Junior Achievement hopes to start serving students in south metro Denver in 2023

BY FREDA MIKLIN
STAFF WRITER

On June 10, Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain (JA) celebrated the “topping off” of its new educational facility on Greenwood Plaza Boulevard and Fiddler’s Green Circle by unveiling its new logo and announcing that the building will also be home to the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. 

Robin Wise has been President and CEO of Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain for 31 years.

JA’s new logo reflects its updated vision and role as a “fully integrated K-12 education partner that helps students connect what they learn in school to life outside the classroom, especially in the areas of managing money, work and career readiness, and entrepreneurship.” 

JA’s curriculum for younger students is primarily delivered by its volunteers visiting school classrooms. Middle and high school students will go on field trips to the new JA Center in DTC for capstone programs, usually lasting four hours, that follow the Harvard Best Practices for Financial Literacy method. JA expects to see around 17,000 students there each year.  

The new building will contain two major components of JA’s program for 11 to 18-year-olds—the JA Dream Accelerator (DA), made possible by The Daniels Fund, and the JA Finance Park, made possible by Robert and Judi Newman. 

Focusing on JA’s role in education, Robin Wise, JA president and CEO, told The Villager, “When you look at research about kids, they come at their future in a different way than we used to come at it with a job. Kids today want careers, but they want to know what kind of a life they’re going to have. Kids have been told that they have to have a four-year degree, but with what’s happening with student debt, and kids going to school for two years and dropping out because they didn’t know what they really wanted to do or be, maybe college wasn’t even for them. The Dream Accelerator is a place where kids can discover their path to purpose, marrying what they’re good at with what they like to do and coming out with a type of occupational identity that they can actually envision. We say, you can’t be what you can’t see.” She continued, “It’s a really important concept to get kids thinking about what they could be. Maybe it isn’t four years of college. Maybe it’s the military. Maybe it’s earning a certificate or a two-year associate’s degree or going into an apprentice program in the construction industry where they get paid while they learn. The DA offers so much more than a high school guidance counselor can, especially with an average of 450 kids on their roster.”

Using the DA, young people have an opportunity to define their path to purpose and marry their purpose and their interests to produce a potential career. Next, they define the goals they have for their lives (income, house, family, location, etc.) With that information, the DA will help students see if the career path they have chosen is likely to achieve the goals they have for their lives.

There are 38,000 middle and high school students within a 12-mile radius of JA’s new south location in both Denver and the suburbs. DA will capture data on students that they can make available to their teachers. Although it originated over a century ago as a program for rural children to get jobs in the city, today’s JA addresses the needs of all young men and women in a complex world, regardless of socio-economic status.

Community Conference Center

On the second floor of its new building, JA will have a large outdoor terrace with a horizontal fireplace and a glass railing that emphasizes the extraordinary mountain views from its location. It will be available for rent and JA hopes it will become a gathering spot for community meetings and events.

The building will also house an auditorium with bleachers that can move into the wall when they are not needed.

This project was begun back in January 2019, after Wise and the JA board realized that their Thornton facility, housed gratis in the American Furniture Warehouse building there, was overflowing and they could not meet rising demand for their programs. 

Fundraising for the DTC building was suspended during the pandemic. Since things have returned to a more normal state, JA has raised $15 million and still needs $3 million more to complete all its plans. All of JA’s programs for young people are delivered completely free of charge. One of the reasons they still need more money, Wise told The Villager, is, “We had a very good security plan, initially, but now, we’ve taken a few more steps to make sure we have cutting edge security for the kids.”

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