Author: Sarah Koci Scheilz
Published: Tuesday, 18 Jun 2019
For Martin City Elementary fifth graders, just one day in JA built new ideas for their future and new confidence to accomplish their dreams. And it all happened when volunteers from Fishtech, a Martin City-based company with a global footprint, volunteered in their classroom. “I feel pretty inspired because I learned so many new things,” says fifth grader Daniel Gamboa. “Now I know what I need to learn to have a career like theirs. I learned what I’d get to do in my dream job! I learned what I need to do to plan for my future.”
While learning JA curriculum focused on careers, Martin City Elementary students discovered new career paths and the education they would need to get there. “I really didn’t know these types of jobs existed,” Daniel says. “But JA helped me pick what I want to have as a job.” And with Fishtech’s office just minutes away from Martin City Elementary, it was easy for children to visualize themselves working for the company someday.
Fishtech’s Vice President of Human Resources, Johnna Meyer, was part of a team that taught this curriculum. “We talked to the students about career options and how to get to their final destination,” Johnna remembers. “We tried to encourage them as well, to think about things they enjoy doing and how they can apply that to what their lifetime career selection might be.”
“I'm really into the scientific stuff,” Daniel reflects. “I would be interested in being a scientist, biologist, marine biologist and archaeologist.” The digital aspects of Fishtech were especially intriguing for Daniel.
For Johnna, getting to know the students individually was a highlight of the experience. “These kids were so excited to investigate their options going forward,” Johnna says. “We even started talking about entrepreneurship.”
The lesson extended beyond exploring different career paths, when students learned how to actually get the jobs they wanted. As they discovered what it takes to succeed as professionals, students put the puzzle pieces of their career path together. “It was interesting to learn how you get a salary and what you need to learn, like a master’s degree or medical degree,” Daniel adds. “I learned what type of degree I need to get so I can plan for my future.”
Fifth grader Khari Spaulding also felt inspired to create her vision of the future. And what she learned in JA empowered her. “I know more about what I want to set on for the future,” she explains. “What if I want that job? I was scared that when I got to that point, I wouldn't know what to do. But now, I feel pretty confident.”
Johnna loves seeing the look in a student’s eye when the curriculum just clicks. Students begin to see their future in a new way. “Some of those kids really got into it,” she remembers. “Being able to see that you can make a difference in somebody's life is rewarding.”
Jennie Hanna, Fishtech’s PR and Communications Manager, sees how volunteering with Junior Achievement gives their company a unique opportunity to educate an upcoming generation. “Working within cyber security, we have a real interest in helping to build the pipeline,” Jennie notes. “There are projections that there will not be the talent to fill the number of jobs available in even 10 years. It's fun to be able to talk to kids and say, ‘You can do this.’”
Learning about careers available at Fishtech gave Khari a look into new possibilities. “Those guys have pretty cool jobs, I'm not gonna lie,” she smiles. “I want to work with technology. I could work at Fishtech. I could work at an engineering company, whatever I want, because I’ve got a good hold on STEM.”
And partnering with a school in their own backyard was especially meaningful, Jennie explains. “When I was able to tell the students where I worked,” Jennie says, “there were a couple of little gasps of recognition, like, ‘Oh, yeah, I know, that building. I drive by it.’ I was able to say to them: I walk by your school when I go for a walk at lunchtime. We are neighbors.”
Volunteering with Junior Achievement was an exciting team-building activity for Fishtech. “Everybody was so excited that day, it was just this buzz around the office,” Johnna remembers. “It was great to see the teams working together to prepare for the day.” Fishtech took the opportunity to encourage people from different departments to work together, build relationships and unite as a total organization. “It was great to share our stories at the end of the day and say, ‘Okay, how did you feel like you made an impact today?’ Everybody was just happy and excited.”
To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Johnna says, “It's not only developing a relationship with the students and seeing that they really appreciate you coming there and talking with them, but it's also developing a relationship with the teachers. They appreciate the fact that you are coming in and sharing your life experiences with these kids and giving them something that they can look forward to someday,”
Every kid deserves to believe in themselves — and to have the tools to do it. When you give back to Junior Achievement, you give kids like Daniel and Khari the chance to envision a new future for themselves and the world.