Smith, a 10-year-old student at Lincoln Park Elementary School, participated alongside his classmates in the JA in a Day event on Thursday, learning about community and societal issues, even discussing future careers.
The all-day event involved local business professional volunteers to teach different real world situations and concepts. Lesson materials included taxes, finances and business management, curriculum designed to correlate with current classroom lessons.
"We try to implement hands on activities that build upon things they are learning right now," said Stevi Wara, program and volunteer coordinator for Junior Achievement. "And it's great getting people from the community to be a living example or role model for these kids."
While this event is typically held over the course of a couple months with weekly lessons, local JA officials decided to combine the activities into one day, marking the first JA in a Day events in northern Nevada.
"This is history setting for us because it is the first all-day event," James Murphy, president of JA of Northern Nevada. "It's great to get all these volunteers to come in, it really gets the school fired up for the program."
Volunteers from such companies as AT&T, Sierra Pacific and IGT were given lesson plans and activities to involve all the students, while also drawing from their personal experiences to complement the material.
One activity where students were given fake money to budget and invest in given scenarios, required class discussion to weigh the consequences of life choices. Such teamwork that volunteers like Martha Happ, a project manager for AT&T, considers valuable.
"It's a lot of material to cover in one day, but it's always fun," said Happ who has volunteer taught for JA before. "And the students learn so much."
In addition to Happ, others who supported the JA in a Day were teachers as well as Lincoln Park principal, Rosemary Pressler.
"The more these students learn earlier on, the better citizens they can become," Pressler said. "And the more they know, the easier it will be for them to enter society later on."
Students responded warmly to the volunteer teachers with most asking questions and partaking in the group activities. Many even began thinking more seriously about what they want to do when they "grow up."
"This has been a lot of fun because I got to think about what job I will have later," said Nicole Giordanella, a 10-year-old who wants to someday become a veterinarian. "I know really want to help animals."
And Giordanella, just as JA officials had hoped, was one of many students on Thursday that learned the most important lesson of the day-initiative.
"This event is designed to make community leaders," said Sean McCaffrey, chairman of the board of directors for JA. "Our studies have proven that this program produces students who go on to become better employees and business owners, with a higher rate of high school graduation."
JA officials hope to make the JA in a Day event annual and are currently looking for more schools to host. For more information, visit the Reno JA Web site at www.renoja.org.