JA Volunteers Help Take a Student to the Next Level

Architecture and design firm Gould Evans is known for their projects with Cerner and Garmin — but their team in Kansas City is also focused on education. “Our goal is to try to shape and mold good futures,” says Jay Currie Campbell, Gould Evans associate. And the team at Gould Evans continues these efforts by volunteering with Junior Achievement.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to engage in different classrooms with different people across the city,” Jay explains. “Junior Achievement is a natural opportunity for us as a firm to commit the time and effort to support students, because we’re supporting education. It’s great to see a partner that’s taking education to another level.”

Jean Stoverink, a senior associate at Gould Evans, teamed up with Jay for a Junior Achievement career fair. “We set up a booth and brought models and drawings to introduce the kids to architecture as a career path,” Jean says. “We had a really good experience there, and the students did too.”

During the career fair, Jean and Jay were both pleasantly surprised when a high school freshman from the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts showed impressive interest in their careers. “We didn’t have anything cool to give away, so we gave away our business cards,” Jay remembers. “A few days later, he reached out to Jean about a job shadow!” Soon after, this student and his uncle were at the Gould Evans office for a tour.

With just a little self-initiative, this freshman got an inside look into Gould Evans. “He got to walk around and meet some of our great people, explore some of the projects in the office,” Jay recalls. “That was really awesome for him. Having set foot in the door, now someday he'll feel confident applying for a job here.”

“Think about the bravery it takes for a kid to call up an adult who they only just met,” Jean adds. “He seemed to really appreciate the walkthrough and he asked more questions than his uncle did. When he left, I said, ‘If you're ever interested, we occasionally do internships and you’re welcome to come for a full day of shadowing.’”

After this exciting experience, Jean decided to volunteer in the classroom for a six-week Junior Achievement program at Comanche Elementary School. “Again, I had a great experience,” Jean says. “I grew up in an arts and theatre family, so I didn’t learn these finance terms until I was working a full-time job. It felt good for me to teach those concepts to kids at a younger age because it’s something I didn’t have access to at that age.”

Jean began teaching her JA class with a personality survey, to help students uncover their interests and skills. The students then considered how those interests and abilities might lead them on a career path. With their futures in mind, the students then learned about insurance, deductibles and budgeting to build the financial foundation they need.

“Each week I came back I would ask, ‘Who remembers what we did last week?’” Jean shares. “They always had the answer. They were very engaged, always raising their hands.”

Jean specifically remembers a session where she asked students the difference between an associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree. She was shocked when no student knew the answer. So Jean taught them what was required for each degree and why someone might choose to earn one. When Jean returned for the next session, she was impressed: the students could confidently explain the value of each degree. “I felt like I really taught them something meaningful,” Jean says. “They were absorbing so much . . . they were like sponges!”

At the end of the program, Jean received grateful hugs from several students. “I just had so much fun doing it,” She remembers. “The kids were really responsive.”

Jay reflects that, as a child, he didn’t always enjoy being at school. “I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t enjoy sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. So that’s why I think it’s really important to note how Junior Achievement approaches this with their programs. I’ve seen the impact it has. It affects the children, but it also affects the adults just as much.”

“I never took a personal finance class or learned any sort of bookkeeping. These kids have an opportunity to really get ahead in that way and it's extremely important,” Jay says. “Junior Achievement is lifting people out of whatever situation they're in with real-life skills that are extremely important,” Jay adds.

For Jean, Junior Achievement was the most direct way she could have an impact on Kansas City students. “You’re actually engaging one on one with the students, unlike other organizations where you don’t have that direct human connection,” Jean notes. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to have to volunteer for 7th grade next year, and then 8th grade after that, so I can keep following these students. I got really attached to them by the end of the six week period.”

Jay enjoys seeing lightbulb moments. “The most rewarding aspect is seeing the children's faces light up whenever they understand or ask questions,” Jay says. “I've had sixth graders and freshmen both ask amazing questions. These kids are asking really poignant questions that could shape their futures, and that’s rewarding for me.”

Jean and Jay aren’t the only people in their organization to benefit from their Junior Achievement experiences. “Our colleagues have gotten a lot out of it as well,” Jean says. “We talked a lot about outreach in our office and making architecture more visible to communities of students who may not be even aware that a potential career in architecture exists. The more we can make ourselves visible, the more we can start to include and diversify our profession. In the long run, this will benefit the communities we're designing for.”

Jay sees how volunteering with Junior Achievement has brought their company closer together. “It’s provided an opportunity for a group of us of at all ages and capabilities,” Jay says. “We'll go to these career fairs and come back to the office talking about what we saw and what experiences we had. It really creates a better sense of community in our own office.”

Jean and Jay’s experience with Junior Achievement keeps them coming back. “Junior Achievement offers so many different levels of engagement,” Jay says. “If you only have a little bit of time, there’s a way for you to get involved. If you have more time, you can devote a couple of hours a week or a month. Whatever level you can give, there's a place for you.”

Jean, Jay and their colleagues at Gould Evans are making a lasting impact on Kansas City students. Your time and experience are valuable. When you support Junior Achievement today, YOU inspire the next generation.

Select a button below to see how you or your organization can get involved with Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City.

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