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100 Million Reasons to Celebrate

100 Million Reasons to Celebrate

160308_JA_096_Keven-MacarenoOn March 8, 2016, our parent organization, Junior Achievement USA, convened a gathering in New York City to host the annual President’s Volunteer Summit Awards and JA Gold Leadership Awards. At the event, some of JA New York’s valued corporate partners were recognized for their outstanding volunteer engagement efforts. These companies include Accenture; American Express; AT&T; Capital One; Citi; Deloitte; Ernst & Young LLP; FedEx; Goldman Sachs; HSBC Holdings and HSBC Bank USA; KPMG LLP; Mastercard; MetLife; PwC; and U.S. Bancorp.

In addition Leslie V. Godridge, Vice Chair at U.S. Bancorp, and Vice Chair and Chair of the Board Development Committee of the JA New York Board of Directors, was honored with the Gold Leadership Award, which is the highest award presented to an individual volunteer by JA USA.

Also at the ceremony, JA New York Student Ambassador, Keven Macareno, was recognized as Junior Achievement’s USA’s “100 millionth student” served since programming began back in 1919. Keven’s thoughtful remarks brought down the house as he recounted how a JA volunteer “saw something” in a shy young man several years ago, inspiring him to dream big. Truly, Keven credits JA volunteer mentors for transforming him into the optimistic and confident person he is today.

Read Keven’s terrific speech below:

“Good Evening,

My name is Keven Macareno and I am a senior at Brooklyn Preparatory High School. As I first entered high school I was determined to become an outstanding individual at my school, the problem was that this determination was not reflected in my personality.

I was a quiet, shy student who couldn’t even give a proper class presentation. I was unsure in my ability to succeed, because others doubted me. But that was the old me. As I stand here tonight, talking to you I can say Junior Achievement has shaped me into a leader; an outgoing, professional individual.

Junior Achievement worked its magic with me in an interesting way. The change that they had on me was truly unique. The environments they exposed me and introduced to me were what created the gradual change in me.

My freshmen year of high school, Junior Achievement gave me the opportunity to participate in the Business Plan Competition. I was provided with amazing volunteers from Digitas who helped my team and I throughout the process. However, they were more than just our business mentors to me – one of them became an important person in my life. This volunteer said something to me that sparked a change in who I was. I remember she told me, “You’re really reserved, yet I feel like you have a lot to say. I don’t know why but I see something powerful in you, a drive. You should share that in our next meeting.” Those words, stuck with me for the rest of the day and I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that someone saw the person I felt I was in the inside. And so the change began. I became more aware of what I had to do to accomplish my goals.

I started to actively participate in the programs offered by Junior Achievement such as the Business Plan Competition, High School heroes, and the Job shadows. Through these programs I was given the opportunity and motivation to grow as an individual. During my first job shadow to AT Kearney one of the volunteers told me, “If you want to achieve your goals, you must be smart and keep in touch with the right people” and from this my networking skills kicked in.

Every event I attended had something different to offer, the amazing volunteers although they were only in my life for a short period of time, had a big influence over how I began to perceive success.

Most importantly, the Junior Achievement volunteers motivated me to exceed my limits and develop the necessary business etiquette to succeed in a professional environment. The time that the Junior Achievement volunteers continuously dedicate to helping students truly has an impact on every single one, and I am proof of this. The volunteers have created what we know to be the Junior Achievement community; they provide a unique exposure to high school, middle school and elementary school students. I was one of the students who were impacted during middle school, through the Mobile Finance Park program.

I remember we were taught basic money management skills and facts about credit and debit cards, mortgage, rent, living expenses and so on. I remember going home that day to my mom and the first thing I told were was, “wow. When you said $20 dollars wasn’t enough money you were right!” and she laughed and said, “They really taught you a lot didn’t they?” And up until now I always have something to tell my mom after Junior Achievement events.

The advice I have received from volunteers is what allowed me to develop connections with my peers, presentation and public speaking skills – but most importantly – my self-confidence. I am finally able to tell myself that I am the person I was eager to become. These skills have become useful in various instances, but most specifically are reflected in my admittance to Brandeis University with a full four-year tuition scholarship.

The impact the volunteers have on the students goes beyond the day of the events. I think I speak for all of Junior Achievement when I say that without the dedication our volunteers, Junior Achievement wouldn’t be what it is today. You are the reason why students like the one I used to be, are able to become tomorrow’s leaders. We wouldn’t be celebrating, reaching 100 million students tonight or have had the opportunity to ring the New York Stock Exchange closing bell. Junior Achievement is possible because of our volunteers, and we truly thank you for your contribution.”

-Keven Macareno