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"You can see the students transform during the day...the kids love it!”

John Grant, Junior Achievement volunteer, leading a classroom program

John Grant is passing his life-long passion for business and economics to the next generation. For the past SEVENTEEN years John, who works as a Senior HR Partner for Johnson County Government, has given time to bring his experiences and expertise to JA students. His current role supports emergency services and facilities in over thirty different county buildings. However, his career started during his stint at Sprint. “For thirteen years I was a trainer and content developer, with some human resources work. I really liked that piece, so I went back to school and got my certification.”

It was during his time at Sprint that John was introduced to Junior Achievement through his team. “We did a lot of volunteer work for different nonprofits. I helped decide which ones to go to and read about JA and what it does.” He quickly realized that JA was a good fit for both his interests and skills. “I really like to talk and teach. I told my program manager I wanted to lead fifth grade Business and Economics programs…it was something I could really relate to.” His interest in those specific topics came about when he was at the same age. “As a fifth grader, I wanted to do something in business or be a teacher. I knew that at a young age. It was hearing my relatives talk about the stock market and role models later. In Junior High we started general business classes. How to write a check, balance a checkbook, running your household from a financial perspective, that kind of stuff. I really enjoyed it.”

On his first day in the classroom, John found a unique connection at his JA school that cemented his bond with the program. “At Meadow Lane Elementary, the teacher I was assigned to ended up being from my hometown, Concordia, Kansas! My family knew her family. I knew her younger brother…he was a year older than me in High School. It’s a very small world!” That fortuitous meeting signaled the start of a long bond with Meadow Lane 5th grade teacher, Julie Hanon. After nearly two decades of JA programs together, John and Julie’s friendship has grown over the years. “I’ve gotten to know her really well and we stay in touch all the time.” But all good things eventually come to an end, or sometimes a new beginning. “Julie is retiring this year, but I have joked with her about it. I said, ‘Just because you’re retiring doesn’t mean you get to stop!’ She is throwing around the idea of helping teach JA with me in the future.”

John is committed to continuing his work with JA for many years to come. Part of his motivation stems from his own children. “One of my daughters turns five this year, so I want to go to her school. I haven’t done the Kindergarten program before, but I know they’ll really enjoy it.” He explained that he appreciates the flexibility of JA curriculum and has gotten creative, adding in pseudo-game shows to keep students engaged. “I know the program pretty well now and I often modify it. For my 5th grade class, I have them do a ‘5th Grader Feud’ I created based on the materials we’re reviewing. The kids love the things I’ve added.”

Over his many years inspiring Junior Achievement students, John has amassed a large collection of feedback from those he’s taught. “Over 17 years, in each class the kids make thank you notes. My family and I look forward to 60-70 notes every year! I love hearing all about what they’ve learned.” He was especially touched when the steady stream of gratitude from JA students continued while he struggled to overcome a serious medical diagnosis. “I’ve only missed two years. It was because I was going through cancer. The teachers must have mentioned it to the kids. Students comforted me with their own family’s experiences with cancer…they connected with me on a personal level.”

John sees the value that he brings to the classroom as a JA volunteer. He understands what he is teaching has far reaching impacts. “The group presentations help them learn how to create a business plan, yes. But it also teaches them how to present their own ideas and use teamwork. It’s not only about the lecture and content. They get multiple things out of each 45-minute session. You can see them transform during the day.” He has found the positive sentiment reflected in the educators and staff he has worked with. “If you go to Meadow Lane Elementary, I can guarantee people know what JA is and have positive things to say about it.” For John, the time between his first JA class and today has flown by, with even more to look forward to in the coming years. “It’s hard to believe how long it’s been. I started my first year and suddenly, it’s my seventeenth! Teachers enjoy it, the kids love it, and I like the time too.”

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