Author: Sara Koci Scheilz
Published: Tuesday, 09 Jul 2019
As both the Principal of Tomahawk Elementary School and Executive Director of the Cloud L. Cray Foundation, Brian Watson greatly values financial literacy and economic education for kids from grades K-12. “Every kid, every family needs to learn about commerce, finance, and how money works and can work for them,” Brian says. It’s this passion that drives the commitment to Junior Achievement.
When JA President & CEO Megan Sturges Stanfield approached the Cloud L. Cray Foundation several years ago to share her view and vision for Junior Achievement, Brian was excited to get involved and work together to support financial literacy.
It’s important to Brian and the Cloud L. Cray Foundation to help children learn to save effectively, stay away from predatory lending and avoid credit card debt. “We feel as a foundation that if we can teach our kids at a young age how to navigate the waters of finance, it will lift all of society,” Brian shares. “Junior Achievement checks that box and we’ve always felt like it’s been a good opportunity for us as an organization.”
With two children who are now adults, Brian knows the challenge that comes with educating your own children on important principles. “It’s kind of like teaching your kids how to swim,” Brian relates. “It’s really, really hard. It’s always positive to have students hear from someone else and learn from them how to manage their bank account, save for college and future needs.”
The statistics on financial literacy in America clearly show that this education must become a top priority. “Junior Achievement brings a ripple effect,” Brian says. “When a student learns a lesson and goes home to share that with mom, maybe they’re able to make smart choices as an adult and end the cycle of poverty. That child sparks a ripple effect.”
“Junior Achievement is making a difference in that capacity,” Brian adds. “I have lots of parents come up to me at Tomahawk Creek Elementary and thank me for bringing Junior Achievement to the classroom. They don’t talk about finances with their kids at home as much as they’d like to, and they value this education.”
As the Principal of Tomahawk Elementary School, Brian sees the impact of JA firsthand. “Their strong curriculum works really well,” Brian says. “These kids are like sponges, so when someone from the community comes in, it’s another perspective and voice for them to hear. I feel really positive about having volunteers in the classroom.”
Brian had a special experience as he watched his sixth graders go through the JA It’s My Future program. The sixth graders were visiting University of Missouri - Kansas City, learning from college kids and touring the campus. “This young man said, ‘Mr. Watson, thank you for setting that up. Nobody in my family went to college and now I'm going to go. It looks like so much fun,’” Brian relates. “He was very enthused about seeing a college campus . . . and that wouldn’t have happened without the Junior Achievement program.”
“What I appreciate about JA is the fact that they utilize volunteers in the community to deliver this information to kids,” Brian notes. “We're counting on organizations like Junior Achievement to deliver meaningful experiences to these kids.” For Brian and the Cloud L. Cray Foundation, Junior Achievement has become an extension of their mission to provide financial literacy instruction and financial freedom to kids in the Kansas City area.
To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Brian says, “Just try it out. These kids will look up to you and they will see nothing but positive.” Besides bringing priceless education to the classroom, volunteers have an impact far beyond that. “You’re having a positive influence on the next generation of kids when they’re not getting many positive outside influences,” Brian adds. “This is a chance to go into the world and have a positive impact.”
At Junior Achievement, volunteers and donors empower the next generation with financial literacy education that makes a difference. As a part of Junior Achievement, you have a positive impact on kids across Kansas City.