“I think a lightning bolt will work; what do you think?” “Great! I’m going to go with a pair of glasses because I can see things others might not.”
Eighth graders at Greer (S.C.) Middle School are abuzz as they work through designing a logo for their personal brand—essentially what people say about you when you’re not in the room—during one of the Junior Achievement exercises administered by nine members of BJU’s University Marketing Association and five School of Business faculty.
This particular daylong module, It’s My Future, focuses on practical information to help middle school students best prepare for their educational and workforce future. The visit was the University’s initial foray into the Junior Achievement program.
Dr. Robert Hucks, chair of the Division of Management in the School of Business, reached out to Junior Achievement of Upstate South Carolina president Connie Lanzl to gauge interest in university faculty, staff and students being more involved in local schools. Her immediate response was any school, any time.
BJU students who trained for the program will be champions for future events “and we hope to someday be able to have BJU students in any major participate,” Hucks said.
Junior Achievement is a respected national youth education nonprofit that delivers programs in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work-readiness skills to students from kindergarten through 12th grade within public schools. Community and corporate volunteers teach modules that are heavy on activities and participation.
In 2018, more than 11,000 students in the 20 Greenville County middle schools were impacted by JA programming. It’s important, Lanzl said, because “it’s arguably a critical time for children to understand their potential, start having aspirations and start working toward some goals.”
“What Junior Achievement tries to do is empower young people to own their economic success and the things that we concentrate on—no matter what job they should eventually choose—that would be instrumental to their success,” Lanzl added. “The work in this session is concentrating on work readiness skills because they have to decide at the end of their eighth grade year sort of what direction they are going to go because the high schools ask them to do that in a meeting with a guidance counselor and their parents or their guardian. They do that in order to get a glimpse of what high school courses they would need to take.
“We are so grateful to Bob Jones University to embrace this program. When somebody else comes in a class, especially a college student closer to their age, that person can say maybe the same things that the eighth grade student’s parents or teachers have been telling them. But because they say it in a way as ‘my experience has been’ or ‘I see it in business and this is the direction that I know’ it has a whole different level of meaning of authenticity. That volunteer is our critical emphasis and our point of differentiation.”
The BJU group is planning additional school visits, including a seven-week JA entrepreneurship module in spring at Riverside High School in Greenville taught by Dr. Adele Dunn.
“I think the first time out it was a learning experience, but we got a lot of good feedback,” Hucks said. “It gives us a really good start. Just about every one of our students said that while they were training they learned something.”
University Marketing Association president Benjamin Lewandowski, who was among the student instructors, said the It’s My Future module will assist students moving onto high school almost immediately.
“This module includes valuable skills to learn early on. They will be looking for summer jobs in a couple years, so knowing how to interview and present yourself will be important,” said Lewandowski, a senior Business Administration major with a finance concentration. “Building your personal brand—everything you display about yourself, from social media posts to the way you interact with others and how others see you as dependable, helpful, intelligent—starts as early as you want it to. The earlier you start the more ahead you’ll be.”