In the Community – Junior Achievement of Arizona

As part of The Thunderbirds In the Community Conversations, Tournament Chairman Scott Jenkins recently held a digital chat with President of Junior Achievement of Arizona, Katherine Cecala. The two leaders discussed the current challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and identify how the community can continue to support local non-profits throughout our communities.

“Our mission at Junior Achievement is to prepare students to succeed in work and life,” Cecala said. “We serve about 86,000 primarily low-income kids with the help of 9,000 volunteers. We are in 400 schools and we’re teaching money management and career readiness types of skills to help prepare these kids to succeed in the future.”

Cecala talked about how Junior Achievement has had to change and mobilize differently due to the impact of the coronavirus.

“Because our programs are in the schools, we actually have had more than three months of classes canceled,” said Cecala. “What we’re doing about it is we are greatly expanding our digital offerings. So this was an opportunity to focus more on something we were already doing so that we can have great programs that we can take to kids in their homes.”

Cecala then spoke about some of the specific digital programs offered by Junior Achievement.

“We are doing a variety of online programming and through our website, JAAZ.org, you can reference all of these resources and they’re divided by grade level,” said Cecala. “They teach money management and about career readiness and entrepreneurship and all sorts of things. We’re doing Instagram live and live Zoom lessons by grade so families can tap into those lessons and parents can go on or students can go online, find those resources and do those lessons.”

On the subject of staffing and volunteers, Cecala offered hopeful stories about staff morale.

“We’re all working remotely,” said Cecala. “Like everyone else, we’re doing an awful lot of Teams and Zoom meetings and I think staff morale is out there because they can see that we are doing something to try to help families during this time. We had a volunteer with a bank [who] loved [our program] so much she switched her career and went into teaching.”

The direct, practical application of Junior Achievement services is evident, even through online lessons.

“We’ve heard from some of our students they were able to take lessons they learned in the classroom from Junior Achievement about budgeting and they are using it with their family,” said Cecala. “We had one student who wrote us and said ‘I was able to take the budget you gave me and work with my parents to set up a budget to figure out how we could make it through this time.’”

Here’s how you can help Junior Achievement Arizona right now.

“Obviously, just like every other nonprofit, we certainly need resources to fund the development of the digital programming,” said Cecala. “We have a Speaker Series and there are business people out there who have stories that we can use in our lessons. So there’s a spot on our website where you can volunteer to submit videos that we can use in our lessons, certainly sharing the website with people.”

Website Link for Updated Information | Website Link for Donation Information

Phone Number for Physical Donations: 480-377-8500
Address for Physical Donations: 636 W. Southern Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85282

Key Info: During this difficult time, JA has begun developing several new and innovative digital programs. These digital programs are allowing us to bring our critical education into the homes of our students through our FREE online resources and live learning. The link to this digital education can be found here:

https://www.jaaz.org/programs/parent-student-resources/