Part of HYPE’s mission is to help young professionals become better engaged in community life, expand professional and social opportunities, and become ambassadors for the Hartford Region. HYPE encourages cross-collaboration among agencies and organizations that offer opportunities to volunteer in the community. The Community Conversations series focuses on interviewing professionals in a local nonprofit to bring awareness to their mission, highlight their impact in the community, and provide information on how to get more involved with the organization. For the April edition, HYPEster and Community Involvement Committee member Cristina Capobianco interviewed Nicole Diorio, Director of Education at Junior Achievement of Southwest New England.
What is the mission of your organization?
The mission of JA is to empower young people (grades K - 12) to own their economic success. To augment what students learn in the classroom, JA strives to instill in students that they are capable of anything and they can own their future. By having students participate in a variety of exercises, they see how career and life choices can impact their financial health.
What is your role within the organization?
A Junior Achievement alum herself, Nicole is currently the Director of Education of JA, and has served multiple roles in her tenure at the organization. She started out in Education, where she was an Education Manager. In this role she would run programs, develop new business opportunities, and seek out volunteers.
In her current management position she oversees the programming footprint throughout the Southwest New England territory, including specialty programs. Demand for these specialty programs has increased significantly by area-based companies who want to get their employees more involved in volunteer opportunities.
How do you implement your services or programs?
JA implements their curriculum into the classroom setting by working with schools (public, private, and parochial) and educational program providers (e.g., YMCA, local libraries, etc.). Programs correlate with Common Core State Standards (CCSS); they put a real-life approach and application to what the students learn in their school studies.
Programs are delivered through a volunteer from the business community and other volunteer organizations. High school students, college students, and parents also volunteer.
An alternative voice and perspective from the classroom teacher is what brings the program to life. Students, regardless of their age, light up the opportunity to meet a “special guest.” It creates an educational and memorable experience, and in many cases brings a mentor component to the program and classroom.
JA will serve about 47,000 students this year in their experiential programs. About 37,000 of these will receive JA's core programming. This is a one day, full curriculum program. Others will participate in activities like job shadowing, mock interviewing, and resume writing - all categorized under "work readiness" and with a focus on soft skill training.
In what ways has your organization been impactful to your cause?
In serving the span of K-12, JA has the ability to instill invaluable life lessons through an individual’s childhood. Implanting the importance of a need vs. a want can alter an individual's future spending/consumer habits, resulting in establishing a healthier financial future.
Along with financial literacy, JA tirelessly works to provide students, especially high school students, with career readiness training. JA believes their impact on the youth/future generation can and will have a direct impact on the future economic state of our communities.
JA USA studies show that 1 in 5 students will pursue education in the career field of their JA volunteer, and 88% of JA alumni are satisfied with their career choice (compared to 48% of the general public). JA alumni have a median household income that is 20% higher than the U.S. median household income.
By bringing volunteers in to share their experiences at different types of companies and jobs, students are exposed to a variety of career paths they have never heard of before.
How does someone get more involved?
For students – teachers, parents or students can simply reach out to request JA's programming. There is no cost to the participant or participating school/organization.
Volunteers – anyone interested in volunteering (high school students, college students, working individuals, employee groups, parents, or retirees) can simply reach out. JA has an endless list of classrooms in need of volunteers, and can also arrange new programming/classes in a community of their choice. Check out their website or email Nicole for more information.