Junior Achievement gets students fiscally fit


Viera High School teacher Kathy Brown talks to students taking part in “Be Entrepreneurial,” a program for juniors and seniors offered by Junior Achievement of the Space Coast. Photo by Mike Gaffey

The business of Junior Achievement of the Space Coast is teaching young people about business.

At Viera High School, the local JA branch currently is offering “Be Entreprenerial” classes, taught by Scott Sorensen of Sorensen Moving & Storage and Jeff Piersall of Space Coast Business.  Student teams from those classes will compete in the upcoming Business Plan Challenge, a contest similar to TV’s “Shark Tank.”

 One of the teams is working on helping blind people play video games by enhancing the games’ audio and creating special controllers for sight-impaired users.

“It’s just providing new opportunities for people who would not be able to play,” said Viera High student Kelly Davis, one of 80 juniors and seniors taking part in the Be Entrepreneurial program in teacher Kathy Brown’s Academy of Business and Finance class. “I feel that’s the goal of an entrepreneur: to give people a chance to do something they wouldn’t have been able to unless someone came up with the idea in the first place.”

Junior Achievement offers volunteer-delivered programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade that foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. 

“We really try to reach kids while they’re young and give them multiple exposures to the way the money world works,” said Anne Conroy-Baiter, president of Junior Achievement of the Space Coast. 

Junior Achievement reached 9,230 Brevard students in the 2014-15 school year and is on track to surpass that figure significantly during the current school year, Conroy-Baiter said. 

Volunteer instructors are typically business professionals, college students, community members or parents who make five to seven visits to schools, offering 30- to 45-minute classroom sessions and providing students with Junior Achievement materials.

Elementary school students learn concepts of basic business and economics and how education is relevant to the real world.

Junior Achievement volunteers teach middle schoolers the economics of business, personal finance and career exploration, as well as the value of an education and future economic benefits of staying in school.

At the high school level, volunteers challenge students to start their own businesses and teach more about concepts relating to entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness. 

“Placing a community member within the school creates a real-life connection with the kids, so they can make the connection between the materials and somebody who is successful in the community,” Conroy-Baiter said.

On March 5, the local branch marks the 30th anniversary of inducting local business laureates into its Business Hall of Fame, Conroy-Baiter said. This year’s inductees will be Harris Corp. CEO Bill Brown and retired attorney Bill Potter, who sits on several boards. JA is looking for event sponsors, she added.

For more information, call 321-777-0982 or go to jaspacecoast.org or juniorachievement.org