Make it Muscatine: Junior Achievement of the Heartland

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Officially, Junior Achievement of the Heartland operates with the mission, “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.” Simply put, President and CEO Dougal Nelson shared that all Junior Achievement staff and volunteers, “are there to help young people find their way.”

Every year, volunteers from different businesses and industries work with students from kindergarten through 12th grade to develop the financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness skills to help prepare them for successful futures. By improving soft skills and exploring different career paths and the sort of education necessary for each, Junior Achievement aims to help all students pursue fulfilling post-secondary education opportunities that ultimately have the sort of careers they desire.

In order for Junior Achievement to do this kind of work in Muscatine County and the surrounding region, they need many volunteers. To promote a positive experience for both the volunteers and the classes they work with, all volunteers receive a one hour online, Zoom, or in person training to familiarize them with the curriculum. They will then work with a teacher to schedule five 45 minute lessons at times that work for both of them. Then, either online or in person, the volunteer will lead students through engaging and meaningful lessons. “That’s the magic of JA,” emphasized Nelson. “When the volunteers work with the kids, they see how what they learn in school is relevant.”

A Junior Achievement volunteer working with elementary school students in Muscatine.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the education of countless children, Junior Achievement’s volunteer programs have grown more relevant than ever. In a recent survey conducted by Junior Achievement, two out of five teens feel behind academically, with a sizable portion fearing they will never catch up. Many also desire more social and emotional support from the adults in their lives. Junior Achievement volunteers can help address both of these needs, giving students another caring adult to work with during the school day and helping them feel more caught up and confident with their financial literacy skills. If you would like to volunteer, Dougal recommended visiting Junior Achievement’s website or calling 309-736-1630 and asking for Tawnya Hambly.

To help raise money for Junior Achievement’s work in Muscatine and neighboring counties and to help more people learn about them, Junior Achievement will host the Taste of Achievement: Boos & Bites at the Merrill Hotel Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. Featuring excellent food and drink from local vendors, including Ardon Creek Winery and Hy-Vee, live music, and a silent auction, the event will provide a fun way for people to enjoy a night out and support Junior Achievement.

Junior Achievement also partners with the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry to reach even more local businesses and to encourage more people to help them help children grow their financial literacy and work readiness skills. “I see Junior Achievement as being an incubator for entrepreneurs and for making people more business minded, so it seems like a natural fit for us as feeders of the chamber,” remarked Nelson.