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Civic, corporate volunteers teach in ways that fuel students' passion

RINCON — Junior Achievement's reach is long and wide.
In the last decade, more than 100,000 coastal Georgia students have participated in the program that originated in 1919. 
Junior Achievement's goal is to inspire and prepare students to succeed in a global economy. Its lessons are delivered by corporate and civic volunteers through relevant, hands-on experiences that give students knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship from kindergarten through high school.
"We have partnerships with every Fortune 500 company on the planet somewhere and in some respect," Junior Achievement Development Director Robert Grant said. "That's our secret sauce so to speak — that we have those business partnerships with the schools. We're the No. 1 group out there to connect with the schools because businesses want to connect with the schools.
"If you really think about it 'big picture,' it's really workforce development for them."
Business leaders appreciate the opportunity to expose their companies to students while stressing to them the importance of education and making good choices. In Effingham County, seventh and eighth graders are partaking of Junior Achievement through their Connections classes. 
"By educating students in financial literacy, hopefully, that will have an effect on poverty," Grant said. "In this area, we have a 25 percent poverty rate, which is atrocious with all the economic growth and development we have. Hopefully, Junior Achievement will help pick us up by the bootstraps."
Junior Achievement's financial literacy program helps students develop an understanding of economics and business concepts. It prepares them for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs than boost their communities and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace.
Junior Achievement is reaching into high school leadership programs like JROTC and FBLA for assistance. After completing the financial literacy program, they will teach the concepts to younger students.
"That is really cool because — to a third, fourth or fifth grader — a high school kid is the coolest thing on the planet," Grant said. "When they walk into the classroom, the younger kids are in awe. They don't want to hear some old guy like me tell them about money.
"They want to hear it from a high schooler."
Junior Achievement partners with Effingham County Family Connection, whose objectives include fighting poverty. 
"(Family Connection) is a phenomenal group," Grant said. "It's such a neat thing. It's kind of a playground where non-profits can kind of play nice together and learn.
"You may have a homeless shelter and I might have a food bank. We can figure out how can partner up to make the connection to get the food to the people who need it."
Other Family Connection partners are helping Junior Achievement spread its message.
"Non-profits have needs," Grant said. "They want to have educational programs during the summer. They don't want kids to just be playing with their iPhones and we want to be teaching stuff. That makes it a cool partnership.
"That's why it's called Family Connection."

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 12th story in a weekly series about organizations in Effingham County Family Connection, part of a statewide initiative that cultivates public and private collaboration at the local level. Georgia Family Connection is represented in each of the state’s 159 counties, making it the largest network of its kind in the nation. The Effingham County Board of Commissioners is the local affiliate’s fiscal agen