Author: Sarah Koci Scheilz
Published: Friday, 13 Sep 2019
Junior Achievement has been part of Kate Hood’s life in so many ways. From being first a JA student, to hosting JA volunteers in her classroom as a teacher, and finally becoming a member of the JA staff here in Kansas City, Kate has seen many angles of Junior Achievement and experienced great positive change along the way.
As an elementary student in Kansas City, Kate remembers a JA volunteer coming to her classroom at The Barstow School dressed in a suit and armed with fun learning materials. “What had the biggest impact on me was knowing that people from the community were interested in coming to share their experiences,” Kate says. “It was just getting a little glimpse of what it might look like when you grow up. I was eager to learn about the outside world and what possibilities there were.”
Reflecting on her time experiencing the Junior Achievement curriculum, Kate sees what an impact JA volunteers make. “They’re coming in for just a short period of time,” Kate relates, “but they leave a lasting legacy.”
After attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and earning her degree in elementary education, Kate began teaching in public schools. As a teacher, Kate was excited to welcome JA volunteers into her fifth grade classroom, hoping to give them the same vibrant experience she had as a kid.
“Anytime a volunteer came in, it was like a celebrity was gracing us with their presence!” Kate jokes. “The kids were so excited to engage with the volunteers and had all kinds of questions. It just meant a lot to the kids, to see that there was another adult out there who wanted to spend time with them.”
While preparing to share the JA curriculum in her classroom, Kate brought in bills and pay stubs to show her students how she balanced it all and made budgeting decisions. From this experience, Kate’s students were able to be a part of the financial success in their homes.
“When parent teacher conferences came around, there were a lot of discussions around this because kids were coming home and applying the lessons they learned,” Kate says. “They were there at the kitchen counter, looking over bills together and working with their parents to figure out how to make ends meet. That was a huge learning experience.”
Resume and job interviewing skills also trickled down from the students to their parents. Kate saw her kids share what they learned to help their parents get a different job or get a job for the first time. “Those were some easy wins that impacted the quality of life for my students,” Kate notes. “What a good ripple effect!”
Today, Kate is thrilled to be a part of Junior Achievement as our Senior Program Manager. Kate loves seeing first-hand how volunteers are vital to grow and change the world of the upcoming generation. “All of my Junior Achievement experiences have given me an appreciation for what I do now, continuing to give kids experiences beyond the traditional classroom setting,” Kate says. “Through JA, kids can grow up to become productive members of society and then give back to the best of their ability. That's the cycle that needs to be in place for our world to work.”
Both as an educator and as part of the JA staff, Kate has seen many kids who aren’t quite sure school is the right place for them. “To see that there is a community behind them, cheering them on and wanting them to succeed, is huge for them,” Kate shares. “They may not get that message at home. To have a new person come in, spend time with them and be that cheerleader shows them all the opportunities that wait for them outside of the classroom when they graduate.”
For future JA volunteers, Kate recognizes the feeling of hesitancy that comes with stepping foot in a classroom — but the difference volunteers make is far greater than any uncertainty. “The first time a kid makes a connection with you will be your reason for doing this,” Kate explains. “There's nothing better than seeing a kid excited about talking with you, hearing your story and learning from you.” Kate knows firsthand that making an impact on even one child is worth the time and energy it takes to volunteer in a classroom for just a few hours.
In Junior Achievement, students gain confidence and get the tools to think far beyond what’s right in front of them. When you partner with JA, you power possibility. As a part of Junior Achievement today, you have an impact on a student’s future.