Author: Erika O'Shea
Published: Friday, 21 Feb 2020
Dianne Ryan has been a Junior Achievement Champion in Kansas City for nearly twenty years. Her journey started in 2001 when her own children were in grade school, “I started at St. Ann’s Parish because that’s the church we go to. They had a note on the bulletin that they were looking for help teaching the 4th grade Junior Achievement program.” Dianne felt that her background made her a good candidate to toss her hat in the ring. “My degrees are in child and family development and I had always been interested in finances and teaching kids about money. I had learned a lot from running a business with my husband.” Dianne and her husband, Bill, founded Shamrock Trading Corporation. Their family-owned business has been a fixture in Kansas City for over thirty years.
Now, two decades after her first JA volunteering experience, Dianne is still going strong. She just finished leading her 56th classroom program (!!) and along the way has provided mentorship to kids in nearly every grade level from Kindergarten to 6th grade.
What keeps her coming back? “When I lead Junior Achievement programs, I’m giving kids a whole other perspective of the financial world and the importance of jobs. They understand why money is necessary.” She builds a bond with the kids she works with adding, “I love the stories. I always give the kids a chance to talk about their lives. Everybody has a job at home. It might be picking up the toys, but I’m able to take that and tie it back to what I’m teaching.”
She also counts her ties to school administrators and educators as a key reason she loves being a JA volunteer, “I build a relationship with the teachers. I’ll stay with a school for as long as the teacher requests me. I like walking in, I like chatting with the secretaries, I like that the teachers look forward to me coming. I love the fact that they ask for me. That’s a real ego booster.”
Several years ago, Dianne had the chance to lead JA programs for her grandson’s 4th grade JA class. She tried to keep her family tie discreet, without success. She smiled remembering, “I walked into the classroom on the first day and everyone was saying ‘Nick’s grandma is here!’ That secret didn’t last long.” Dianne recognizes the impact JA programming has when kids have access to it over the course of several years. “It builds each year. The kids who get Junior Achievement every grade are so lucky.”
As a long-time volunteer, Dianne has found Junior Achievement curriculum to be tried, true, and inclusive. “The lesson plans are spot on and very age appropriate. They are also flexible enough that I can change the plan to fit the classroom. Students have many different cultures and backgrounds. There are no assumptions that a family can only be a mom and a dad. JA always stresses that your family can be anything. I have become very sensitive to that.”
Her time with JA students has turned her into an advocate amongst her friends and family. “I’ve taken people with me who are interested in the becoming a volunteer for the program. You really have to see it to get it.” She stresses that anyone can make a difference. “You don’t have to be super qualified. You don’t have to have a master’s degree in business. You don’t have to even be employed. I’m retired! Doing this makes me feel like I’m a player in the community. I’m still contributing.”
The biggest factor in her continued work with Junior Achievement? The purpose it brings to her life. “So much of what we do we HAVE to do. It is a requirement. So little of life is something you WANT to do. Junior Achievement is something I WANT to do. I look forward to it, to the kids, to delivering the message, to saying goodbye. Then I feel like my day has been complete. I feel like I’ve done something for the greater good. I get just as much out of it as the kids do and I always leave in a good mood.”