On January 27, 2017, Rene Cruz Martinez and I volunteered with Junior Achievement (JA) at Mather Heights Elementary school located in Sacramento, CA. We are both IBEW 1245 members employed at Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), and also officers of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) Solano County Chapter.
The 4th grade lesson I participated in involved teaching the children about businesses and entrepreneurs. I told them I work for PG&E, a company that provides gas and electricity to customers in California. I explained that since I work for PG&E, I’m also a member of a union called the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The word “interdependence” was in their school lesson, so when it came time to teach them this word, I presented an example specific to my own experience.
“IBEW helps members by speaking with PG&E to protect the employees’ wages and benefits, so that we can provide a good life for ourselves and our families,” I told them. “IBEW helps ensure workers have safe working conditions and are treated fairly by the company. PG&E and IBEW are an example of an interdependent relationship.”
I later explained that IBEW also helps in various communities by providing service (which was another word in their lesson), making many donations to schools and volunteering for their programs, including Junior Achievement. I explained to the children that myself and fellow member René were volunteering today on behalf of a community group within IBEW called the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC). I explained that the EWMC is an organization made up of IBEW members that volunteer at schools, shelters, veteran facilities, help feed and supply services to the homeless, and are considered activists in their communities. I told the class that the IBEW and the EWMC also have an interdependent relationship.
“It was an amazing experience! I loved the enthusiasm from the students. They were ready to learn and asked questions! They are our future, so we need to be spending more time with them and explaining to them the importance of good union jobs,” Rene Cruz Martinez said after teaching a 4th grade class.
I have a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice with a Minor in Psychology, since I wanted to be a juvenile counselor, and so for me having this opportunity to teach students about skills they can use to apply in the real word was exciting! I wanted them to know they can be whatever they aspire to be, and can financially support themselves and their families. This experience allowed me to represent my union and the importance of a trade occupations.
About Junior Achievement
According to their website, “Junior Achievement’s purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. JA helps students realize that the education they are getting today will help them to have a bright future tomorrow. JA’s volunteer-delivered, kindergarten-12th grade programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential. Junior Achievement USA reaches more than 4.8 million students per year in 209,651 classrooms and after-school locations. JA programs are taught by volunteers in inner cities, suburbs, and rural areas throughout the United States, by 109 Area Offices in all 50 states. Junior Achievement’s 237,680 classroom volunteers come from all walks of life, including: business people, college students, parents and retirees. Our programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.”
JA’s many volunteers (including us) add their personal experiences, which may influence students to pick a trade as a career or become young leaders and activists in their communities. Having the knowledge that these lessons provide, knowing that there are diverse career options available after high school, and learning about shared experiences from volunteers helps the students realize that, with dedication and commitment, they can be financially successful and contribute to their community at the same time.
Questions regarding JA and volunteer opportunities? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Donchele Soper, IBEW 1245 Organizing Steward and EWMC Solano Chapter President