JA Field Day helps Cleveland’s young adults start thinking about what comes next

Students from across Northeast Ohio received a big boost in planning what comes after high school thanks to Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland. On April 26, the nonprofit hosted JA Field Day. More than 450 students came together for a day of hands-on, experiential learning activities focused on JA’s core mission pillars of career readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

“We serve about 35,000 to 40,000 students every year through our four-county footprint and we wanted to develop a capstone experience for kids that were going through our programming throughout the school year,” says Joe Faulhaber, president of Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland.

“It’s near the end of the school year and the goal is to bring them together to network with kids from across our region and interact with our corporate partners and come together for a capstone career readiness experience. It fits wholly with our mission to get kids ready for the business of life after school.”

A stepping stone

Junior Achievement USA reaches more than 4.8 million students per year in more than 209,000 classrooms and after-school locations. JA Field Day is for middle and high school students in Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga and Lorain counties.

It included 11 interactive workshops led by corporate volunteers who introduce their companies and career opportunities, corporate values and their own personal journeys to Junior Achievement students. They deliver JA-created curriculum on topics ranging from developing 21st century skills to the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Students are introduced to science, technology, engineering and math careers, practice budgeting and learn to develop a positive personal brand.

It also features the JA Company Program Competition, where high school entrepreneurs have the opportunity to showcase their products and business plans.

Student companies meet individually with members of the business community for a mentoring session, give a formal presentation of their annual report to a panel of business executives and showcase their products in an expo-style setting. Students are evaluated based on business knowledge, salesmanship, quality of display and professional presentation.

“We thought, how could we play a role in helping kids not only get ready for the careers of their future, but also get exposure to these awesome organizations and companies that serve as pillars of our community,” Faulhaber says.

“It’s curriculum that is designed around building out the skill set that’s required to pursue some of those careers and then just developing those inroads with organizations so kids know what opportunities exist out there for when they graduate from high school.”

The mission of Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland is to empower young people to own their economic success through volunteer-delivered programs focused on its three pillars. During the 2016-2017 school year, JA of Greater Cleveland reached 38,365 students through 1,849 program experiences across its four-county region.

Building a future

In addition to the workshops, students participate in a Career Walk where they get an inside look at the range of businesses and careers in Northeast Ohio. In this introduction to career pathways, more than 25 companies, colleges and community organizations help students develop a stronger sense of what opportunities are out there for them to pursue.

Here are some other highlights from the day:

  • Fifth Third Bank and Ohio Savings Bank presented a building your personal brand workshop to get kids thinking about the image that they are projecting out in the world. “As social media continues to play a more significant role in young peoples’ lives, it’s important to get them thinking about what they are putting out there early on and remind them about it often,” Faulhaber says.
  • Rockwell Automation and the city of Cleveland led workshops about choosing careers in STEM disciplines.
  • KeyBank presented a workshop focused on collaboration and teamwork. The goal was to explore the value of working together to successfully navigate a project to completion.
  • The Cleveland Indians worked with high schoolers on creating a strong resume. “Tactically, what does an appropriate resume look like? Do these kids have templates for resumes? It’s really being specific about how to build out and make your own best case for a career after school,” Faulhaber says.
  • EY led kids through a workshop on creative problem solving. “The backdrop for all of this is problem solving and strategic thinking,” Faulhaber says.

In addition to these activities, the Young Entrepreneur Institute led a workshop about making your pitch and Union Home Mortgage and Huntington Bank sponsored activities that relate to personal finance.

“JA is all about experiential learning, recognizing that our programming enhances and reinforces curriculum that these kids are learning in their everyday class lives,” Faulhaber says. “We come in and really bring our corporate partners together to support this effort. Through game-based and activity-based learning, we’re able to reinforce the concepts that these kids are introduced to in school.”

How to reach: Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland, www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-grcleveland