Working with children outside of the classroom has been a work in progress for numerous organizations and foundations. And teaching them how to take care of themselves has been a dominant subject.
The current problem most parents face with their school age children is what to do with them after school. Today, most families have both mom and dad working. In times past, mom was at home preparing the evening meal with children at her feet. And the children seem to be faced with the same dilemma, no matter what the time in history is: what do we do now?
Laws have been passed to protect children from being taken advantage of in the work place. The family farm or business has always had its chores for kids to perform but those work places are dwindling in numbers placing even those young adults out on the streets looking for something to do.
As early as 1860, a group of ladies in Hartford, Conn. believed that there should be a positive alternative to roaming the streets for boys. That concern became a cause that formed the first Boys Club. From that beginning, a group of 53 Boys Clubs in the Boston area came together to form the Federated Boys Clubs in Boston and began the nationwide expansion to help formulate the mind and body of young men everywhere in America.
The Federation grew and changed it’s name to Boys Clubs of America in 1931. Then, following World War Two, the club continued to grow as America did and received a national charter from the United States Congress on their 50th anniversary in 1956. Again, the club grew up with it’s members and in 1990 changed it’s name and charter to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and opened its doors for its new female members.
At the same time, another organization was also working with children preparing them to be able to take their place in the working community. In 1916, a convention of 300 agricultural and business leaders came together to plan general advancement activities for boys and girls. Named the Boys and Girls’ Bureau, they grew in numbers and were able to bring in business people to help in the training. Headed by the president of AT&T, Theodore N. Vail, the committee raised $250,000 and hired O. H. Benson, previously with 4-H in Ohio, to run what is now known as Junior Achievement, their name since 1920.
Fast forward the JA program to today, and their website says that “287,491 JA volunteers teach 339,261 classes to 8,358,087 students a year. That’s 22,899 students a day and nearly 954 students every hour who become empowered with the skills to create a better tomorrow for themselves and their communities!
“Junior Achievement Worldwide is a partnership between the business community, educators and volunteers — all working together to inspire young people to dream big and reach their potential. JA’s hands-on, experiential programs teach the key concepts of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to young people all over the world.”
Now today, Junior Achievement and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana are working together toward a mutual goal. The JA program has been implemented in the school program in many of the parishes in Acadiana and this summer the third through fifth grade students participating in the Boys and Girls Club have the chance to learn more about how to handle money and what is really involved in starting and running a business.
Christopher Miles Dobbs is an Agent for New York Live Insurance out of Lafayette, and is one of the many volunteers teaching JA’s program this summer. Getting a dozen children to sit through a classroom activity in the summertime is challenging enough, but his goal is to teach financial responsibility and what it takes to watch your spending habits and even instill the value of savings.
“Primarily, I’m trying to teach the children the basic fundamentals on taking care of money,” said Dobbs. “These children have been very receptive and bright when we talk about money. They know about banking, saving and even interest, which really surprised me. Last week we covered jobs and skills and, now, were going into what it takes to write a business plan, make a list of things and materials, and have a plan to start a new business.”
For this activity, Abbeville director Bryan Ford worked with the boys while Dobbs sat in with the girls and then helped the class finish each section of the work sheet.
The children in the class really took off on the project. Their first step was to find out what their talents are and what job skills they might have. Answers come flying like “I can fix stuff”, “I can lay cement”, “run track”, and “help around the house”.
When asked what jobs they’d like to work at, the kids responded with helping sick animals, working in a hospital, being a teacher, working on an oil rig, at an orphanage and even knowing sign language.
As they break off into groups, the worksheets furnished through JA help guide them in the process of what product they’d like to offer, what they need to start their business, how they’re going to go about advertising and who their target market will be. The girls came up with company names like Helping People, Inc, People Service, Retreat Service and basically agreed that they were interested in helping people perform activities of daily living. The boys had a different direction to travel in mind. They planned on being property investors and contractors.
Money and advertising were the next areas to explore. In advertising, the girls went from extravagant to simple. The boys went with a web page. Forget the traditional fliers on the telephone pole talked about on the work sheet. Regarding money, the girls planned $30 per day for their service helping the elderly with various projects around the house. The boys dreamed a little bigger. They included buying property and putting up whatever building was needed for the customer and making $580,000 a month while working 180 days a year. Finally, a teacher’s schedule with the money to really do what you’ve always wanted to do.