Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 8, 2013

Bank, Junior Achievement team on Blair education project

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Fifth Third Bank employees will provide Junior Achievement’s financial literacy education programs to every Blair Elementary School student – 13 classrooms in grades kindergarten through fifth grade - for the second consecutive year.

“When I came up to this market in northern Michigan, I was approached by Junior Achievement to get involved and we did some different things,” said Mark Eckhoff, Fifth Third’s community president. “But about three years ago, we stepped up and sponsored a school … not only paying for the materials, but supporting it by having all of the classroom teachers being Fifth Third employees.”

Fifth Third volunteers’ expertise pertains to business and usually is focused on marketing, finance and some accounting. They then add their own experiences and expertise to JA activities, which makes their efforts come alive for students.

“Our Junior Achievement program at Blair Elementary is part of Fifth Third’s Community Reinvestment Act commitment,” Eckhoff says. “It’s all part of reinvesting in the community and trying to mentor people to be good financial citizens, as well as just good citizens.”

Junior Achievement is a nonprofit organization that promotes financial capability, work readiness and entrepreneurship. The JA program tries to establish partnerships with local businesses so schools that want to participate in the program will have volunteers and supplies they need.

In the mid-1970s, Junior Achievement introduced its first in-school program, Project Business, for middle school students. Its popularity led to Business Basics, a curriculum for elementary schools.

JA’s elementary programs are the foundation for its K-12 curriculum. Each includes five sessions of about 45 minutes in volunteer instruction.

“We start the Junior Achievement elementary program just where the students are,” said Lianne Somerville, district manager for Junior Achievement of Northwest Michigan. “Kindergarten is all about themselves, so the theme is ‘Ourselves.’ The next theme is ‘Our Families,’ then ‘Our Communities.’”

Next on the lists are “Our City,” “Our Region” and “Our Nation.”

Sharon Dionne, principal at Blair Elementary, said the training is a “gift” to students.

“Our students love to have so many adults in the community come to their classrooms,” Dionne said. “We could not provide this program without the financial support and volunteers. Their work here is truly priceless.”

Junior Achievement volunteers will teach at least 205 classes in this area for the 2012-13 school year, an effort to reach 4,600 students.

“Our objective is they will become financially literate, that they will learn entrepreneurship and then they will have the work readiness skills to be able to begin their careers,” Somerville said.