David Loose has been Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado’s CEO since 2008, but he has been with the organization for nearly three decades. During his 14-year tenure with J.A. International, Loose traveled to nearly 60 countries, expanding J.A.’s outreach from 15 nations to 97, increasing the number of students reached from 50,000 to more than 2 million.
What is your vision for Junior Achievement?
My vision is to be able to reach 100 percent of students in the areas that we service. We service 46 counties, and about 220,000 kids are the potential market. Right now we’re reaching about 26,000 kids, and the goal would be to give the kids the skills they need to become successful.
Junior Achievement increases entrepreneurialism, so why isn’t if offered in every classroom?
Well, we’re limited by two factors. One, our programs are based on volunteers; we need volunteers. It is the local business person who volunteers their time who goes into the school system and shares their background and experience and brings relativity to the classroom. The more volunteers we have, the more kids we can reach. And the other thing, of course, for all nonprofits is a limited budget. So between being limited on budget and volunteers, those are the two things that keep us from reaching 100 percent of students.
What’s new for Junior Achievement this year?
This year we’re trying to launch a new program; were doing a feasibility study in the next six months with the business community to determine if we can use half of Adams Elementary School, from District 11, to run two programs: Biz Town for 5th graders and Finance Park for 8th graders.
Those two programs would involve students from multiple counties around our area who would come to that facility for the day to learn business, entrepreneurialism, finance literacy and workforce readiness.
What are your biggest challenges?
I would say awareness is always an issue — letting people know that we exist and what we do. We try to get the word out with billboard campaigns, newspaper articles, but word of mouth is still our best source. People who have volunteered tend to return. We have about a 70 percent return rate. Some volunteers have been volunteering for 25 years. The experience is absolutely enjoyable for them.
The students taught by Junior Achievement are the leaders of tomorrow. How do the students respond to this program?
They enjoy the programs. The greatest part is that they know the business people just left a meeting or their place of work, and so when they share information about a project they’re working on, the students realize these aren’t just theories. The volunteers are sharing their real-life experiences.
We have a variety of programs, so no matter what the volunteer’s background is, they can share that experience with the kids. Based on an individual’s background, we’ll get them into the right class.
Why should individuals and companies get involved in Junior Achievement?
We’re helping to create the future. Currently, the United States has become the most powerful economic country in the world. With only 5 percent of the population, we produce about 25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
That’s a result of the free enterprise system — and we can’t just leave it to chance or hope or opportunity that the free enterprise system will always exist. We need to teach the next generation what the system is and what their role in it is — what the role of entrepreneurs is. Small business and entrepreneurs are the engine that drive growth. We need to invest today in order to have success tomorrow.
Audio excerpt of the interview with David Loose.