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National Volunteer Month – Kristen Laramore

Communications Employee Engagement and Community Outreach

CITI

How many years have you been volunteering for JA?

6 years altogether; 2 years in Texas and 4 years in Florida.

In what capacity?

Classroom volunteer, board member, corporate liaison, school liaison coordinator.

How did you first become involved with Junior Achievement?

A former employer in Texas introduced me to Junior Achievement. This was the first company I had worked for that strongly encouraged their staff to volunteer in their communities. Leadership led by example which was inspirational to me. I have been volunteering ever since!

Why do you volunteer for Junior Achievement?

Financial education is important for every individual, regardless of their demographic. JA provides relevant programs for both primary- and secondary-age students that are EASY to teach. Training, materials and classroom coordination are all provided by JA. As a volunteer, you only need to give your time.

What programs?

Our Families; Our Community; Diploma-See; Personal Finance; Biz Town; Finance Park.

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

All of these factors can be intertwined. People tend to focus on income as the one solution to all financial situations. JA brings to light additional factors that can impact an individual’s financial security. For example: What types of careers require higher education? What are average salaries for these careers? What is the true cost of living besides lodging, transportation and food? What is the difference between a NEED and a WANT? JA provides realistic, fundamental programming to shape, inspire and support children who may not otherwise have the exposure to this knowledge.

What benefits do you see for the students having a JA Volunteer come into their classroom? 

Not all students can afford to attend off-site programs that charge a fee to participate. Classrooms can provide a safe, secure environment when meeting a new individual. It also serves as a nice break from routine for both the teachers and the students.

How do you know you are making an impact on the students?

When students are engaged in discussions, answering questions, providing suggestions, and sharing stories, I feel the content is hitting home for them. They are relating their real-life experiences to the lesson(s).

I’m always amused when I am teaching Personal Finance to the high schoolers… Watching their jaws “hit the floor” during budgeting exercises can be quite entertaining. The reality of understanding what it costs to support a household of 1 or 4 can be daunting once these factors set in.  Then credit scores are factored into the mix and life just got real for many of these students!

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

DEFINITELY!

Much of my volunteer efforts focus on a specific Title I school in Hillsborough County. While volunteering at Biz Town I met a very bright young lady in the 5th grade, from this same school. She and I had a positive connection as we shared jokes about “adulting” and her CFO responsibilities for the day. She was bright, witty and respectful. At the end of the day, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for the help. After Biz Town, I continued volunteering at her school for the next 2 years. She would see me in the hallway, wave, and joke, “Not YOU again!” with a big smile. In 2019, she and I connected again through JA. This time she was attending Finance Park as an 8th grade student. At the end of the day, she asked if we could take a picture together. She said she really enjoyed seeing me again and thanked me for volunteering. Many of these students just need some consistency to believe that someone truly cares for them. DON’T STOP VOLUNTEERING!

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

First and foremost, for me, it is all about the human connection. Many of these students may not get exposure to people outside of their family, their neighborhoods, and their schools. I hope that I make a positive impact on these students’ future decisions about education, career prospects and a basic understanding of finances. My favorite part is when I get HUGS from the students! It’s a wonderful experience!

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? 

Many of us have hear the saying that volunteering is addictive. It’s true. Allowing employees to volunteer for JA not only helps these students, their families and their schools but it also adds to the corporate culture to show that we are caring for our communities, our neighborhoods… where we live and work!

Employees have shared with me that they feel that they are providing valuable and relevant lessons to every individual. They are teaching someone to fish.

Kristen Laramore works at Citi where she focuses on employee engagement, diversity and communications. She works closely with external partners in the Tampa Bay area in support of Citi’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. A native of Fort Worth, Texas she has more than 25 years of experience in the financial industry.