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JA brings real world lessons into east Lincoln classrooms

Last year the Denver/Lake Norman Rotary Club started a Junior Achievement program for third grade classes at Rock Springs Elementary School.
The program was successful, Rotary decided to expand the program in the county to other third grade classrooms., and now includes St. James Elementary, Catawba Springs Elementary, Pumpkin Center Elementary, Iron Station Elementary and S. Ray Lowder Elementary.
With the five-week, five lesson program wrapping up at PCE, administrators there have called the program successful. The students have felt the excitement of learning according to PCE principal Sheila Finger.
“I heard a lot about this program from the principal over at Rock Springs,” said Finger. “I became excited when I heard the good results the program has had.”
For Finger, the excitement isn’t in just the lessons themselves, it’s the looks on the faces of the children in the third grade classrooms.
“The kids get excited every week about learning something new,” said Finger. “It’s a big commitment for volunteers to come out and do these lessons.”
Lessons during the session included planning a city, writing for a newspaper and learning about accounting.
Volunteers aren’t limited to only Rotary members; Pastor Ben Rudolph of Providence Church in Denver energized his third graders regarding city planning.
He said he was told about Junior Achievement from Joe DiPento.
“I wanted to do something to get involved in my new community,” said Rudolph. “I’ve worked with children for 10 years and really wanted to get involved.”
While the students learn about different life lessons through JA, Rudolph himself also learned something, too.
“I learned how important it is to teach citizenship and responsibility to these children,” said Rudolph. “Presenting the lessons this way brings topics like city planning and journalism to their level where they can understand it.”
Marty Smith, a certified public accountant, volunteered to deliver lessons in Katrina Smith’s third grade class at St. James Elementary. It is his first time working with Junior Achievement.
“I’m on the board of the Lincoln County JA,” said Smith. “I wanted to see first hand what it was like to be in the classroom.”
Smith said the experience has been fun.
“The kids are really excited about doing something than their normal classroom activities,” said Smith. He plans on volunteering again in the fall.
According to the Web site www.ja.org, the program worldwide reaches over 7 million students in grades kindergarten through 12.
Laura Taylor, district director for Lincoln County, confirmed the program’s success in east Lincoln.
“In the first year we piloted the program, it reached 16 classrooms and a total of over 300 students,” said Taylor. “This year, we’ve reached at least 24 classrooms.”
Taylor said the schools the program expanded into this year will wrap-up their programs in the next few weeks before Christmas Break.
“In January, we’ll expand the program to Battleground, Childers, Love Memorial, G.E. Massey, Northbrook and Union Elementaries,” said Taylor. “That will cover about 22 classrooms.”
Taylor said the appeal of JA is to afford volunteers a way to get into the classroom and interact with the students. In North Carolina and upstate South Carolina last year, JA reached 65,695 students through cirrocumuli.
“The volunteers know how long they’re going to be there and can see the impact firsthand on the kids,” said Taylor. “It’s a fun way to ensure our future successes are instilled in these kids.”
by Jon Mayhew

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