Inspiring the Future
Volunteering can greatly improve a young person’s future.
On Feb. 6, Daniel Island residents and business members learned about the life-changing benefits provided by Junior Achievement of Greater South Carolina at a luncheon hosted by Benefitfocus.
Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to giving students from elementary school through college the skills needed for economic success. One of Junior Achievement’s goals is to prepare young people to flourish in a global economy.
Several students from the Junior Achievement program were in attendance to raise awareness of the positive impact the organization has on the local community. North Charleston Elementary School fifth grader and Junior Achievement student Kelis Woodfield excels in the Junior Achievement program. She enthusiastically opened the luncheon by leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jack Hamilton and his brother, Michael, were both involved with Junior Achievement during elementary school. Jack participated in first grade and plans to be a part of the program again. He learned at a young age about economics and feels it will be beneficial to his future, “I think it will help me find the job I want when I’m older.”
Former Junior Achievement student Annmarie Fini now serves on the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement Lowcountry. This was the first big event in the area to introduce the program.
Fini, who works at Benefitfocus, expressed the need to involve the Daniel Island community. “We have professionals and career executives here on Daniel Island that can provide a lot of opportunity for our youths in the Charleston area … It’s also a great opportunity to get to know other people in the area,” she said.
Mark Machado was part of Junior Achievement in high school and is still passionate about the program. His experience in the JA program inspired him to volunteer as an adult. Machado works with the middle school students at Daniel Island School. He is impressed with the students’ ability and their desire to learn more about economics in the real world.
“I find a lot of fulfillment giving back to the community. The [Junior Achievement] curriculum is relevant and valuable. I can relate my own experiences and expand on the curriculum … There’s no limit to what the students’ minds can grasp if given the opportunity,” said Machado.
Since moving to Daniel Island in 2018, Ugo DeBlasi has been involved with Junior Achievement of Greater South Carolina as a board member and volunteer.
“Previously I was a board member and volunteer for the Southwest Connecticut chapter for over 20 years. I have always been a big believer in JA’s mission to inspire and prepare young students to succeed in today’s economy and business community. Through our programs, we provide students with a number of tools and skillsets that many students would not normally have access to,” said DeBlasi.
“Its an opportunity for Daniel Island residents to share their personal and professional experiences and skills with students in their community. And to help them connect what they are learning in school with the skills they will need to succeed in work and life. It’s only an investment of an hour a day (in one week) for a six-week program to make a difference in a student’s life,” he added.
Daniel Island residents Maura O’Connor and her husband, Tim, were not familiar with Junior Achievement before attending the luncheon.
“Having not been exposed to the organization growing up, neither of us were aware of its mission. The organization’s emphasis on teaching basic financial skills and work readiness fills a void in most school’s curriculum. We came away very impressed. Both Tim and I would like to explore the role of volunteer teachers in support of this effort,” O’Connor said.
Jennifer Winston, Communities In Schools Site Coordinator and Student Support Specialist at North Charleston Elementary School, works as a liaison between Junior Achievement and the school community. She shared her inspirational story with the audience.
Winston, a single mother of four, was once homeless. Because of her experiences, she knows the importance of programs such as Junior Achievement to help students achieve success in the future. Winston credits Junior Achievement with helping North Charleston Elementary become a better school.
“A whole village can raise a student, it’s not just the parents’ responsibility anymore. We as a community have to take on ownership, these are our scholars not just those kids, they’re our future,” stated Winston.
Winston is a positive role model for the students she interacts with on a daily basis. She appreciates the Junior Achievement program because it gives her the ability to provide students like Kelis an opportunity to expand their horizons.
“Kelis is a wonderful student. I know that I can bring her to events like this where she can meet people from different organizations and different backgrounds. She can see her future. The present matters, it’s part of our story. But I want students to know they deserve to have high quality programs, like JA, so they can reach their goals,” said Winston.
Casey Pash, President and CEO of Junior Achievement Greater South Carolina, has been leading the organization for over five years. She stressed the important role Junior Achievement plays in a young person’s life. “I believe in the free enterprise system and allowing students to succeed economically. If we don’t teach the skills JA teaches, many of our student here in SC would never know. We are dedicated to providing a positive enriching learning experience free of bias, to K-12 classrooms across South Carolina. This past school year, JA taught in over 180 classrooms with over 200 business volunteers impacting over 3,000 students,” she explained. Pash emphasized that Daniel Island volunteers don’t need any special skills, just the desire to help students. “There are many volunteer opportunities on the island and at Phillip Simmons schools. JA is part of both of their schools, so potential volunteers can go to our website and sign up to volunteer. There is a 30 minute training, and they will be in the classroom shortly inspiring the future!”
To find out how to make a difference and change a life, visit centralsc.ja.org.