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Posted: November 02, 2012

Top Company winner: Junior Achievement

David Lewis

NONPROFIT

Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain

Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain Inc. does what it can to fill an almost infinite space, the gap between what our schools teach and what goes on in the real world.

By "real world" we mean the place where the jobs are, variously known as business, the private sector, free enterprise, and so on. Junior Achievement teaches school kids from kindergarten through high school about economic concepts, financial literacy, critical thinking and teamwork.

These subjects are not taught in many schools, public and private. Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain does much to fill the abyss.

JA-Rocky Mountain annually brings more than 3,200 business volunteers into classrooms throughout Metro Denver, Northern Colorado and Wyoming. Denver- and Fort Collins-based Junior Achievement has grown 10-fold in the past two decades under the leadership of Robin Wise, who is Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain president and CEO as well as a JA instructor at Denver South High School.

JA-Rocky Mountain in the 2009-2010 school year taught 95,000 students, the latest figures available, up from 8,000 students in K-12 programs in the 1990-91 school year. Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain is the eighth largest JA operation in the nation.

Wise offers a bird’s-eye view of the 22-module JA curriculum, which starts little kids working on big subjects.

The program’s three legs are work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, "things that are missing a lot in the workplace today, or in the world. The spirit of enterprise," Wise adds.

Kids in the inner city show a sharper learning curve than suburban kids after each has studied with JA, Wise says. "It resonates with kids. This idea that they can make money, this idea that they can be creative, is really powerful. And the idea, ‘Maybe my education does pay off.’ It’s a powerful concept."

David Lewis is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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