When John Starkey attended an open house offered by Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada in 2018, he had no idea it would lead to a partnership that has become a prime example of reciprocity with the community.
The partnership also has resulted in Starkey’s selection as the Office of Community Engagement 2021 Faculty/Staff Outreach Award recipient.
“Junior Achievement was looking for a community partner when they first approached me in 2018. Ideas of how our college could assist them in reaching their goals were readily apparent to me after learning more about their programming and populations served,” said Starkey, an advisor with UNLV’s Lee Business School. “Our 2018 encounter opened the doors to a great partnership with them.”
The local Junior Achievement (JA) chapter works with various schools in the greater Las Vegas area to teach K-12 populations about entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy.
In keeping with the “see it, be it” philosophy, JA connects college students representing diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities with K-12 students who otherwise might not consider college. The goal is for college students to inspire K-12 students by sharing their experiences.
The goals and values presented by JA aligned well with Starkey’s personal passions, as well as Lee Business School goals. And, Starkey’s role at UNLV – teaching first-year students civic responsibility, business principles, and self-awareness through volunteerism and service-learning projects – made him a perfect fit for this partnership.
In fall of 2018, Starkey began piloting various ideas in his first-year seminar course, and Lee Business School students, faculty, and staff began volunteering in groups at JA events. MBA students also engaged with the project, spending an entire semester evaluating the business operations of JA before creating a research-based business plan designed to provide a sustainable revenue stream for the organization.
Soon after, the Public Education Foundation joined the partnership and worked with Lee Business School students to create a scholarship for a local high school JA student to attend an NSHE institution. The creation of the scholarship provided UNLV students with the opportunity to gain experience creating an awareness campaign for JA that included fundraising, social media, and direct marketing components.
Additionally, Lee Business School students enrolled in service-learning and milestone experience classes were able to participate in the “JA in a Day” program. Through this program, college students visit classrooms and teach basic business principles to K-12 students in underserved areas of our community.
In 2019, Lee Business School expanded its partnership with JA by sponsoring the annual “Finance Park” event that serves as a capstone program for personal financial planning and career exploration. Lee Business School students were paired with K-12 students for a daylong simulation experience where participants learned from one another.
“This was the most rewarding segments of the pilot program,” said Starkey. “The 200 individuals that participated in this partnership developed a deeper sense of belonging to UNLV and the greater Las Vegas community while also learning from these experiences in various ways.”
He added that benefits of participation were measured through surveys administered by both JA and the Lee Business School, and from reflection assignments completed by Lee Business School students.
According to Starkey, the surveys showed that opportunities, such as teaching others, fundraising, and networking, encouraged many students to get out of their comfort zone and develop their interpersonal and public speaking skills.
Starkey noted that working with JA has demonstrated that collaboration has benefits beyond the scope of the school’s primary objectives. Working together in unique ways, such as civic participation, has led to positive experiences and memories. “You can feel the impact when you see professors and advisors now connected by their JA involvement,” said Starkey.
Additionally, some faculty reported that the freedom they had for how they participated in this project helped them choose a path that aligned with their service obligations for tenure or promotions. Faculty also indicated the creativity encouraged by the project was a source of satisfaction and opportunities to discuss community issues with their students.
The impact of the partnership on JA also was very notable. The partnership resulted in JA achieving the organizational goals initially brought to Starkey’s attention during that chance encounter in 2018.
“John Starkey was the difference for Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada building a sustainable partnership with UNLV Lee Business School,” said Michelle Jackson, president and CEO of JA. “He believes in the mission of both groups and understands the value of working outside his organization’s walls to engage for the greater good of his community and his students.”
JA’s volunteer pool has drastically increased and funds were raised to support the organization. The community also became more aware of JA’s programming through publicity provided by UNLV communication platforms, students, and employees. Most importantly, the biggest impact was on the population served by JA.
“JA informed me that their K-12 students felt the most excited when college students taught them through JA programming,” said Starkey, adding, “My personal favorite memories were when at the end of the day when JA employees would email me pictures of UNLV students and staff with JA students. The consistent smiles in the pictures I received showed this project’s greatest impact.”
UNLV’s office of community engagement established four universitywide awards in 2016 to recognize campus individuals for their exceptional community engagement in the areas of service-learning, community-based research, faculty/staff community outreach, and student service.