MANCHESTER – Around 70 high school students proved that you don’t need a cape, mask or costume to be a hero.
Members of the Junior Achievement (JA) Heroes Program recently worked with younger students and their guidance impacted 26 classrooms and 438 students at Ridgeway School during JA Day
This year’s JA Day was the first full-district student teaching event since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The JA High School Heroes, led by Heather Staples, aids students to build social-emotional learning competencies and promotes a positive school culture and climate. This initiative empowers high school students to make a difference in their communities while serving as role models to children in their school districts.
The High School Hero student volunteers turnkeyed age-appropriate financial literacy and entrepreneurship lessons to students in grades K-5. The lessons were led by at least two high school volunteers and included interactive activities, games, demonstrations, and collaboration.
MTHS has been participating in Junior Achievement since 2008 and Celeste Hardwick of Junior Achievement explained that JA High School Heroes is an all-encompassing solution, designed to support NJ schools and educators while helping students build their leadership and career skills.
“The exercise teaches them responsible decision-making and also reinforces a productive school environment. This could be easily seen as Ridgeway School buzzed with excitement and learning throughout the day,” she said.
Program Heroes gain many opportunities to be invited to serve as Student Ambassadors for JA special events, such as the NJ Business Hall of Fame, and are eligible for the annual High School Hero Scholar Award.
Staples, the JA Club Advisor said, “we have been working with Junior Achievement in Manchester for about 14 years. Most of their projects deal with financial literacy and business entrepreneurship. The curriculum centers around through grades K thru 5.”
JA Heroes Club senior Olivia Wilson and junior Emanuel “Manny” Swain found JA Day enjoyable and rewarding.
“I’ve always taught kids and I have younger siblings so I’ve had some classroom experience before,” Olivia said.
“I’ve enjoyed this. I like helping a lot,” Emanuel said.
“The kids are really great to work with,” Olivia added.
“Essentially, we get a lesson plan and books and lessons to teach them and we adapt them to the classroom we are in. Sometimes we get some non-readers and we have to adjust to that. We make the activities oriented to the students. We adapt the lesson plans to the environment of the classroom,” Olivia added.
As to whether this program may serve to inspire students to examine teaching as a profession, Oliva said it was helpful. Emanuel enjoys the activities but has other plans for his future vocation.
“For me it is something I enjoy doing. I haven’t thought about becoming a teacher,” Emanuel said.
Oliva however said, “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I really enjoy the experience of it.”
Staples said the JA Club has several activities coming up, including taking over Manchester Township Elementary School. She added that Junior Achievement also offers a women’s future leadership program where they can go to a conference and meet with different entrepreneurs and leaders in their field.
“This will help them make connections outside of Manchester. We had a huge turnout this time around with 70 students in total. This is all volunteer students. It is nothing that is part of a course. It is them volunteering their time to help them learn their lessons and prepare outside of class and the school. That tends to be a big commitment for most of them,” Staples said.