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The kids you're helping are the next generation of leaders.


Image caption: Bryce Stivers, JA kid and incoming Junior at Northeast High School

“I just finished my geometry work. Now I am ready for summer school. My birthday is in two weeks…I will be 16. Later this month I’m going to get a driving permit!” After a year where the unexpected has become the new normal, these words from Northeast High School student Bryce Stivers are refreshingly ordinary. The young man recently wrapped up his sophomore year with two virtual JA programs he took through Mattie Rhodes Center. The community organization partners with Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City to provide its middle and high school aged guests programs to inspire bright futures.

In a year full of cancellations and postponed events, Bryce was eager to get everything he could from his JA experience. He proudly riffled through a stack of papers. “I have twelve to fifteen pages full of notes! They have been very helpful.” Bryce participated in two different JA programs this past spring: the “It’s My Future” program followed by the “It’s My Business” program.

He shared the differences between the two opportunities. “The first was about going on a journey. How to go from where we are now and work our way to a career. We learned about career clusters and paths. The second was more focused on entrepreneurship. They taught us the different skill sets we need to be an entrepreneur.” Mattie Rhodes, JAKC, and Northeast Alliance Together are offering a third learning opportunity in July as well – the “Economics for Success” JA program.

Bryce’s first “It’s My Future” session fueled a hunger for more real-world learning. The second “It’s My Business” session ignited an interest in launching his first venture. “I’m working on a lawn care business with my great-grandpa. He owns Abbott Properties so I’m going to see if he’ll let me mow those properties for him.” The young man has identified one initial hurdle to his plan though – he can’t legally drive yet. “The hardest part is going to be finding a way to get around. I’ll have to pay someone to drive me.” Bryce is determined to persevere through the lean days of starting up his lawncare business and eventually save up for a big goal. “Once I earn enough money, I’ll buy a truck so I can haul my stuff around.”

Obtaining transportation will unlock the second phase of the teenager’s strategic plan. “After I’ve worked for my grandfather mowing lawns, I’d like to spread my brand. I want to grow it to the point that I can get my brother and a few of my friends to help me.” Inspired by his JA experience, Bryce has a plan to get the word out. “The JA entrepreneurship program I took showed us an example of how one person went from house to house to spread the word. I think that would work!” He continued to explain the valuable lessons he took away from his “It’s My Business” experience. “I learned a lot about building my brand. Being able to make a good first impression. How to be known. You must keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, you have to do it!”

When asked if he planned on reinvesting any profits back into the business or if he hoped to put his earnings towards another end, Bryce voiced a thoughtful approach to diversify his future opportunities. “Probably half and half. I will put some of it towards the company. The rest I will save to put myself through college.” The incoming junior’s future still has time to take shape over the next two years before high school graduation. “I don’t have a dream school to be honest. I am doing well in high school…I am getting all As. But I’m not sure what I want to do with my life yet.” Wisely, the young man is considering ways to avoid major student debt as he narrows down his interests and passions. “I think I may continue the lawncare business and go to a community college first to help me know what I want to get my full degree in before I go out into the world.”

One possible path Bryce envisions is a career in media. “I’ve thought about broadcasting. My grandpa used to be on the radio and do standup comedy. He first introduced me to it.” Bryce and his grandfather have an incredibly close relationship. “I take care of my grandpa full time after his car accident. Since we have been around each other 24/7, I feel like I know him better than anyone else.”  Inspired by his grandfather’s experiences in the industry, Bryce is considering how he can combine it with another one of his passions: wrestling. “It’s a way to escape reality. I’ve watched professional wrestling like WWE every week since I was a kid. My dad got me into it. When he left, wrestling spoke to me as a way to escape reality and be myself.”

When asked how he balances his daily responsibilities with school and planning for the future, Bryce said, “I just take care of it. I fly through it and focus on the positives of life.” His friends have noticed his level-headed maturity. Bryce is happy to support them through the difficulties they are facing in their own lives. “A lot of my friends come to me for advice. Sometimes they open up to me more than they’ve opened up to anyone just because I’m there to listen to them.”

Bryce has a message of encouragement for adults considering becoming JA Champions. “The people taking these programs – the kids you’re helping – are the next generation of leaders. We will do all kinds of big things. I know I am grateful for all the help and advice I’ve been given!”

As he navigates towards his own future, Bryce wants to pass along some words of wisdom he learned during his JA program to kids who have big dreams for their futures. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must have faith in yourself. You must be hardworking, self-motivated, and confident. Learn from your mistakes and be passionate about whatever you do. Don’t back down, regardless of anything that happens!” Bryce concluded with one more tip for other kids going through a JA program, “JA will help you more than anything else, just take as many notes as you can!”

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