Just One of the Cool Kids

Karen Griffith learns something new every day. Volunteering with Junior Achievement in both elementary and middle schools for the past 10 years, Griffith recently learned alongside her JA students about wire transfers, exchange rates, and world markets in the JA Global Marketplace program.

“I’m just one of the cool kids in class learning right there with them,” Griffith laughs.

Griffith first began volunteering with JA through FirstBank. The company has been a loyal supporter, coordinating a large number of employee volunteers for JA each year and providing financial support for JA programs. Griffith was already comfortable in front of groups of kids thanks to her prior experience as a physical education teacher, but insists everyone looking to volunteer will find comfort with the guidance JA provides.

“Even if you haven’t had this experience, know JA is with you every step of the way,” she says. “In addition, the materials are beautifully put together and easy to follow.”

To prepare for a class, Griffith typically sits down at home and reviews the course materials prior to teaching.  She believes doing the student worksheets helps her be prepared and better able to direct those students struggling with a particular question. In addition, Griffith feels strongly about providing kids with the opportunity to share stories and talk “face-to-face” so that they will be engaged in their learning.

“Out of the hundreds of students I’ve taught, I recall only one student who wasn’t willing to follow instructions,” she says.  “I think that speaks highly of the program and should put anyone interested in volunteering at ease.”

Her fondest memory is of volunteering in her daughter’s classroom.

“She is a fourth grade teacher, and working with her is extremely rewarding. There is something special about watching your daughter grow up to be a teacher.  Last year we were able to work together as a team in a section that required students to break into groups,” adds Griffith.

Even though she is now retired from FirstBank, Griffith still frequently volunteers with JA.

“The students appreciate a fresh face in front of them. Teachers enjoy sitting back and seeing their students absorb new concepts. I walk out of class in awe of these future leaders, CEO’s, business owners, entrepreneurs.  Maybe someday they will look back and reference a concept they learned while participating in Junior Achievement.  When I’m in a store, and a former student walks up and says, ‘Hi Mrs. Griffith’ it gives me an amazing feeling of accomplishment. That is powerful.”