Posted: Friday, April 24, 2015

A new partnership between Greenville County Schools and Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina will help ensure every middle school student has the knowledge and skills to obtain a good job and maintain their financial well-being throughout adulthood.

The arrangement is centered around Junior Achievement’s award-winning “JA It’s My Future” program, designed to provide middle school students with practical information about preparing for the working world. The program will be introduced into all 20 of the county’s public middle schools over the next three years, eventually serving more than 5,000 students annually.

Ultimately, more than 300 corporate and community volunteers will be needed each year to serve as role models and to provide the Junior Achievement training, typically using the “JA in a Day” format where two volunteers per classroom will provide the entire program in four to five hours.

“Our students need to be prepared for jobs in today’s workforce, and the workforce of the future. To do so, they need additional educational experiences beyond a high school diploma to achieve their goals,” said GCS Superintendent W. Burke Royster. “This partnership with Junior Achievement will allow middle school students to further explore future career opportunities with the assistance of business professionals and their teachers. By identifying a wide range of possible careers as early as eighth grade, our students will have a distinct advantage as they prepare their Individual Graduation Plans. The initiative supports GCS Graduation Plus efforts to provide opportunities for all students to graduate with additional coursework toward technical certification or a college major.”

The program, which is expected to cost $150,000 per year by 2018, will be funded by Junior Achievement through grants, corporate sponsors and private donors. Pilot programs were conducted this March at Northwest and Lakeview middle schools, with 1,000 students at four additional middle schools scheduled to receive the training in the 2015-2016 school year. Those schools are Berea Middle, Mauldin Middle, Tanglewood Middle, and Greenville Early College.

The “JA It’s My Future” curriculum allows students to explore the variety of jobs in 16 different career clusters with special emphasis on high-growth careers like advanced manufacturing, where the demand for skilled workers continues to outpace supply. Students then create personal maps to project how their current and future life experiences and academic choices can direct their path to their career goals. A scavenger hunt exercise teaches them how to go about finding a job, and students also learn how both 21st century job skills and personal behavior play a role in maintaining a productive career track.

“Junior Achievement has been around for nearly 100 years, but the training we provide has never been more relevant or more vital,” said Connie Lanzl, president of Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina. “Eighth-grade students are asked to choose a career or at least a career cluster that will guide their direction in high school. Our hope is that this program will be an additional instrument for counselors, educators, parents and students to make informed choices.”

“The fact that all middle schools will have this experience ensures an equal opportunity for every student in the district,” said Tammy Harrison, board chair for Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina. “The impact and success of this program will be consistently evaluated within and between schools, and compared with national norms. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Greenville County Schools to help prepare a workforce that will enhance the continued growth and prosperity of our region.”

Lanzl said the new partnership with Greenville County Schools will allow Junior Achievement to reach five times the number of students it’s currently impacting in Greenville County. Other schools in the organization’s service area – which also includes Spartanburg, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties – can continue to schedule individual classes, but Lanzl said as Junior Achievement builds its volunteer base she hopes to explore the potential of similarly comprehensive programs with other school districts.

“Ultimately, we would love to work with every school district in the Upstate to offer a K-12 continuum of courses focusing on career preparation and financial stability,” Lanzl added. “As our economy improves and more businesses choose to locate here, it’s crucial that we provide our young people with the tools, skills and knowledge needed to produce a deeper and more qualified workforce.”

About Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina
Junior Achievement’s mission is to empower young people to own their economic success. JA enhances the relevancy of education, bridging the gap between what students are learning in school and how it can be applied in the work world. JA of Upstate South Carolina provides programs in Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties. Last year more than 7,200 Upstate students benefited from JA’s programs and the generosity of its volunteers and supporters.

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