This month an estimated 200 hungry young minds will gather to kick off the 26th year of Junior Achievement’s programme in the Cayman Islands.
Dart’s support of Junior Achievement — often referred to simply as JA — began in 2002 and continues today as platinum ambassador. The company plays other roles in JA as well: Dart serves as a business venue and is supportive of staff who want to volunteer as advisors to these young “achievers” for a six-month period.
“This year we have 10 Dart staff who’ll be wearing the hat of JA advisor with possibly a few more joining us at the last minute,” explains Courtney Yates, lead advisor on behalf of Dart and a senior property manager at Dart Real Estate. “It’s a commitment requiring several hours of one’s time every week, but it’s totally worth the reward of seeing these young people acquire new skills and achieve the goals they set at the beginning of the programme. Their reward is our reward.”
Junior Achievement is an international volunteer-based, nonprofit organisation whose purpose is “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.” This is achieved through a six-month programme where kids build and operate their own businesses as they would in the real world. The benefits of this hands-on approach are many, such as equipping young people with entrepreneurial skills, instilling positive work habits and providing useful business tools they can use in the real world.
THE BUSINESS OF IT
“A popular business venture has been clock making,” says Yates. “For example, last year they made clocks out of recycled material from the shipping pallets used to carry material for the new Cayman International School soccer pitch.”
As soon as the students form their businesses, they must figure out how they will make and sell their product — in this case, clocks — in order to make a profitable return. This includes managing all aspects of the business such as financials. The kids develop and implement a business plan that includes taking all the steps necessary to produce and sell a real product.
“They do it all,” says Yates. “They develop a plan, raise the capital, source production materials, make the clocks, define a sales strategy, sell the clocks, make a profit and repay investors. It’s an incredibly enriching experience.”
Other products have included keychains made from corks and a fun “gag” weather forecaster made from wood found at one of Dart Real Estate’s construction sites.
FROM ACHIEVER TO ADVISOR
Alyson Hay, former JA achiever and a senior marketing communication coordinator at Dart, agrees that the experience is truly enriching. “I learned so much from my experience as an achiever — it broke my shy spell and taught me so many business and communication skills that I use on the job today.”
This is Hay’s third year volunteering as an advisor and she’s no longer shy as she confidently mentors young, new achievers.
“Today, I’m rewarded as a Dart advisor when I see how the kids evolve into mini-families with inside jokes and the ability to get creative and put in the hard work needed to run a real-life business,” says Hay. “I’m really looking forward to meeting all the new kids this year.”
Sitting on the board of JA is Glenda McTaggart, manager of education programmes for Dart Enterprises. She has been closely involved with JA for nearly two decades and has worn many hats including advisor, lead advisor and now board member.
“These kids are learning so much and it’s so interesting to see how many of the JA values align with our own Dart values,” says McTaggart. “These include honesty, integrity, dedication, industriousness, teamwork and respect for all persons. I’m proud to be part of both Dart and JA — it’s both satisfying and rewarding to see these values reflected in the work being done by both groups.”
McTaggart has seen the programme evolve and grow over the past 18 years and continues to believe in the important role it plays in a young person’s development. “They’re not just learning how to make a profit,” she says, “they’re learning how to become well-rounded team players and positive, productive citizens of the world.”
Today, Dart also supports JA “businesses” by offering the Christmas Market at Camana Bay as a venue in which they can sell their products.
For more information on Junior Achievement and how to become an advisor please visit jacayman.ky.