes him an ideal role model for young people in Alaska today,” she said. “He has blazed a path in the travel and tourism industry for the next generation of leaders to follow, and is an outstanding addition to the more than 100 Alaska business leaders previously inducted.”

As a way to introduce future businesspeople to the travel industry, Junior Achievement has created the JA Travel and Tourism supplement, designed for high school students taking part in any JA program. The supplement focuses on introducing students to career opportunities in the travel and tourism industry and demonstrating how the industry helps every community in which it operates.

During the 2011-2012 school year, Junior Achievement is partnering with Alaska Airlines, Princess Tours and Holland America to present the program to 100 middle and high school students in Anchorage, Juneau, Mat-Su and Fairbanks. The program is an opportunity for Alaskan travel and tourism companies to educate Alaska’s youth about the benefits of travel and tourism and the important role it plays in the Alaska economy.

After participating in the supplement, students will understand the effect that the travel and tourism industry has on local, national and global economies and communities, and be able to analyze how the travel and tourism industry can influence a person’s quality of life through employment opportunities and the personal benefits of travel.

Helping Youngsters Help Themselves

Kids in school have to do so much. Every day, they take in lessons for math and reading and writing and science, as well as develop self-discipline and navigate the intricacies of making friends. It’s not always possible to squeeze in all the information kids need in order to see just how far education can take them professionally, how to conduct themselves properly in the workplace or how to manage their money.

Junior Achievement of Alaska aims to help children learn all these things. Between May and August, the organization forged a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs in Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla and taught club members in grades K-12 about financial literacy, work force readiness and entrepreneurship.

“Volunteers are business professionals who were able to talk to students about everything from possible future careers, the importance of building credit, credit versus debit, how to build your own business and the importance of ethics,” said Flora Teo, president and chief executive officer for Junior Achievement of Alaska. “It’s beneficial for the kids to hear from someone who works for the telephone company, a banker, lawyer, someone who’s been through JA and found a job here. It was a great experience, something we look forward to doing again. It was a first for Alaska.”

Usually JA conducts its programs in classrooms. This cooperative venture with Boys & Girls Clubs, however, took JA out of its usual setting.
The volunteers and clubhouse staff divided Boys & Girls Clubs members into different age groups: K-third grades, fourth-sixth grades, seventh-ninth grades and grades 10-12. The small groups went to separate parts of the clubhouses for their sessions, which took place once a week for five weeks. Approximately 125 children participated in the program, Teo said.

First-graders learned about needs and wants, viewing pictures of things and being asked to describe what was a “need” and what was a “want.”

“Shelter is a ‘need’, toys and games and candy are ‘wants,’” Teo said. “Students get to vote on what they think.”

To learn the concept of taxes, second-graders pretended they were working in a doughnut factory that caught fire. This lesson taught them that tax money comes from everyone in the community and is the way firefighters, teachers and police officers are paid for their work.
Middle-school children played a board game focused on economic success, careers, and the likelihood that more education will translate into greater lifetime earnings.

“The longer a player stays in school, the more points they get,” Teo said. “Students get an opportunity to see the trajectory of an education.”

Older students learned about basic budgeting.

“We gave them a random job with a salary that’s current,” Teo said. “We gave them a recommended household budget – how much do they spend on housing, groceries.”

JA started in Alaska in 1973. Last year, 6,900 students in 43 communities across the state, from Barrow to Southeast, participated in the program, which aims to bring the real world of business into the classroom using volunteers as the vehicle.

“That’s our mission, to educate and inspire students to participate in the global economy,” Teo said.

This article originally appeared as separate sidebars alongside Junior Achievement Alaska Business Hall of Fame Laureates in the JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT Special Section of the January 2012 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

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