Junior Achievement program has a blast in Ahousaht

Just 45 minutes by boat and and an extra mile or two, our trip to bring Junior Achievement learning to the youth at Ahousaht’s beautiful Maaqtusis Secondary School

was something of an odyssey.

Sarah Duncan was the more experienced JA presenter.

Recruited by Gail Stroud, program coordinator for Central and North Vancouver Island with Junior Achievement of British Columbia, the assistant manager at the West Coast branches of the Coastal Community Credit Union was a credit to the program. Pun intended.

Sarah kept the program on track, guiding students through the fun exercises, which included getting an imaginary, randomly selected paycheck and then having to budget with it.

I provided some comic relief and some insights about how much life improves after high school, as long as you keep making one good choice at a time, whenever possible.

My background teaching journalism and communications in the New Challenge program at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg and at the Alberta Legislature’s program for sixth graders helped me some, but what REALLY helped was the kind donations from Jamie’s Whaling Station (thanks, Corene, you ROCK) and Tofino Sea Kayaking (thanks, Dorothy, you ROCK also) and Cargo Thrift (Helen rocks TOO.)

A dazzling array of gifts on a prize table incented students to join the conversation – as soon as they spoke up, they could pick a prize. (They went like hotcakes, and the youth contributed amazing ideas to the day.)

Sarah brought chocolates to toss to repeat contributors.

I loved the feedback we received from the students, who gave us the wonderful gifts of their respect, time and attention, along with written evaluations.

Asked what they’d learned, the students responded.

“They were friendly and outgoing (smiley face) I liked it,” one student penned.

“I’ve learned … That nothing is impossible,” another wrote.

“Finish school,” one wrote.

“They’re excellent people. They assured us that after high school, things do get better,” said another.

That was my favourite. I took a poll and of the adults, most believed that life gets way better after high school – and of the students, most certainly hoped it will. (It will. Just make one good choice at a time, and it will.)

Thanks very much to teacher Jerry Perry for your help setting it up and the great nickel tour of your beautiful school.

Sarah Duncan and I were very inspired by the evidence of student work and heartfelt teaching we saw at every turn.

Thanks to principal Joe McHale for hosting us, and to the Tofino and Ahousaht RCMP for their water escorts and Const. Dave Fish for helping with the presentation, and Travis Thomas of the Run the Wildside Trail Run who presented about the importance of volunteering in your community. Thanks to Solidarity Snacks for the beautiful veggie plate to share -the kids LOVED it.

And thanks to Gail Stroud for these kind words to us: “I sure hope you had fun and you learned something and you felt great about your contribution to the lives of the Youth-our future leaders, because it was you who made them think differently about tomorrow,” she said.

If someone asks you to volunteer with Junior Achievement on the

West Coast, I would say “Don’t hesitate. Do it in a heartbeat.” Because Gail is right.

I would recommend bringing chocolate!

Jackie Carmichael is the managing editor of the Westerly News, and a fan of volunteerism. If you’re interested in helping with Junior Achievement, she can be reached at editor@westerlynews.ca