Daniel | Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City


Blue background with a photo of Daniel Smith holding a camera


December 16, 2022 Torey Berndt 0 Comments

“I’m convinced that what Junior Achievement is doing is going to change the world.” Daniel Smith, a Kansas City media creator, shared following his first visit to the JA Youth Learning Lab, presented by the Mallouk Family Foundation. “I’m not much of a crier, but I’ll admit I cried when I saw the space for the first time.” 

Daniel’s desire to get involved with JA led him to volunteer in a deeply personal and impactful way – serving as a Career Speaker at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). Daniel shared his personal experience of being at JDC when he was younger, and how for nearly a decade, he’s been looking for a way to go back to share lessons learned and “pay it forward.” JA created an opportunity for Daniel to serve as a mentor sharing a connection with the youth through a lived experience.  As a teenager, Daniel was seeking guidance to find a path forward, but the system didn’t offer that as part of the rehabilitation process. “When I was there, there wasn’t a sense of redemption. There wasn’t a sense of bettering yourself. But for these kids, it’s different. JA’s giving them an opportunity.”  

Regardless of their differences, Daniel knows that a sense of belonging is what young people are seeking. By sharing his personal story, he saw that sense of belonging click, that maybe there was a future for these young people they didn’t see before. “When youth get a chance to realize there’s something different to do, and someone different you can be, regardless of decisions you’ve made in the past, we’ll have a better society as a whole.”  

Daniel reflects on his gratitude for the impacts Junior Achievement has on young people, sharing that he feels that Junior Achievement provides a head start for them. “Within a couple of years, students who participate in Junior Achievement will be on a completely different playing field than their peers.” He continues, reflecting on how middle school Daniel would have been had he had JA: “Had JA been a thing when I was young, I would have known that what I’m interested in could be a career path, and been confident in making that happen sooner.”  

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