The fifth-grade teaching team of Kristina Sink and Michelle Michalski is intimately familiar with the mission of Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. After all, their relationship with JAGKC dates back to 2018.
“Megan Sturges Stanfield used to come into our classroom and teach JA classes with our kids, so it all started with her. We actually got to visit JA BizTown (presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union) while it was being constructed,” Kristina said. “Megan kept coming back, kept volunteering in our class and building relationships with our district, even after she became the President and CEO of JAGKC.”
As teachers at T.A. Edison Elementary School who have worked together for fourteen years, Kristina and Michelle have the JA BizTown preparation process down to an art form: Start daily lessons a month ahead of time, use the JA BizTown workbooks to teach their students about bank accounts, deposits, and other economics basics, and wrap up with the filling out of job applications ahead of their big day.
“It’s really fun to watch the kids who normally don’t step up really embrace their jobs as leaders and role models,” Michelle said. “At JA BizTown, we saw students finish their breaks early because they were CEOs and wanted to make sure their companies were running correctly. It helps us see a different side of them, more like mini adults than the 10 and 11 year-olds we see in class.”
This experience proves especially impactful when you take into consideration the background of many T.A. Edison students.
“With our populations and the socioeconomic circumstances in our area, most of our kids don’t know this kind of information,” Michelle said. “Many of their parents work in the hospitality sector, and some don’t even have bank accounts because of limited accessibility, so being able to explore this type of work and tap into this knowledge base is a big eye opener for them.”
Earlier this fall, Keyson was one T.A. Edison fifth grader who fully embraced every aspect of JA BizTown. So when it came time for Kristina and Michelle to choose which of their students would be invited to speak at the JA Business Hall of Fame luncheon a few short weeks later, he was top of mind.
“People flock to Keyson for his personality and his outgoing attitude. But to be honest, we were hesitant to ask him to speak because, while he has so much heart and potential, he also has a need to be the top dog which can get in the way of his efforts to be a role model,” Kristina said. “So to see him up on stage, as nervous as he was, and to see him do such an amazing job with his speaking – I hope that this sticks with him for a very long time.”
One of the most memorable moments of the 2023 Hall of Fame celebration was entirely unscripted. During his acceptance speech, Chase McAnulty, Owner and CEO of Charlie Hustle, brought Keyson back on stage in order to share the limelight and pass along some hard-earned wisdom.
“This is our third time bringing students to the luncheon, but this was the most impactful and intimate luncheon out of them all,” Kristina said. “I especially think the these specific laureates were impactful for our kiddos because they saw them as people that they can relate to. We have a lot of Hispanic students, we have a lot of soccer lovers, we have a lot of fashion and clothing fans, so all of that combined to show our students that they can really pursue whatever they want to.”
The feeling was certainly shared by Keyson, who teared up as he recounted this unscripted moment.
“I felt loved and honored to be on stage with Chase because he’s such a caring person,” Keyson said. “When I grow up, I want to be just like Chase.”
Now, this exchange – Chase’s recognition of Keyson’s potential, and the earnest young man’s visible enthusiasm – has continued to have ripple effects in the Charlie Hustle and T.A. Edison communities. Thanks to some behind-the-scenes planning from the Charlie Hustle and JAGKC teams, Kristina and Michelle’s students will be visiting the Charlie Hustle offices in December.
“The students were so excited and shocked when we told them that we’d been invited to Charlie Hustle. Their eyes lit up and they’re all just so excited to go,” Michelle said. “And the first words out of Keyson’s mouth were, ‘Will I get to see Chase again?’”
These transformational moments wouldn’t be possible without the support and generosity of those that give to Junior Achievement throughout the year. Because of our supporters, students feel more empowered to create their limitless futures, inspired to explore their entrepreneurial spirits, and informed to make sound financial decisions.
Will you join us in this season of giving to ensure more students, like Keyson, have access to opportunities? Give today.