Meet John Doe: Transform Rockford should bring back the Junior Achievement program

February 18, 2014
Paul Gorski

Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

First, I thank Mike Schablaske, executive director of Transform Rockford (TR), for keeping me posted on TR meetings. I also thank him for inviting me to listen in on a conference call with TR leaders to get a better understanding of what is driving the group. He has been extremely cordial and professional when answering my questions. I work in Chicago and haven’t been able to make the meetings I’ve been invited to, but I thank Mr. Schablaske for his efforts.

So, Transform Rockford hires good executives, but I’m still not sure what the group’s goals are, though. The website mentions bygone days of 40 years ago. Do we want to relive the ’60s? I don’t think that is the goal. I think the goal is to improve the community to make it more attractive to prospective business professionals who are considering working here: an admirable goal.

While we are making the region more attractive to engineers, scientists and business professionals, we should plant the seeds for growth. We should bring back Junior Achievement.

Junior Achievement (JA) is a national educational program that inspires school-age children to look to the future, to plan on building their own futures. JA’s tagline is “Turning kids of today into entrepreneurs of tomorrow.” The local JA office closed almost five years ago because of a lack of funding and sponsorship from local businesses.

Since local business is driving Transform Rockford, I ask Transform Rockford to bring back and sponsor and revitalize the local JA program.

From the JA website, http://www.juniorachievement.org:

JA impacted over 4.4 million U.S. students in more than 190,000 classrooms during 2012-2013.

Our volunteer-delivered, kindergarten-12th grade programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential. With the help of more than 202,000 volunteers, JA students develop the skills they need to experience the realities and opportunities of work and entrepreneurship in the 21st-century global marketplace.”

I don’t remember meeting a small business owner, other than my barber, until volunteers from JA came to my high school and spoke to us about the ups and downs of running your business. I was asked if I ever ran my own business; I said “no,” but the business owner told me if I had ever cut lawns or ran a lemonade stand for money that “those are businesses, you just need to know how to ramp them up to full speed.” I wish I had that advice when I was a bit younger.

Preparing school-age children for “work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills” is just what we need to build a stronger region. Teach children to be self-starters, to think creatively, and to apply those techniques to create new local business opportunities. Now that would be transformational.

Transform Rockford’s website is http://transformrockford.org.

Junior Achievement’s website is http://www.juniorachievement.org.

Paul Gorski (paul@paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper. Read “Tech-Friendly” at: http://rockrivertimes.com/?s=tech-friendly.

Posted Feb. 18, 2014

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