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"It was eye opening to explain savings to the kids....some have had exposure, but many have not."

Peter's Story of Impact

Peter McVey has built his career in Kansas City over the past twenty years. Currently a Senior Vice President and Director of Cash Management Services with Lead Bank, his path in the banking and financial service industry spurred out of an internship during his college years. Wisely, he used relationships he cultivated during that experience to secure his first job after graduation. Since then he has steadily moved through the ranks. “My role in banking has evolved from being a front line teller to working with business clients to define the services they need. I find solutions.” Peter’s career path benefited from informal mentorship from several different leaders along the way.

The advice of the CEO at his first bank helped him prioritize communication as a key skill, “He encouraged me to share my opinions and speak up. If you don’t offer your thoughts when asked, people won’t know what you have going on in your mind. I’ve used that approach many times in my career, to remind myself to speak up and engage in conversations.” He also took away an important lesson from an early role at a financial services non-profit where he led seminars and online-training. “Understand that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. When you’re not, use that to your advantage. Leverage others’ knowledge and experience with your own.”

When Junior Achievement Program Manager Sara Swearingen made an appearance at Lead Bank through a lunch and learn community engagement series, Peter quickly identified it as a way to leverage his strengths to make an impact in his community. “I was very interested because of the industry I work in. So much of my role is explaining how banking works for businesses. I felt like I could do the same thing for children.” He especially identified with the age group that he had the opportunity to mentor during his JA-in-One-Day experience. “I have a 6-year-old son, so I thought teaching kindergartners would be a good fit for me.”

At first, Peter had some anxiety about how to keep a room full of young kids engaged for the duration of the lengthy session format. Traditional JA programs bring volunteers in for an hour over the course of several weeks. JA-in-a-Day fast-tracks learning in one school day, with breaks for recess and lunch. Peter emphasized how his JA Program Manager, Sara, helped him feel prepared every step of the way. “I really appreciated Sara making us feel at ease. She gave us things to consider and be prepared for. She went over the material with us, how the process worked, and checked in during the experience. Sara made us feel so welcome.” Peter’s fears were also eased when he decided to teach as part of a team. “Two colleagues, Taylor and Danny, joined me to volunteer. We broke the day into parts. The fact that there were three of us really helped keep the students listening.” The trio made sure to review the materials before their time in class but found a natural flow once they got in front of the class. “We read the lesson plans and other materials, but when we got there it just happened. The kids did very well.”

As a parent, Peter brought an understanding of young minds to his teaching style. “We found after lunch their attention span was a bit different than before. We adjusted and when questions turned into something else, we brought them back in.” The day was a valuable exercise in communication and meeting the kids at their level. Peter found himself turning to the materials to aid in concept delivery, “I kept reminding myself to think about it from a simple point of view, to not make it too complicated. The guides were really useful in helping us give information to the students at their level.”

Peter’s favorite aspect of the day was the unexpected liveliness of it. “We had them doing activities that required them to stand up and move.” The classroom teacher reinforced the strength of the materials and their ability to direct young energy to Peter and his fellow volunteers. “She liked that part as well…she said getting them moving around the room and thinking about things that way was a really good approach.” Another surprise for Peter came when it was time to say goodbye. “I told the kids we had to head home and many of them asked us to stay. Some came up and gave us high-fives and hugs. It was unexpected but it felt good that they were happy we were there. It was really nice to have that expressed.”

His time in the classroom allowed Peter to reflect on his own upbringing. “My parents explained early on how important it was to save money and use time to your advantage, like setting up retirement accounts early.” He realized he could amplify his impact by volunteering with Junior Achievement students. “It was eye opening to explain savings to the kids and talk about money. Some have had exposure, but many have not. It was so important to my parents that they tell me about it. I have talked about it with my own son. The opportunity to explain it to a room full of other kids took it to the next level.” After returning to the office, Peter felt compelled to share his experience with his co-workers. He wrote an email to encourage others to step up, “I sent out pictures we took while we were there to the entire staff. I told them it was nerve-wrecking and humbling. But once you’re there, your nerves go away.” Peter is glad he stepped out of his comfort zone and hopes others will do the same and join him for future JA programs. Smiling, he concluded, “It’s the nature of kids to make you feel better about things. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to be a Junior Achievement volunteer. I’ll be back and hopefully with more of my colleagues.”

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