Junior Achievement: Helping Local Youth Grow

LONGMEADOW, MA – Jennifer Connolly, Christine Kervian, and Donald Wesson are all involved in an age-old expedition that has taught children in grades K-12 throughout Western MA and Longmeadow the benefits of a Junior Achievement membership.

The Junior Achievement program started in Western MA with the original JA Building in West Springfield on the grounds of the Big E. Horace Moses was one of the co-founders and a Western MA native.

In addition to spreading to Longmeadow, the Junior Achievement program covers four counties in Western MA. In 2019 Junior Achievement will be 100 years old, but there has been evolution in the system over the years, going from an after-school activity to a non-accredited part of the school day.

Connolly is the President of JA and a proud graduate. She took Junior Achievement for three years in high school, and her plan now for JA is simple.

“My goal is to help youth grow and have positive experiences,” Connolly said. “Of the kids I have seen, 1-5 students follow in a career from JA.”

Connolly pointed out the benefits of children attending JA, among those higher attendance in school and better grades. The lessons learned from JA were learned across the board, from Longmeadow to other sections of Western MA.

At Center School in Longmeadow, Wesson is a volunteer with JA who teaches a program called “Our City,” a civics/economics course for third grade students who learn about zoning, preparing a checkbook, and planning, presenting, and handling the economic parts of a business. The students learn about handling money, and more importantly, they learn about choices and accountability.

“I think it’s fantastic for them,” Wesson said. “It teaches them the importance of work, taxes, payment…”

Wesson went onto to speak about how it was important for kids to understand how the world runs. Among the things the kids learn about is how a person gets paid, the taxes taken from their pay, and how much of that pay should be budgeted for bills.

Kervian is a business teacher at Longmeadow High School that actually got involved in JA as a volunteer and loved it so much that she decided to become a full-time teacher.

“I love Junior Achievement,” Kervian said. “(I have a background in) Business Classes, Accounting, Personal Finance, Economics, Sport, Event Management, and Business Law.”

Kervian is very proud of her kids and talks excitedly about an event used as a fundraiser for Junior Achievement called “The Stock Market Challenge.”

“We take about 50 students for the Stock Market Challenge every year,” Kervian said. “The students get very excited. They ask when it is. It’s a great hands-on experience because everyone will have money in the market, retirement or individual funds. It’s important that everyone understands the stock market.”

Many students from grades 9-12 stay in the program for the four years. From that time, the students become pretty savvy investors. Connolly said that one area that has grown in interest over the years has been entrepreneurship.
Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization, and although it updates local political leaders on their activity, they are not affiliated with any political group.

Every year, JA establishes a non-profit relationship with companies like MassMutual, The Davis Foundation, UPS, and the Horace Moses Foundation. They also rely on grants from the federal government. The JA staff also put on these events to raise funds for the non-profit cause: The Entrenpreneur Challenge, the Bowl-A-Thon, a Golf Tournament, BEE Summer Program, the Stock Market Challenge, The Company Program and Finance Park Virtual.

Said Connolly: “It usually takes $350,000-$425,000, to run Junior Achievement for the fiscal year. (This year…) We’ve added two new staff, a summer program, grades 6-12 at the UMass Springfield Center for 40 students.”

With the time that everyone puts in from the budgeting to the recruiting, to the lesson plans, to the volunteering, Wesson expressed the importance of a program like JA.

“People that work for Junior Achievement are dedicated to the future of this country and the kids,” he said.

Currently, there are over 12,000 students enrolled in various programs offered by JA. Those interested in enrolling their children or who would like more information should visit

– Article by Mike Maloni