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Junior Achievement volunteers: Bringing real-world experience into classroom

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What do five large financial institutions, a construction company and a national quick serve restaurant company have in common?

They all have a strong passion for children and education, and they all believe in giving back in a very big way to their community. Because of their dedication, 370 employees from these companies have volunteered during the 2006-07 school year to teach Junior Achievement to over 9,000 students in classrooms throughout San Diego County. And the companies have collectively donated over $300,000 to make JA programs a reality.

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Barnhart Inc., Comerica Bank, HSBC, Jack in the Box (NYSE: JBX), Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM) and Wells Fargo Bank (NYSE: WFC) provided employee volunteers who taught in classrooms during the school day in addition to the financial contribution. These seven companies alone have impacted over 27 percent of the 33,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students who experienced JA during this last school year.

What makes the JA programs so attractive to the children, the volunteers and the sponsoring companies?

A little background: Junior Achievement is a worldwide organization dedicated to educating students about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. JA was first established in San Diego in 1950 and now conducts programs throughout the school districts in San Diego and Imperial counties.

What makes JA unique and so effective? The key, according to Joanne Pastula, president and CEO of Junior Achievement San Diego, lies with those dedicated volunteers who actually teach these in-school programs in combination with the tremendous company support.

Junior Achievement volunteers spend time with children at Audubon Elementary in San Diego.

This year, more than 1,400 business professionals along with parents, retirees and college students served as JA volunteers. These individuals went directly into the classroom and taught Junior Achievement's hands-on and engaging activities while also sharing their own personal and business experiences. This type of delivery system ultimately brings the relevance of education to life for students and presents role models and mentors who can inspire and motivate students to explore career options.

These JA volunteers also emphasize to the students the necessity to stay in school and explore careers that best fit the skills and interests of each individual student.

All of the lessons and activities the volunteers teach prepare our youth for success in today's global economy by teaching them how to manage money, create jobs and apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students then put these lessons into action, and learn the value of contributing to our local communities.

"Without the consistent dedication and excellence of our volunteers, JA programs would not have the same positive impact on our community that it has had for so many years," said Pastula.

JA is taught throughout the United States and in nearly 100 countries around the world. Interested San Diegans can join Junior Achievement's global network of 245,000 volunteers and help students connect the dots between what they learn in school and the "business of life."

Junior Achievement has a simple turnkey volunteer solution:

1. Personalized placement -- The JA staff works with each volunteer to ensure a location and grade level that is convenient for the volunteer.

2. Hands-on materials -- JA provides a kit of materials containing the entire lesson plans, activities and student materials needed to make every minute count.

3. Comprehensive training -- JA staff provides training to make the volunteer's classroom experience comfortable. Specific training includes classroom management, the JA fun hands-on activities, working with the classroom teacher and communicating effectively to students.

4. Minimal time commitment -- The time commitment is minimal compared to the significant impact made: just once a week for five to eight weeks for a 30-45 minute class period.

Working with JA gives volunteers a chance to know they are changing young lives.

"I volunteer so that I can invest, involve and inspire our children to better their lives for tomorrow," said Don Starkey, JA San Diego board co-chairman and senior vice president of Comerica Bank.

"JA provides a great opportunity for Jack in the Box employees to interact with an amazing group of kids and help prepare them for their future," said Paul Schultz, president and COO of Jack in the Box and JA San Diego Board Co-Chairman. "Volunteering for Junior Achievement, which makes such an incredible impact in kids' lives, helps our employees feel good about themselves and about working at Jack in the Box."

Interested San Diegans can make a difference for the upcoming school year by calling the Junior Achievement office at (619) 682-5155.

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