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Washington Voices

JA, city bring professionals to Holmes for career day

Thu., March 3, 2011, midnight

Holmes Elementary School got a turbo version of career day when Junior Achievement of the Inland Northwest partnered with the city of Spokane to put together a daylong curriculum on Feb. 15.

“What we do is we partner business and education,” said Suzie Seefried Jankovich, president of JA. “It’s the second time we have partnered with the city like this.”

A $10,000 grant from the Qwest Foundation made the career day possible.

Firefighters, police officers, the occasional city attorney and many other public servants wandered the halls at Holmes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We had 34 people from the city there,” said Seefried Jankovich. “They go into the class and do some pretty intensive hands-on learning with the students.”

It was JA’s program manager Melissa McNabb who coordinated the day and trained the volunteers, working closely with Ann Deasy, from the city of Spokane.

Junior Achievement is available in almost all the Title 1 schools in Spokane. The federal Title 1 program aims to bridge the gap between low-income students and other students. The U.S. Department of Education provides supplemental funding to local school districts to meet the needs of at-risk and low-income students.

“We also have programs in Colville and Sandpoint,” said Seefried Jankovich. “In Coeur d’Alene we are in two of the three middle schools, and we are in River City Middle School in Post Falls.”

In the Inland Northwest, including Spokane, approximately 8,000 students participate in JA in more than 340 classrooms, helped by more than 430 classroom volunteers. Seefried Jankovich said there are about 173,000 students who could be involved in JA – funding and volunteer resources pending – in the same area.

“Our goal is to reach 9,800 students by the end of the year,” she said.

In elementary school, JA offers programs that focus on getting to know basic economics and how money, jobs and resources move through the city, region and country. In middle school, the focus is on personal finance skills and entrepreneurial thinking, and in high school, classes focus on job and career skills, as well as how banks work.

“We work together with the state to make sure our curriculum matches what the state is expecting,” said Seefried Jankovich. “That way we are not taking away from class time – we are adding to the existing curriculum.”

Volunteers in the K-6 programs make a 14-hour commitment to join a class for one period, once a week, for five weeks.

“It does require some preparation time, some commute time and all that,” said Seefried Jankovich. “But we provide the curriculum and the volunteer works with the teacher on how to best present the material.”

In middle school, volunteers commit to seven weeks of teaching, and in high school it’s between seven and 10 weeks.

“It’s important to us to get to the kids as young as possible,” said Seefried Jankovich. “We know they gain better skills, are more job ready, and do better in higher education later. And we help lower the drop out rate.”

Volunteers are always needed as JA aims to match working professionals with programs within their field.

“They usually like it and many of them stay on for a while,” Seefried Jankovich said.

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