GIRARD, Ohio – During the 2020-2021 school year, Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley served more than 13,000 students with career readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs and experiences.
“The 2020-2021 school year was unlike any other, with many students learning from home, school or a combination of the two,” says Michele Merkel, president of JA. “The pandemic continued to present challenges, resulting in uncertainty and the emergence of a ‘new normal.’ We faced each of these obstacles head-on with the help of our business partners, educators, volunteers and board members.”
Among the organization’s accomplishments was piloting more than 50 national programs and four local programs that were delivered virtually. The most cumbersome task, Merkel says, was making Junior Achievement’s largest in-person student event, JA Inspire, virtual.
Working in partnership with the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio, Trumbull County Educational Service Center, The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pa, and The Business Journal, Junior Achievement successfully implemented JA Inspire Virtual.
“It is a one-of-a-kind college, career and trades exploration platform for middle and high school students,” Merkel says.
The event allowed local businesses to showcase what a day in the life of their employees looks like, how students can get that job, and what they need to do to be successful. JA Inspire Virtual also featured colleges, institutes, apprenticeship programs, trade schools and internships, so once a student is “inspired” he can gather the information he needs to achieve his goals, she says.
More than 7,000 sixth- to 12th-grade students engaged exhibitors in Ask an Expert sessions and sat in on live webinars on soft skills, college, trades and apprenticeships, entrepreneurship and financial literacy, Merkel says.
Some 17,520 career information documents and videos were saved to students’ virtual backpacks. And a digital career guidebook was developed, offering unlimited free access to content.
For the 2022-2023 school year, the staff is preparing for the new state mandate that requires ninth-grade students to fulfill 60 credit hours in financial literacy.
Junior Achievement employs four and works with hundreds of volunteers from the business and education communities.