In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, some students in the Schenectady City School District are trying to learn valuable skills to help them in the game of life.
Managing money, exploring careers and developing communication skills are all part of the Junior Achievement program’s curriculum. Last year was the first year of a three-year, $365,000 grant that Bechtel, the parent company of Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, provided to implement the program in 11 locations around the world, including Schenectady.
“Our purpose is to empower young people to own their economic success,” said Ed Murray, president of Junior Achievement of Northeastern New York.
Eleven KAPL employees are teaching the classes in 12 locations districtwide. A total of 232 students participate in the program.
Pete Scavullo, coordinator of the Junior Achievement volunteers at KAPL, said the high-school curriculum talks about team-building, communication and conflict resolution, while the middle-school curriculum talks about personal finance and education and career goals.
Two of its star pupils were recently recognized. Schenectady High School junior Malik Butler and Grace Canty, an eighth-grader from Central Park International Magnet School, won the Junior Achievement Build a Better World video essay contest. Students had to make a short video summarizing how to build a better future using what they learned in the Junior Achievement program. Each of the winners was given an iPad.
Butler’s video consisted of rapped verses stressing the importance of working well with others: “Don’t hate, communicate. Don’t be a jerk: It’s better with teamwork.”
Butler said he enjoyed the class.
“I learned about cooperation and having communication skills. It was valuable,” he said.
It wasn’t too difficult to come up with the video, according to Butler.
“I did it overnight,” he said. “I like rap. It was kind of easy.”
He said he is not sure what he wants to do for a career, but is excited about having an iPad.
In her video, Canty said she talked about careers that require different physical, mental and social skills.
Games are also part of the curriculum. Canty said students selected a card that had a career on it and then had to develop a budget based on their salary. Careers that required a college education typically paid more, according to Canty.
“I was a pharmacist, so I made quite a bit,” she said.
The program breaks down concepts in a fun, yet meaningful way for students, according to middle-school family and consumer science teacher Amy Wright. Students gently poked fun at others who didn’t budget correctly and lost all of their money. Others were able to budget wisely, Wright said, even though they didn’t make a large salary.
Wright and business instructor Diane Allegro — Butler’s teacher — received $2,000 each that they can use to purchase technology for their classrooms.
About 23,000 students are participating in Junior Achievement of Northeastern New York in around 70 school districts. This year, Murray said, the organization hopes to involve 32 classes in this region, with about 18 to 20 in Schenectady. He thanked teachers for their role in the program.
“You are the educators helping these young people charting that course for a successful future,” he said.
Bechtel General Manager Morgan Smith said that since the organization is one of the area’s major employers, it wanted to partner with the school district.
“We believe we have an obligation and a commitment to give back to the community,” he said.