December 09, 2021

Junior Achievement returns to Newton

Program to be integrated into NHS, WEST academy classes

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An internet search for the presence of a Junior Achievement program in Newton won’t get very far.

That’s because that organization, which teaches business and finance concepts to young people, hasn’t had any reach into Newton-area schools or anywhere else in Newton in recent years. A grant obtained by the Newton Development Corporation will help bring a guest-presenter element to business classes at the WEST Academy (formerly the Basics & Beyond program) and Newton High School.

Representatives of various lines of work will make presentations to business classes in seven-week sessions this fall, with a written lesson plan and in-class projects built around those topics.

“This was all driven recently by a call, from both the schools and the business community, for more STEM education,” said Tanya Michener of the NDC. “Plus, it fits within Iowa Core standards, so it should appeal to teachers and many others.”

NHS business teachers Carla Cazett and Justin Liston will run the program in their classes, while Brian Springer and Phil Calvin will handle the delivery of Junior Achievement program at the WEST Academy, now housed in the Beard Administration Center.

Guest speakers representing Newton-area lines of work will be involved in the classroom activities. There are specific programs that target different age or grade levels and different business concepts.

Cazett said a Junior Achievement program called “Be Entrepreneurial” will apply to NHS’s Marketing I class. “Titan” will be matched with the Marketing II class, and the freshman business class will have the “Career Success” program.

Junior Achievement has been around since 1919. After struggling to stay relevant at the beginning of the digital age, the organization seems to have found its feet again in the STEM and business worlds, and offers elementary, middle school and high school programs.

Some of the activities are at Junior Achievement facilities, but Newton will initially benefit from the classroom programming arm of the organization.

Michener said the Jasper County Foundation will serve as the fiscal agent for the funding element of the program. The foundation is having local business people, who frequently benefited from Junior Achievement years ago as students, write endorsement letters of the program that call for sponsorships, which run $28 per student.

Those who wish to donate to the program can contact the foundation or Michener.

“This is a very Newton-centric Junior Achievement program,” Michener said. “The call for it and support for it has been very organic. This has come from within the community.”

Cazett said there will be about one speaker per week, with an accompanying activity packet. She said it will be important to find dynamic guest speakers who make a connection with the audience, knowing the fickle teenage attention span requires immediate and sustained engagement.

“We want to find speakers who can relate to teens, and can plant seeds of imagination and opportunity,” Cazett said. “The kinds of questions the kids will ask will matter, too. We’re excited about this situation.”

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or jbrooks@newtondailynews.com