Joyce Richards is the President of the Phoenix Junior Achievement office, and was a very interesting individual. She did not attend college, and out of high school worked in the private industry before finding a personal satisfaction in education. She has been at Junior Achievement for ten years, and is very passionate for making a difference in students lives.
Over 59,000 students participated in a Junior Achievement program the past year, where volunteers teach students from K-12 the fundamentals of a free enterprise system. Being a two-time volunteer myself, I enjoyed seeing the work behind the scenes to make this program work.
When we arrived at the JA office, it appeared to be just another ordinary office. When Joyce took us for a tour we had no idea what we were in for when we entered into the door of Exchange City, a program that reached out to over 10,000 students in the Phoenix area. It reminded me of was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because it really was a city that was run by fifth grade students. They had City Hall where we met the Mayor, but the Judge was out on break where she joined 1/3 of the other students to consume products to make the businesses go round.
Some of the businesses included retail, sports, signs, and food shops, all while the DJ made announcements and the bank was busy cashing paychecks. All of this is to teach students about the free enterprise system.
You can visit the Junior Achievement website at www.jaaz.org
Who has time to volunteer today? No one. But yet we have over 4500 volunteers that are giving up their precious time to make an impact on a child’s life. Anytime you receive a gift of financial support, someone has worked hard for that. To believe in our mission enough to share their financial resources with us is always an inspiration. Again, great people who are helping the community a better place to live. It’s a great inspiration to be engaged in a mission, where every day when you come to work, you know exactly what you’re working for.
There is nothing easy about fundraising. It’s a challenge every single day. We’re calling a businesses every day. When 9/11 hit, all donations were going to New York and we had to make a lot of cuts. If it wasn’t an expense that wasn’t going to deliver a program to a child, it got cut immediately. It took us a couple of years before we started seeing the donations loosen up again.
When the economy gets soft, our business partners are going to cut our funding first. 95% of our funding comes from the business community.
The biggest motivation I have in my job is when a student comes up to me and says, ‘I didn’t realize that I would be able to do this.’ This program gives students the confidence that they can do something, anything! They begin to believe in themselves and can transfer that any way they want. The impact this program is making on kids lives…we’re just completely sold on it.
A lot of the staff here chose the non profit path. We all know the salaries here aren’t the greatest. The benefits aren’t competitive with the for profit sector. But folks that choose the non profit sector tend to lean this way because they are really driven to make a difference. I’m not saying that you can’t make a difference in the for profit sector, because without the for profit sector, I don’t know what turns the economy. But it does take a special heart to want to be in the non profit field.