This April marked the ninth year that employees at Komatsu Mining Corp’s Milwaukee facility have been leaving their desks and machines behind for a day to inspire students at Morgandale Elementary School by participating in Junior Achievement’s “JA in a Day” program. "JA in a Day" is a unique initiative that allows volunteers to teach all of the lessons of Junior Achievement's elementary school programs in an intensive and effective one-day effort.
During the course of “JA in a Day”, students learn about various aspects of financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. For instance, students in the second grade learn about "Our Community" and see how money moves through a community, creating jobs and generating tax proceeds that pay for schools, parks and streets. In fifth grade, students study "Our Nation," where they begin to learn about economic concepts such as opportunity cost and supply and demand. At the end of the day, students receive JA certificates for completing the program. It’s also become a Komatsu Mining Corp. tradition that employees give the students backpacks and the teachers a small gift of appreciation for their year-round work.
Morgandale’s principal, Tina Food sees great value in the JA experience. “We love having “JA in a Day” here at Morgandale because our volunteers from Komatsu Mining Corp. are so awesome! Many have been here for several years and they make connections with the kids. The kids love to have “real people” come in and teach them lessons about work, money and life. The volunteers get to come into our school to see our amazing kids and a great school.”
Keshad Malegam, Engineer II-Advanced Automation, took the opportunity to share his “real world” experiences with the fifth-grade class he co-taught with fellow engineer Adam Devine. “The JA program allows us to teach the students something useful in the real world and I had a chance to talk a bit about engineering with students who still have a lot of career choices in front of them” commented Malegam. Adding, “I hope at least one of them decides to go ahead with a STEM related career.”
The interaction with the students can be eye-opening for employees who might not normally connect with elementary school age children. Malegam appreciated the very genuine response the children had when seeing what it was like to envision what things would be like for them down the road. “One kid came up to me and said, “you know, I don’t see people working a lot, I see machines. How can you give them human feeling and emotions?”, that was from a 5th grader and that view was amazing!”
Brittany Rusch, Senior Supply Chain Material Analyst and longtime “JA in a Day” volunteer appreciates the ease in which someone can participate as a “JA in a Day” volunteer. “JA does a great job in making a curriculum that covers not only the valuable information, but also engages every student and entertains with games and activities that demonstrate the key ideas.”
This year Rusch co-taught a series of five lessons to an energetic group of second graders with the help of Austin Moder who was a Scheduler/Planner Intern at the time and is now a Materials Analyst. “It’s hearting when you ask for volunteers in an activity or responses to a question and every hand in the room goes up. They are eager to learn and understand the material.”
A classroom of polite students who are eager to learn is a reflection on the work teachers and administrators at the school do to create a positive atmosphere for learning. The long-term partnership is one Komatsu Mining Corp. truly values.
“Principal Flood and the teachers at Morgandale make the “JA in a Day” experience easy for our employees by creating a respectful culture focused on learning within the entire school” shared Cathy Stagmer, Global Community Relations Manager. “Employees look forward to coming back year after year and we know the students look forward to our presence in the classroom too. It’s great to develop a long-term connection with the students, helping them learn more each year about the different careers and opportunities that exist right in their own community.”
Komatsu Mining Corp is committed to supporting educational programs like Junior Achievement that help inspire today’s youth to become responsible, respectful professionals in the workplace and society. Junior Achievement is a global organization with programs not only throughout the US, but around the world including Canada, Chile, China, Russia and South Africa.