Inspiring Students To Succeed In A Global Economy

A talented entrepreneur, Andrew Yang, recently wrote an article in Quartz stating, "Research shows that there's a substantial correlation between a person's socioeconomic background and the likelihood of their starting a company. Too many potentially important companies never come to fruition because startup culture -- intentionally or not -- marginalizes women, underrepresented minorities, and first-generation college students."

As young people, members of these underrepresented groups are at a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers when it comes not just to starting businesses, but also to financial capability and work readiness skills. The reasons are challenging and interrelated. Students growing up in high-need areas face a host of barriers to success, which include under-resourced schools, a lack of a college-going culture at home, limited access to banking institutions, and a shortage of role models in higher education and the business world.

Organizations like Junior Achievement offer K-12 personal finance, entrepreneurship and work readiness programs in schools across the nation. JA gives young people the kind of exposure to the world of work, jobs and money they rarely get in school or at home. For the many bright, ambitious kids we serve at JA New York who come from low income communities, these program can truly help level the playing field.

JA delivers vital lessons in financial decision-making, career choices and entrepreneurship with the help of thousands of trained corporate and community volunteer mentors. The content elements come together to demonstrate to students how interrelated the choices they make in life can be - whether they apply themselves in school, pursue a post-secondary education, take on college debt, start a business, marry, remain single or have children - and how each decision can affect their overall quality of life.

We all know that simply telling students to make good financial decisions does not really affect behavior. Students need to make a connection between concepts they learn in school and its relevance to their lives. Teaching students how money, careers and business ownership work through experiential, hands-on learning are lessons that last a lifetime and leave students more knowledgeable and confident to take on the many challenges and opportunities they will face as adults.

It's important to tell our kids that not all successful paths lead to billion dollar startups and the C-suite. Just learning the basic tenets of entrepreneurship and personal finance creates a pathway to economic and social empowerment that benefits the individual, the family and the community. Having the sense to save for retirement as a 20-something and having enough money to last throughout retirement is a success. Paying off student loans and getting approved for a mortgage on a new house are just as meaningful. We should be challenging young people to achieve and celebrate these successes in every form they take.

Junior Achievement of New York is the local affiliate of Junior Achievement USA, the nation'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. We recruit, train, and mobilize more than 6,200 corporate and community volunteers to provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Today, JA New York delivers more than 80,000 student experiences per year, mostly free of charge, to more than 260 NYC, Long Island and Lower Hudson Valley public schools. Visit for more information.

Access Your Potential is a new blog series focused on exploring the importance of developing technology skills and financial acumen in minority communities. Join the conversation by emailing or by tweeting with #AccessYourPotential.