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National Volunteer Month – Bob Conigliaro

Bob Conigliaro
VP Community Relations
Caspers Company McDonald’s Restaurants

 

How many years have you been volunteering for JA?

I have been involved with Junior Achievement since the inception of Enterprise Village at the Gus Stavros Center in Pinellas County in 1988.

In what capacity?

I’ve been a classroom volunteer, board member, corporate liaison, school liaison coordinator. I’ve been involved in many capacities as a classroom volunteer, guest speaker, event emcee, corporate liaison and parent volunteer when my kids were 5th graders 21 to 25 years ago. One of our owners, Allison Casper Adams is a board member.

How did you first become involved with Junior Achievement?

When the McDonald’s operators of Pinellas County agreed to sponsor a storefront at Enterprise Village, we were all-in.

Why do you volunteer for Junior Achievement?

Junior Achievement is golden. They introduce and educate students about the importance and significance of the free enterprise system that is backbone of the greatest country and economic system in the world.

What programs?

The Hillsborough County McDonald’s Operators support JA BizTown for 5th graders and Caspers Company solely sponsored and financed Finance Park for 8th graders. McDonald’s is the food provider for the students at all four venues. Every year we send a team to volunteer for a day at JA BizTown.

Why do you think it’s important to teach children about work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship?

Work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship are the ingredients in the special sauce that has produced the leaders upon whose shoulders this great country has been built. First, being employed is not a guarantee. However, being work ready with a good foundational education is critical. Financial illiteracy leads to a life of debt-filled slavery. Teaching kids financial literacy early equips them with the knowledge to avoid the pitfalls. Since 99 percent of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses launched by the unleashed entrepreneurial spirit of confident risk takers, I believe this is testimony enough to prove that teaching entrepreneurship is not only a good idea, it should be a priority.

What benefits do you see for the students having a JA Volunteer come into their classroom – How do you know you are making an impact on the students?

Having real life working examples of the real world in front of students in the classroom gives credibility to the curriculum, the teachers, and parents who may be saying some of the same things, but aren’t being heard. When the real deal guy or gal says “This is the way it is and this is what we expect” it is validating, believable and credible to the student.

Any fun JA volunteer stories that you have to share about volunteering for Junior Achievement?

I was at our sponsored table at a Junior Achievement donor appreciation breakfast. The room was filled with executives of companies and the most prestigious leaders in Tampa Bay, all of whom support and believe in JA’s mission. When it was over, a tall attractive women came walking toward me and asked if I was Bob Conigliaro. I responded yes, and inquired (guessing) “Didn’t we work together?” She said, “As a matter of fact we did!” She continued, “When I was 16, I applied at the Carrollwood McDonald’s for my first job, I was scared to death, and YOU hired me! I’ll never forget my first day when YOU, the big guy general manager took me, a scared and nervous kid into the lobby and into the restroom to teach me how to properly clean the toilets and urinals- YOU, the big guy!” Frankly, I didn’t specifically remember that incident as I did that with a lot of employees because clean restrooms was one of my prioritized pet peeves. She continued, “Today, in my law firm, I still tell that story to my board and principles to remind them how to treat new attorneys when they come into our firm.” Wow, I did that!??? Net, net, that kid, her real world experience, and a good education sprinkled with a large dose of Junior Achievement allowed me the honor to have my life validated.

What are the rewards of volunteering for Junior Achievement – Your favorite part?

My favorite part is when I get to speak to the students either in the classroom or at a planned event. I so enjoy sharing with them my life experiences and expertise to hopefully give them an advantage and knowledge they can use in the not-too-distant future. Like teaching and parenting, the rewards of planting seeds of knowledge come much later if at all. For me, I have been fortunate to have good deeds return to me unexpectedly. A gifted JA student, chosen to speak in front of 600 guests at a luncheon, gave thanks to me personally and quoted a phrase I shared that made an impact them. Wow, what an honor.

What kind of rewards do you see for your company by allowing their employees to volunteer for Junior Achievement?

What do your employees say about volunteering for Junior Achievement? Volunteering for JA leaves employees with that feel-good satisfaction of making a difference in the life of a kid. It is also a great company team building vehicle.