We asked our 2016 Student of the Year and Student Ambassadors to reflect on their time with Junior Achievement, and what the role of representing JA New York within their schools and communities means to them.
- Linda Chan, 2016 Student of the Year
- Jaya Hamilton, 2016 Student Ambassador
- Thalia Baeza Milan, 2016 Student Ambassador
- Kaiyell Pettie, 2016 Student Ambassador
- Kayele Spencer, 2016 Student Ambassador
“One of the most important skills I learned as a Junior Achievement student was believing in myself, which I slowly developed as time went on. Confidence—or should I say lack of self-confidence—was something I struggled with for a very long time. By participating in JA programs and meeting so many unique volunteers, I also had the opportunity to get to know myself better.
As students learn to believe in themselves, it attracts others to believe in them. Mentorship is one of the best gifts a student can receive. We can reach our goals and dreams, and figure out who we want to be, all because of a helpful push by believers who have our backs.
I was fortunate enough to meet and network with people from companies such as PwC and Goldman Sachs. It is amazing to see how passionate and caring they are, and how much time they are willing to spend with students to offer advice and guidance. The definition of success varies from person to person, but to me, it’s a state of mind. JA programs have changed the way I think. Instead of thinking very narrowly and straight, I now think more broadly about the ramifications of every decision I make.
Though I am attending Pace University Lubin Business School this fall, much of my future is still unknown. After college I hope to attend grad school. My dream is to eventually build my own company, find economic success and help others achieve it, as well. In my time with Junior Achievement, I’ve gained knowledge in both entrepreneurship and the business world. Wherever I go, I will always be thankful to JA. Thank you for giving me a chance and a vision of what I would like my future to become. Without Junior Achievement and all of its supporters, I wouldn’t be here today with a plan for my future beyond college.
Mr. Poccia from PwC once told me, “Start building and keeping your relationships,” which I definitely will. Each of the JA volunteers I’ve met are unique, and they’ve made my experience more meaningful and valuable. Little things like talking to people in the workforce and getting their advice and encouragement are memorable and one of a kind for students like me. I’m so grateful and will always be a JA student, learning and growing every day. It is my turn now to give back and help others just like JA has helped me. Thank you.”
Jaya Hamilton, 2017 Graduate of Academy of Finance and Enterprise
“Being one of five Junior Achievement New York Ambassadors was such a beautiful experience. From teaching elementary school students in the classroom, to networking with professionals in the business world, this year was truly remarkable. One very special aspect of being an ambassador was building lifelong relationships with my fellow ambassadors who share the same passion of sharing JA New York’s mission. Moreover, speaking at the Gala was a pivotal moment in my personal growth, as I had the opportunity to speak in front of a large group of professionals. I look forward to opportunities in the future that include public speaking and networking. Not to mention the humbling experience of teaching financial literacy to third graders, kindergartners, and a class of ESL students. High School Heroes enforced the value of strengthening the community with my fellow peers. Overall, my time as an ambassador allowed me to break out of my comfort zone and explore career opportunities outside of my interests.
In terms of my future plans, I will be attending Baruch College in the fall with a major in International Business. I look forward to broadening my expertise in the business field by interning at an accounting or investment firm. Lastly, I will always appreciate and give back my time and resources to Junior Achievement because I now understand the crucial value of volunteers.”
Thalia Baeza Milan, 2017 Graduate of High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies
“This year has been my final year in high school. In addition to being a high school senior, I also had the opportunity of being a Junior Achievement of New York Ambassador. This entailed representing Junior Achievement in several public events. The main one was the Gala, in which, along with my fellow ambassadors, I was given the chance to interact with JA’s business partners in order to give them a firsthand view of the program. I was also invited to do this at a Board Meeting at Goldman Sachs. In this meeting, myself and other students who were impacted by JA shared our experiences with board members.
One of my best moments with JA was when I participated in the High School Heroes program. With High School Heroes, I was able to spend an entire day with a class of special-ed elementary students and teach them about how the community works. Throughout the process of working with these students, I also worked on myself. High School Heroes helped me open up to people, to become better at public speaking and to have confidence in myself. From there on forward, I’ve been a better person.
The role of being an ambassador for JA also made me a go-to person at school. Anytime students had questions about the program, they would come to me. Future JA Ambassadors also came to me for advice on how to go about the application process. I was a role-model for them, and I was extremely happy anytime they asked for anything, for I was helping them embrace the opportunities JA offered and become better young adults. This was probably my favourite part of being an ambassador.
The future for me is still not set in stone. However, this fall, I will start my four years of college at Yale University. I plan to study Global Affairs, along with Chinese and Arabic. I’m hoping to work for the United Nations, State Department or with any organization that would give me the opportunity to travel and help people improve their circumstances across the world.”
Kaiyell Pettie, 2017 Graduate of High School of Economics and Finance
“I can proudly credit Junior Achievement of New York for my amazing high school experience. At the High School for Economics and Finance, I have been heavily involved with Junior Achievement and can say that this organization has shaped me to become the next great business leader of America. In addition, I will be attending Baruch College financially literate and knowledgeable about what career I want to pursue. Junior Achievement has given me my blueprint for success in college and beyond and has sparked my desire to become a role model of achievement to young people. Junior Achievement has allowed me to grow as a student, entrepreneur, and as a future college student. Throughout high school, I have participated in the Junior Achievement Business Plan Competition, Job Shadows, Capital One/JA Mobile Finance Park, and the JA Economics for Success program. Through Junior Achievement, I was able to establish prominent connections within the field of business. This led me to pursue a career as either an investment banker or a certified public accountant.
I have gone on numerous job shadowing events hosted by Junior Achievement which is highlighted by companies such as Goldman Sachs and Deloitte. Also, because of Junior Achievement, I have had the opportunity to develop my very own business which I still continue to run today. I consider constructing my own business plan to be my greatest achievement so far. After participating in the Junior Achievement of New York Business Plan Competition and receiving feedback from the judges, I developed my own service business, thus turning my dream of being a young entrepreneur into a reality.
Being a Junior Achievement Student Ambassador has built upon my interpersonal, public speaking, presentation, and communication skills. I have also developed new skills and expanded existing ones. I have promoted Junior Achievement’s values to students of all age groups in order to increase the number of financially literate students heading to college. This school year alone, I have actively participated in the 2016 Annual Leadership Awards Gala, JA Mobile Finance Park, JA New York Celebration Event, and the JA New York Board of Directors Meeting. At this board meeting, which was held at Goldman Sachs, I served as a representative for student needs to attract more students to Junior Achievement programs. The highlight of my year as an ambassador occurred when I spoke on behalf of Junior Achievement student participators at the 2016 Annual Leadership Awards Gala as Junior Achievement is the world’s largest non-profit organization that educates students about entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
As far as my future goes, I plan to attain my bachelor’s degree in Accounting & Finance at Baruch College and attain an MBA afterwards. I wish to stay active with Junior Achievement as my goal of having every student financially literate will never fade until it is actually achieved.”
Kayele Spencer, 2017 Graduate of High School of Economics and Finance
“High school in general has been a roller coaster of emotions. Each year brought on a new adventure and learning experience. Senior year, in particular, for me was filled with many emotions. The college process was stressful and there were times I wanted to give up. However, as a JA Ambassador, I was given the opportunity to attend events where I was surrounded by business professionals who reminded me about the importance of an education. Hearing about their journey and what their current job titles were encouraged me to push myself. What I loved the most was being able to network with people who had a different background than I did. I enjoyed telling my story and always laughed at the fact that no one ever believed I was only seventeen going on eighteen.
For the next chapter of my life I will be attending SUNY Oswego where I will be open to new adventures, new people and new life lessons. I hope that my journey allows me to further discover myself and that my love for business deepens. My joy for interacting with others has uncovered to me that I may want to pursue a career in Human Resources. Thank you so much, Junior Achievement, for providing me with the experiences that allowed me to become the me I want to be and admire.”