By John Palinkas
What feels better than helping others? If you’re like me, the answer is, “Not much!”
Some 15 months ago, I wrote my first article for CIO Insight, titled “IT Execs Tee Off for New Jersey Charities,” in which I discussed being a member of the NJ Chapter of Society for Information Management (SIM), and how every May, the NJ SIM Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, runs a Technology Exchange & Charity Golf Outing to raise money for scholarships and local charities.
This year was no different. For the eighth consecutive year, the NJ SIM Foundation held its annual Technology Exchange & Charity Golf Outing—and our local sponsors and attendees helped raise even more money than the previous year. This year’s charity recipient was Junior Achievement of New Jersey, which received a $30,000 check from the NJ SIM Foundation.
If you are a typical IT executive, or just a curious individual like me, you are probably wondering exactly where the money went. So, let me present Junior Achievement’s “Scorecard” just three months after receiving its grant from the NJ SIM Foundation.
The grant was used to help launch JA BizTown, which is a two-pronged, innovative, educational approach to teaching the economics of life to 5th and 6th grade students. JA BizTown is a no-cost solution for schools and families to help students meet state standards in social studies, English and math. The program starts with teacher-led lessons in the classroom and culminates with an interactive, day-long field trip to a volunteer-assisted simulated mini-city of JA BizTown. The BizTown motto is:
“Empowering Young People to Own Their Economic Success”
Through the generosity of MetLife Foundation and the NJ SIM Foundation grant, JANJ launched a 2014 pilot, reaching 281 5th and 6th grade students. JANJ is well on its way to reaching its goal of serving 2,500 students in the 2014-2015 school year as 17 schools and more than 1,700 students are enrolled to date. As a founding partner, The NJ SIM Foundation has helped JANJ to lay the groundwork for a successful experiential learning program that will benefit countless students and school communities in the future.
Now, let’s get to the numbers on the JANJ “Scorecard.”
The $30,000 gift from the NJ SIM Foundation helped JANJ accomplish the following in its first year:
1. Create a local, standards-based program and experience with the following student impact:
• Total student participation: 281 5th and 6th graders
• Total volunteer-assisted simulation days: 3 days
• Student contact hours: 7,025, for an average of 25 hours per student
2. Provide new volunteer opportunities during the build of JA BizTown and pilot simulation days:
• Build volunteers: 12
• Simulation volunteers: 43
• Total volunteer hours: 414
Additionally, the following improved results highlight the impact of JA BizTown on its participants, as documented through pre- and post-test analysis. After participating in JA BizTown:
1. 94% of students’ test scores improved, with an average 10-point score increase
2. 75% of students can properly write a check
3. 63% increase in students’ ability to complete a deposit ticket
4. 44% increase in students’ ability to complete a check register
The grant also contributed to the following organizational successes for JANJ:
1. JANJ was able to collaborate with JAUSA from start to finish in the implementation of the JA BizTown pilot. This partnership was critical to its success.
2. As a result of MetLife and NJ SIM Foundation’s initial investments, JANJ has been able to secure additional financial support.
3. Due to the success of the pilot and because the program is well aligned with state standards in English, social studies and math, schools are eager to register for its first full school year.
4. The JA BizTown of NJ unit serves as a new model for JA USA and has garnered attention from other JA areas.
5. Courtesy of the JA BizTown pilot, JANJ received significant public relations awareness, the greatest in its 60-year history.
6. As part of their awareness campaign, JA BizTown held a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This resulted in the New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno serving as the keynote speaker. Guadagno has been an advocate of JANJ for years, but this event has further solidified her commitment to JANJ. As a result, Guadagno’s office is helping to secure a new facility for JA BizTown beyond the 2014-15 school year.