Author: Sarah Koci Scheilz
Published: Friday, 08 Mar 2019
Nearly two decades before becoming a Junior Achievement board member, Aladdin Ashkar was a JA student at Immaculata High School in Leavenworth, KS, and the President of Raider-Aid. “The premise of the Junior Achievement class was that we were going to create a business, from A to Z, and compete with other classes to see whose business could be the most successful,” Aladdin remembers. This idea excited him immediately. Raider-Aid, a school-themed sports drink he and his classmates created for their high school Junior Achievement class, made a lifelong impact on Aladdin.
As the type of kid who expanded his corner lemonade stand with snacks to boost his profits, Aladdin had always thought entrepreneurially. He loved the idea of building revenue in a fun way. From mowing lawns in the summer to shoveling snow in the winter, Aladdin had the entrepreneurial spirit to take initiative and solve a problem.
Voted by his classmates to be President of their new venture, Aladdin led his JA team to create a new sports drink for their school named after their mascot, the Immaculata High School Raiders. “It was really fun to create a business from scratch,” Aladdin remembers. “We started by doing homework on how to get this idea to a product level.”
After exploring beverage distribution companies in Kansas City, these high school students started making calls and figuring out details like pricing and label production. Step by step with the support and guidance of Junior Achievement’s curriculum, they learned how to create a sports drink that they could market and sell at high school events.
“We had to raise capital to buy our first shipment, so we collected money from the class and everyone became a shareholder,” Aladdin adds. “We tripled, quadrupled and quintupled the initial investment money. It took off so well that at the end of the session, the school incorporated the product full time into their concession stands.”
Because of his Junior Achievement experience as a student, Aladdin knew he wanted to have a career in the business world. As Vice President and Principal Relationship Manager at Wells Fargo, Aladdin is a champion of small business owners. “Not everyone knows that bankers are a great resource for business knowledge,” Aladdin points out. He enjoys seeing his clients do well in their entrepreneurial ventures and offering his input to help them succeed.
Junior Achievement taught Aladdin that you can create something of your own. “When you’re in high school and college, you’re told to get a job,” Aladdin says. “But success doesn’t have to be the status quo. There are so many ways to succeed if you understand the basic concepts of business that Junior Achievement teaches.”
His JA education also taught him the kind of legacy a little ingenuity can leave. Raider-Aid’s popularity didn’t stop when Aladdin graduated. While the school closed its doors in 2017, Raider-Aid was a staple at concession stands for many years. It’s one of many reasons that he gives back to Junior Achievement, today as a volunteer and member of the Junior Achievement Board of Directors.
As a Board member, Aladdin enjoys teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship to a new generation of students. In Kansas City schools, including Center Elementary and George Washington Carver Elementary, Aladdin teaches the basics of budgeting, saving money and financial life skills that change a child’s future.
“When we volunteer, Junior Achievement provides the lesson plans and we meet over five or six sessions of class to teach these concepts,” Aladdin explains. “Not only is it rewarding, but it’s also really cool to see their eyes light up. Junior Achievement makes it fun to teach kids.”
As a previous student of Junior Achievement, giving back as an adult has given Aladdin a great feeling of fulfillment. “Early in your career when you’re just trying to get ahead, it’s all about you. Now, I’ve had success in my career. It’s time to give back,” Aladdin shares. “If you can give back a little bit of knowledge to help even one person make a difference in their life, you’ve had a greater impact than you could ever dream of.”
What means the most to Aladdin about being a part of Junior Achievement is the focus on children. “What more could you want than for kids to have access to all the advantages anyone could have?” Aladdin asks. “Junior Achievement provides the lessons for kids to have a chance. They will create a better future for everyone.”
Aladdin’s own Junior Achievement class was the trigger for what he would do for the rest of his life. “All of that has driven my career up to this point,” Aladdin relates. “If I can inspire one kid to explore a new career, that would be a rewarding impact.”
Give back and make an impact like Aladdin. Become a part of Junior Achievement and inspire young people to succeed in a global economy.