PHOTOS BY Allison Norgren 
Kayla Douvier (back left) leads Mrs. Jeanne Bellefeuille’s (back right) third grade class in the Junior Achievement program, which teaches kids about entrepreneurship, money and business.
PHOTOS BY Allison Norgren Kayla Douvier (back left) leads Mrs. Jeanne Bellefeuille’s (back right) third grade class in the Junior Achievement program, which teaches kids about entrepreneurship, money and business.

Who does not love a good episode of “Shark Tank,” where millionaires and billionaires invest in the next new invention? And, who enjoys seeing a 5-year-old with a lemonade stand on a hot summer day? What do both of these have in common? Entrepreneurship, defined as the act of starting a business or enterprise and often taking on financial risk to do so. 

Enter into the equation a national program, Junior Achievement, which is preparing elementary students at Holy Family School for their future. 

Thanks to a grant from the Sauk Centre Area Community Foundation (SCACF), the financial literacy and work-readiness program launched for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. 

The Sauk Centre area is seeing a workforce shortage and the Junior Achievement website cites 49 percent of United States employers say lack of talent is their biggest hindrance. 

Felling Trailers co-owners, Pat and Brenda Jennissen, heard about the renowned program through Sara Carlson, the executive director that assists SCACF, while discussing the need in Sauk Centre for financial literacy classes for younger students. After months of research and planning, the SCACF offered the program to both the Sauk Centre Public Elementary School and Holy Family School. Holy Family School accepted the opportunity to start this spring. The Jennissens could not wait to get started. 

All course material is provided and includes discussion and hands-on activities. Sessions are typically 30 minutes to one hour. The program is also unique in that it is taught by volunteers; 14 taught this school year’s sessions.

“We had all of our classroom volunteer slots filled in less than one month,” Brenda said. “In fact, we had additional volunteers who agreed to be on the Sauk Centre Junior Achievement Advisory Board and graciously turned two other volunteers away because slots were filled.” 

Volunteers come for five sessions, either over a five-week or two-and-a-half-week period. The main theme that builds in the curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade is teaching students the importance of education and the many career paths available following high school graduation. Financial literacy is also a theme throughout the classes. 

“After the first day, our kindergartner told us, unsolicited, that she learned about choices and the difference between wants and needs,” Brenda said. 

The Junior Achievement USA website boasts over 4.8 million students were exposed to Junior Achievement classes in 2016-2017. A core to the program is “belief in the boundless power of young people.” Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest has served students in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin since 1949. This school year it will reach more than 163,000 students in grades K-12 with subjects on financial literacy, career and college readiness and entrepreneurship education. 

With most of the sessions complete for the school year, Brenda said the feedback from teachers and students has been fantastic. The students, volunteers and teachers have all enjoyed the opportunity to have the Junior Achievement curriculum in their classroom.

Jeanne Bellefeuille has enjoyed hosting Kayla Douvier, of Central Minnesota Credit Union, to teach to her third-grade class. 

“I like the idea of having community members come into the classroom and teach the students about what is happening in our town,” Bellefeuille said. 

Similarly, Andrea Kerfeld has been shocked by how enjoyable and informative the program has been. Kerfeld teaches Robin Kamphenkel’s class.

“I was worried the subject matter would be over their heads, but they get it,” Kerfeld said. “They ask questions, share their family’s personal experiences and are retaining this info week to week. It’s definitely never too early to learn these skills and concepts.” 

According to Brenda, many of the students have asked for Junior Achievement classes to be taught everyday. The Jennissens’ 10-year-old daughter has been discussing starting her own summer businesses. 

With the success and excitement surrounding entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work-readiness, Sauk Centre might have a few more Shark Tank inventors and lemonade stands in the near future. 

The Sauk Centre Junior Achievement Advisory Board hopes this marks the beginning of a strong partnership in the community. Anyone interested in being a JA volunteer next year or who would like to financially contribute to the JA program in Sauk Centre, contact Brenda or Patrick Jennissen, brenjennissen@gmail.com or patrickjennissen@yahoo.com.