Junior Achievement’s Impactful Journey Toward Financial Literacy

by | Dec 2023

LET’S FACE it: most kids grow up without a clue about financial literacy, and that lack of know-how often follows them into adulthood like an unwelcome shadow. Imagine a scenario where a young adult, fresh out of college, finally receives their first paycheck, only to find themselves baffled by terms like ‘tax deductions,’ ‘401(k),’ and ‘credit scores.’ It’s a familiar tale in today’s world, where financial literacy often takes a backseat in education. Organizations like Junior Achievement are trying to end this lack of education and give kids the skills they need from a young age. 

Junior Achievement has been a steadfast presence in South Central Kentucky for over four decades, significantly impacting young people’s lives. Emily Harlan, a passionate advocate for financial literacy and a brand experience coordinator with Junior Achievement, loves the organization’s mission and transformative power. 

The organization’s mission is simple yet profound: to teach financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and essential work and career readiness skills to kids in Bowling Green. As they continue to grow and evolve, their impact becomes increasingly apparent, helping to reach thousands of kids. During the last fiscal year alone, they reached over 10,000 students and had 400 volunteers. 

Emily Harlan and her husband play a pivotal role in realizing this mission. She shares a personal connection to the cause.

“My husband and I facilitated some financial literacy classes in our church, and we both benefited so much from those classes, even later on in our lives,” Harlan said. “It made me feel like if we can teach kids at a young age how to make smart choices and avoid the mistakes most adults make, it could break the cycle of poverty over time.”

She said this, of course, takes time and work.

“We realize it’s a lofty goal,” she admits, “but it’s a doable goal.”

Junior Achievement’s curriculum is thoughtfully designed, aligned with state and federal guidelines, and brought to life by dedicated volunteers in the community. Harlan said these volunteers play a pivotal role in delivering impactful lessons that cover a wide range of topics tailored to the age and grade level of the students they serve.

“Kindergarteners learn the difference between wants and needs,” Harlan said. “By high school, they are preparing for what is next in life.”

As they progress through their educational journey, they explore subjects such as career exploration, entrepreneurship, budgeting, and even practical skills like opening a bank account.

Harlan’s passion for empowering the youth of Bowling Green is made clear in her job, where she gets to witness firsthand the transformation of young minds. 

“If they start Junior Achievement classes in kindergarten,” she said, “then they graduate high school with a solid financial foundation and a clear career path in mind. Personally, it’s incredible to see these children grow into adults with the skills they otherwise might not have had.”

Behind the scenes, Harlan organizes fundraising events vital to sustaining Junior Achievement’s mission. Events like “Chili and Cheese” not only raise funds but also serve as opportunities to connect with the Bowling Green community and remind them of Junior Achievement’s role in the community. 

Harlan’s dedication to Junior Achievement is the perfect example of how one person’s passion and commitment can create a ripple effect of positive change in a community. Her journey with Junior Achievement transforms young individuals’ lives and inspires others to join the cause, leaving a mark on the future of Bowling Green’s youth, one child at a time. GN 

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