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West Forsyth Students Work with Junior Achievement

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month.

For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record.

West 38 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

FEBRUARY 4, 2019 – As students in the Finance Academy at West Forsyth see it, what they’re learning about such topics as technology, money, and communication skills will serve them well no matter what career path they choose.

“Anything you choose to do, we’re going to be better prepared,” said Emerald Emani Jones.

As an example, she cited learning how to interact with people in ways that make everyone comfortable.

“You have to have people skills,” said Jones.

As another example, Malachi Jowers cited the skills they’re developing in understanding complex systems.

“You have to learn how to analyze information,” Jowers said.

West 6 The list of valuable aspects of the world to know goes on and on – dressing for success, how the government and businesses function in the local community, how taxes work.

“Every single aspect of this class is used,” said Gaby Ferrer.

“It’s relevant,” said Jonah Cedeno.

On the night of Jan. 29, Ferrer, Jones, Cedeno, and Jowers – who are all sophomores – got a lesson in learning to speak in front of large groups when they participated in the Junior Achievement of the Triad’s Business Leaders Hall of Fame program in Greensboro.

“It was a lovely event, and the kids were great,” Leslie Martin, the West Forsyth teacher who serves as Academy Coordinator said afterward.

The Finance Academy is one of the school system’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs.  

The invitation to participate in the program followed an earlier experience at Speas Global Elementary.  In October, the four were part of a larger group of Finance Academy students who spent a day at Speas teaching fundamental economic concepts to second- and third-graders. 

West 4 It was a valuable experience for students at Speas and students in the Finance Academy, Martin said.

“The best way to learn something is to teach it,” Martin said.

And she thinks it’s important for her students to get out into the community and serve others.

The connection with Speas was made through Junior Achievement.

During the 2017-2018 school year, Brandy Plouff, the Director of Education for Junior Achievement of the Triad, and Cheryl Brandberg, the Director of Stewardship, reached out to Martin to find out whether some of her students would be interested in participating in the High School Heroes Program, in which high school students teach economic concepts to elementary students.

“Junior Achievement lessons teach students how to manage their money, be prepared for the world of work, and start their own business, and it was incredibly valuable for high school students to bring those lessons to Speas,” Plouff said. 

West 7 Martin was definitely interested and organized a pilot program last year.

“This year I offered it to the Honors Principles of Business class I teach,” Martin said. “It is part of the Finance Academy, a three-year program for college-bound students interested in business. The students were trained in presentation skills as well as economic concepts.”

A number of West Forsyth students were interested, and, in October, students had to show up at West Forsyth one morning at 7 a.m. to hop on the bus to Speas.

The West Forsyth students did a great job with the Speas students, Plouff said.

“The younger students loved having the high schoolers in their classes and really looked up to them.”

“The high school students did such a great job volunteering that we knew we had to feature them at our annual Business Leaders Hall of Fame event this past Tuesday. The students emceed the event and shared their experience volunteering with the group of over 500 local business leaders in attendance.”

West 11 “We are thankful for our partnership with Leslie Martin, West Forsyth High School, and our Heroes.”

The four West Forsyth student said they thoroughly enjoyed their time at Speas.

“That was amazing,” Cedeno said. “I liked how enthusiastic the children were.”

“They listened,” Jowers said.

Their goal for the day, Jowers said, was to pass along the information in an entertaining and engaging way to help students stay focused.

The West Forsyth students talked about such topics as different jobs in the community and how governments raise money through taxes while introducing the students to such concepts as credit, debt, supply and demand.

Jones said she appreciated being given the flexibility to take her own approach with the Speas students.

“I was able to do the lessons in my own kind of way,” she said.

In one exercise, Jowers said, they taught Speas students about taxes by giving them some money and then taking away a percentage of it. They had a hard time understanding why someone got to take their money.

“They were very upset.” Jowers said.

West 22 The West Forsyth students also had to explain what such words as “production” meant.  

“Production is when you make something,” Jones told the Speas students.

In going over the information they were going to pass along to the Speas students, the West Forsyth students also learned more themselves.

“I didn’t know a lot about zoning,” Ferrer said.

Some of the students grasped everything right away, Cedeno said. “Some of the kids are really smart.”

With some, they had to try different approaches to make their points.

Before the day was done, the West Forsyth students had also tied a number of shoelaces.

The students appreciate Martin as a person and as a teacher.

West 33 “She wants the best for you,” Ferrer said. “She really cares about each student. She is very supportive.”

“She is a very down-to-earth lady,” Jowers said. “She is developing a work ethic.”

As long as you do the work, she’s happy, he said.

“You’re not going to sit in her class and do nothing,” Jones said.

Martin enjoys working with the students in the Finance Academy.

“The great pleasure for me is watching them grow,” she said. “They get a sense of confidence.”

She has seen shy students who struggled to speak in front of people become at ease making presentations.

West 66 The Finance Academy at West Forsyth was established in 2002.

 It is affiliated with NAF, a nonprofit organization that organizes high school academies. Other Winston-Salem/Forsyth County high schools have NAF academies focusing on such subjects, as Health Sciences, Information Technology, Hospitality & Tourism, and Sports Marketing and Hospitality Management.  

As the students said, the Finance Academy at West Forsyth can serve those who don’t want to pursue a career in finance.

And, it can provide valuable information to those who think they do want to pursue a career in finance. When one student who planned to become an accountant came to her and said, “I hate accounting,” Martin said to herself better to learn that while in high school rather than in college.

West 88 For Jones, the academy is a way to explore possibilities in the business world. 

Jones said, “As of right now, I’m not sure what I want to do.”

Jowers wants to be a chemical engineer.

Cedeno is interested both in a career in psychology and in becoming an entrepreneur.

“I like to problem solve and be creative,” he said.

Ferrer doesn’t plan on a career in finance.

“I want to be a surgeon,” she said.

But, as she sees it, having the skills needed to navigate the financial world will serve her well.

“A lot of kids don’t know how to do it,” she said. “I want to know how to do it independently and do it well.”

Kim Underwood