JA Company Program Experience Sparks Longstanding JA Engagement

Junior Achievement of Alaska's president Flora Teo recently shared an article from the Alaska Business Monthly, which highlighted the many successes of the organization. Especially important was mention of a Junior Achievement of Alaska alumnus whose JA experience was so impactful, that it drove him to become a life-long volunteer and board member.

When high school student Rick Whitbeck first moved to Anchorage, he didn't know anybody. So he signed up for a JA class and besides making new friends, he was instantly captivated by learning about business. JA Company Program provided Whitbeck with entrepreneurial skills. By organizing and operating an actual business enterprise, he and his friends not only learned how businesses function, they also learned about the structure of the U.S. free enterprise system and the benefits it provides.

When Whitbeck was a senior in high school, he had the opportunity to attend the national JA conference where he met Donald Trump and Lee Iacocca. Business and economics have been his path ever since. His JA Company Program experience inspired him to join the board of directors of Junior Achievement of Alaska while he was in college--a position he still maintains. Additionally, he has spent hundreds of hours volunteering in the classroom, an experience that he said has been empowering.

One of the important lessons that Whitbeck learned from teaching Junior Achievement was that it isn't always easy to make an impression on students. He remembers teaching a class in which one boy was particularly quiet while most of the other students asked and answered questions and participated in the discussion. After class, Whitbeck could only hope the boy had absorbed some of the knowledge he tried to share.

Several months later, the same boy recognized Whitbeck in public and approached him, thanking him for helping him understand that sometimes you have to give up something to get something else. The boy had put that realization to good use: He had been doing odd jobs for neighbors for a while and had saved his money to buy a brand new bike! He planned to use the new bike the next year as he started middle school.

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