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Connecticut Youth Encouraged to Explore Challenges & Opportunities of Launching Their Own Business

Junior Achievement’s Entrepreneurship Programs for High School Students Highlighted During National Entrepreneurship Week (Feb 15-22)

National Entrepreneurship Week

As the nation celebrates National Entrepreneurship Week, the leading efforts of Junior Achievement in educating young people to one day take the initiative and start businesses of their own reflect that it’s never too young to get started. 

Working with school-age youth in an array of experiential entrepreneurship programs, JA shows prospective entrepreneurs what it takes to build their own business – while collaborating with local businesses who provide expert volunteer mentors and on-site, hands-on experience.

America has long been considered the land of opportunity – providing paths for individuals to develop a self-made career from a single innovative idea.  Because of a great tradition of incredible entrepreneurial innovators, the United States is ranked first of 137 countries, according to the most recent Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI).

Entrepreneurship has been formally celebrated nationwide during National Entrepreneurship Week, a congressionally-chartered initiative, since 2006.  This year, it is observed February 15-22.  Junior Achievement of Southwest New England (JA) works with students to encourage their spark of entrepreneurial creativity and to assist them in developing key skills in familiar environments, such as the classroom and the local community.

“If you have an original idea, you’re at the right place,” explains Jeremy Race, President and CEO of JA of Southwest New England. “We believe students are never too young to try their hand at entrepreneurial work. No prior knowledge needed - an eagerness to learn is all it takes to have an enjoyable and educational experience in one of our many programs. The curriculum we offer is not only beneficial for our teen participants, but ultimately for the future of Connecticut’s economy as a whole.”

The focus on an “I Can” attitude is what sets JA programs apart from other initiatives.   High school students who participate in JA develop an understanding of how classwork connects to real-world application.  Programs designed for students grades 9-12 focus on financial literacy and work readiness in addition to entrepreneurial skills.  JA’s leading entrepreneurial programs include:

  • JA Entrepreneurial Academy - This locally developed program brings urban and suburban high school students together under one roof to craft and launch their own business using the JA Company Program curriculum. Students gain skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, teamwork, ethics, and career development at a corporate site. This program is now on-site at Stanley Black & Decker, The Hartford, and at Pratt & Whitney in a partnership with Goodwin University in East Hartford.  The JA Entrepreneurial Academy spans fifteen weeks and meets for a total of thirty hours.
  • JA Company Program - Students are given the unique opportunity to create, launch and manage their own business in this classroom-based program, learning first-hand what it takes to successfully run a business. “High schoolers have the ability to fill a need or solve a problem in their community,” notes Nicole Diorio, JA’s Director of Education. “This program’s student-friendly and accessible approach gives them a platform and guidance to do so.” 
  • JA Job Shadow - Students familiarize themselves with the challenges of a professional work environment in the comfort of their classrooms and in on-site workplace visits. “These in-class sessions are designed to check young entrepreneurial readiness with problem solving at work,” explains Race. “Students learn how to properly research career opportunities, communicate with employers, and land their dream jobs.” Junior Achievement of Southwest New England recently received a grant from the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation to support financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness programs in schools throughout Northwest Connecticut.

According to the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 63% of Americans believe entrepreneurship is a good career choice and the United States exhibits among the highest rates of early stage entrepreneurial activity in the developed world.  The report, prepared annually by Babson College, noted that the U.S. has reached an all-time high for both men and women entrepreneurs, and the gender gap between men and women has narrowed. Among all entrepreneurs engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity, 87% expect to create jobs for others, driving overall economic growth.

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.  An array of Junior Achievement programs – specifically designed for students from kindergarten through 12th grade – are delivered by local business professionals, parents, retirees, and college students, using JA curriculum and experiential programs.  

To learn more about Junior Achievement for Southwest New England’s mission as well as their impactful events and programs, please call at 860-525-4510 or visit their website at

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