Junior Achievement

On March 27, 2018, the Village of Estero signed a Memorandum with Lee School District entitled, Estero Education Initiative (EEI). In the Fall of 2018, 161 Estero retirees and non-retired residents volunteered to participate in Junior Achievement’s (JA)“2-5-8-Graduate” experiential learning Program. Village of Estero Councilperson and EEI founder Nick Batos said, “It is refreshing to see how a Public-Private Partnership with community volunteers can be so beneficial to our greatest asset, the students in our Estero-area schools.”

Together, these partners formally engaged The ECCL to recruit volunteers from Estero to team-teach JA Programs at all four Estero-area Schools.Just after two years,1,354 Second and Fifth graders at Pinewoods and Three Oaks Elementary Schools participated in the Program.

The “2-5-8-Graduate”Program has earned acclaim from the schools and in the community.Sarah Newcomb, president of the Estero Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s a pleasure to be part of a fantastic group (The ECCL) for making such a significant impact on our community.Three Oaks Elementary Principal Tami LeMaster remarked, “We absolutely love the Junior Achievement Program. The students loved having community members in their classrooms. They would get excited when they were told it was JA Day!”

JA has focused on these skills for more than 100 years and has designed and developed age-appropriate real-world learning material for every grade level, from K to 12. In very understandable and practical terms, the JA Lesson Plans promote self-esteem and teach essential life skills so the students can learn the full spectrum of possible job and career opportunities.

Junior AchievementA favorite day in the Second Grade Program is when students develop a small business of planning, preparing, and selling colorful make-believe donuts. The kids love the experience because of its competitive nature as a class exercise. They learn the lessons and pitfalls of running a small Donut Shoppe business. Our creative and generous volunteer team-teachers generally wrap-up the Session with a sharing of the real thing; tasty donuts.😊

While Second Graders are learning about community and career opportunities, 5th Graders are engaged in understanding how money and economies work on a practical level.

The Club at Grandezza team-teaching volunteer Sally Watts commented, “JA is a wonderful way to help our future generations learn about money, business, and community to help prepare themselves for work readiness. I wish I had been involved with JA Programs as a youth …it would have helped better-prepare me for career goals and personal finance.”

Sally’s comments echo many volunteer experiences, “The JA curriculum materials were easy to follow and implement.” Most classes start with a discussion of key concepts, terminology, and its meaning. As a form of experiential learning, volunteer team-teachers share their career and life-work experiences.

Junior AchievementOur volunteer teachers learned that some young entrepreneurs at the school already have plans to start their own business. JA’s Fifth Grade lesson plan about entrepreneurship tasks student-teams to brainstorm… “can they transform a problem into a solution that can become a business”? The range and depth of their out-of-the-box thinking often delight and surprises us as well as their parents and teachers!

All Estero-area schools have been exceptionally proactive and supportive of the “2-5-8-Graduate” program. To quote Principal Tami LeMaster, “We are honored to be part of this excellent JA Program and look forward to continuing to work with The ECCL and their volunteer team-teachers in the coming school year.”

ECCL’s Meg Daradanova noted, “Students learn and get to know volunteer-teacher names,and it’s not uncommon for the students to greet the volunteer teachers with applause, hugs, hi-fives, and stories of their day.”😊

The “2-5-8-Graduate”Program is a win-win for students, teachers, and volunteers. It is not every day one gets a chance to make a personal contribution to the Estero community and invest in its future in this meaningful way. The ECCL’s veteran volunteer Michael Wasson said, “Volunteers walk away with positive memories of bright, young, engaging students and a knowledge that their efforts may mean an even better tomorrow for them and our community.”

The real “2-5-8-Graduate”Program success story is the abundance of Estero-area School kids who have increased their knowledge of the community, and because of the ECCL volunteer team-teachers who give their time to help young people prepare for their future.

If you’re interested in learning how you can volunteer for the JA “2-5-8-Graduate”Program and contribute to the education of our children, please contact Jim Shields jimshields@fl-office.com

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