JA assists students in gaining financial literacy

February 9, 2018

The ’DEIS Impact event “Owning Your Economic Success,” started with a few technical difficulties. They did not throw off the presenters, however, who eloquently addressed the small audience about their mission. The event was held on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 12 p.m. in the SCC.

Junior Achievement of Northern New England (JA) CEO and President, Radhames Nova, attended the event and spoke of his experiences moving to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 13. Just based on the numbers, he said, there was a 50 percent chance that he would have dropped out of high school. Youth organizations like the Boys and Girls Club in his town of Lawrence, MA helped him stay on track. He went on to complete high school and obtain a Master’s degree from Boston University’s School Of Management. “I had adults who were invested in my success, which I’m sure is what happens here on campus with your professors and administrators,” Nova said.

Nova explained that he was telling this story to the small group of students and faculty in the audience because of his connection to social justice. “I have a direct connection having experienced the impact that youth organizations can have on shaping a young person’s life … I think the theme of social justice, and the impact that organizations have on our communities that are not always evident when you are serving those young people [is important] … my story could have been very different,” said Nova of his success in youth organizations that led to him obtaining higher education.

JA is a global non-profit organization that was founded in Springfield, Mass. 99 years ago and has served 10 million students grades K-12 across the globe in 120 countries, with five million students served in the US alone. According to Nova, JA programs fill the gap of life skills that students are not learning about at school or at home, such as the basics of financial management and entrepreneurship.

Director of Programs for JA of Northern New England, Deirdre O’Connor Mitchell, gave a presentation about JA and their many ways of participating with students to teach them financial literacy skills to “succeed in a global economy,” according to the presentation. She included statistics about the need for a program like JA, including the fact that 36 percent of Americans say they felt at one point their financial situation was out of control, and that 91 percent of millenials wish they had greater access to entrepreneurial education programs.

Jake Rong ’21 participated in the JA Summer Institute at Northeastern University the summer after his junior year of high school and was inspired by the various workshops and guest speakers to bring a similar event to campus. “It gave us the real world glimpse as to what it’s like to get a job and start a career after [high school] graduation,” said Rong. When he was applying to Brandeis, he visited campus during ’DEIS Impact and says that the event connected these two experiences for him.

While JA does not provide college-level programs, they do offer internships and volunteer opportunities for college students to get involved with their financial literacy programs. O’Connor, Mitchell and Nova expressed their hope for greater volunteer recruitment from college students, as all volunteers are thoroughly trained and can greatly impact young students as well as gain networking opportunities and experience in the economic and teaching field.

“We are tailoring JA’s mission of providing students with economic and financial literacy programs to the social justice theme of the festival, and showing how JA, because all of their programs are free of charge, allows students regardless of their income or ethnicity or race or educational background to be able to learn these skills that they might not otherwise be able to obtain,” Rong said. “It seemed like a topic that hadn’t been tried before in the festival.”

“I thought it was a really great event with knowledgeable presenters, I never had these opportunities [to learn about] financial literacy and I’m glad to learn about it now,” said Will Hodgkinson ’21.

Ingrid Pabon, Programs Coordinator for Office of the Arts, said after the event, “I think a lot of the spirit of this work is to bring empowerment to students and to bring them out into communities to empower people to bring a more equitable future for all … people need to jump onto this and learn more about this and I would’ve loved to see more people in this session.”

In terms of future ’DEIS Impact events that Rong would like to be involved in, he said that the goal is not to continue inviting just JA back to campus, but rather to create “lasting impact with the people who attend the event and have them be able to spread this message further.”

“We want people to be able to better reflect on themselves and understand the reality of financial literacy education in this country,” said Rong.

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