Two decades ago, several Rotary Central members joined forces to start a programme that they instinctively knew would have a positive impact on the lives of Cayman’s youth; 20 years and more than 10,000 young entrepreneurs later, Junior Achievement has proven those instincts to be spot on.
That original group of forward thinkers included Pat Holmes, who became the first JA President; Pat Randall; Hartmann DaCosta; and this year’s incoming Rotary Central President Ravi Kapoor.
The idea of helping Cayman’s youth started with DaCosta, who was head of Rotary Central’s Vocational Services. Holmes took that idea and ran with it, and was instrumental in establishing the structure of the programme. Now living in Canada, his contribution to JA continues to be recognised and applauded.
Randall, JA’s second president, recalled Holmes’ efforts to get JA launched.
“He was the real driving force behind the establishment of Junior Achievement in the Cayman Islands,” Randall explained.
“Pat researched the subject, visited a JA office in Hamilton, Ontario, and organised the first meeting. He also arranged for employees of JA in Hamilton to visit Cayman to help organise and to teach the advisors.”
Holmes continues to take an interest in the programme after all these years, despite living in Canada.
“I was so pleased to see that JA has continued for 20 years after Hartmann DaCosta and myself started this programme for the youth of the Cayman Islands while members of Rotary. I find it remarkable that the various events and trips that we started 20 years ago continue to be part of this wonderful programme.We wish you all the success and another 20 years of operation,” he said.
The stated mission of Junior Achievement is to ensure “that every child has a fundamental understanding of the free enterprise system by educating and inspiring young people to value free enterprise, business, and economics in order to improve the quality of their lives.”
To say that JA has gone from strength to strength since its first years may sound cliché but the incredible number of success stories calls out for that description. In the inaugural year of 1991, JA began with 61 students working in three companies and assisted by 11 advisors. The 18-week programme that just ended for this school year involved 192 students, 124 volunteers and 12 sponsor companies.
Corporate Cayman has been a huge supporter of JA and sponsors over the years have included PwC, Global Directories/CI Yellow Pages, CIBC FirstCaribbean, CITCO, dms Organization, Dart, Rotary Sunrise, Marsh Management Services, Crusader International Management Ltd, Butterfield Bank, Rotary Club of Cayman Brac, Cayman National, Maples FS, Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort and Royal Bank of Canada.
Randall praised the involvement of JA’s sponsors. “I am very impressed by the great spirit of volunteerism in our community and would estimate that on a per capita basis we have more people from the business community involved with Junior Achievement than in any other community.”
Looking back over his long association with JA, Kapoor’s favourite memory is when he was an advisor to a JA company formed under Deutsche Bank sponsorship in 1998. The students worked hard to put together a 90-page business planner, which included pictures of Cayman, local recipes, notices of special events throughout the year and colour photos marking each month. The original 250 copies sold out quickly and, as more people saw the planner, orders totaling 5,000 flooded in, but, at that point, the students couldn’t produce any more.
Kapoor said this example demonstrates that there is a place for smaller companies in Cayman. “JA has proved over the years that when people say we cannot manufacture or produce something in Cayman, there are niche markets to target here. You just need imagination, and do your due diligence and costing and you will see that certain things can be done locally.”
A perfect example is the cookbook, “What’s Cooking in the Cayman Islands”. Authored by Phyllis Bush of North Side and originally produced in 1992, it is still a product JA sells today as a fundraiser. The three versions of the board game Caymanopoly, first produced in 1992, then again in 1996 and 2006, have also all been overwhelming successes.
In addition to the many benefits that thousands of students have enjoyed through their involvement in JA companies, the organisation continues to expand and improve what it can offer to Cayman’s young business minds.
In 1997, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce became a strategic partner, providing a permanent office and administrative support which allowed JA to develop and expand its youth programme offering.
The Chamber has long been committed to JA and CEO Wil Pineau assisted with public relations efforts as early as 1992, so is well aware of how important this initiative has been for Cayman’s young people.
“Junior Achievement is one of the most valuable and effective youth development programmes in the Cayman Islands,” Pineau said. “JA empowers young people to own their economic success. I have enjoyed watching students who participate in the programme enter the world of work with important practical skills that benefit themselves and the community.
“JA’s future depends on the active involvement of businesses and volunteers who commit themselves to share their time, talent and treasure with our youth.”
Past Chamber President James Tibbetts has also enjoyed a long relationship with JA, including a lengthy stint as president. “In 1995 Hartmann DaCosta‘suggested’ that I become involved in Junior Achievement and I obeyed,” he recalled, adding that he was working for Texaco at the time, which then sponsored several award-winning JA companies through to 2003.
“I have enjoyed my years as an advisor and director doing many company tours with the governors of the time (and my camera). It has been a great experience and provided much pleasure.
While not all the students were enthusiastic, there were enough of them that were very motivated to perform, learn and achieve to encourage optimism for the future of the Cayman Islands,” Tibbetts said.
In 2002, Junior Achievement introduced “Business Basics”, a classroom-oriented programme designed to help young people better understand how a business works. Now known as Economics for Success, hundreds of students take part every year, as well as in a business ethics class, which was started in 2011 that focuses on making ethical decisions in both business and in life. These two classroom programmes are now a cornerstone of JA with 40 volunteers participating every year to teach as many students as possible.
In 2011, the business community stepped up in a major show of support for JA with the launch of the Junior Achievement Corporate Ambassador programme. This initiative called for a group of sponsors to each commit to an annual $10,000 donation for three consecutive years. These guaranteed funds will enable JA to continue to operate and fulfil its commitment to the youth of the Cayman Islands.
The JA Corporate Ambassadors for 2011-2013 are Rotary Central; Ministry of Education, Training and Employment; Ministry of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture; HSBC; Caledonian Global Financial Services; Maples; BDO; FruzenBerry Café; and the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.
This May, JA launched the Pat Randall Award to honour his great contributions to the programme over the last 20 years. The first recipient was Jason Foster from Cayman Brac. Going forward, Randall will be refining the criteria for the student award.
“At this stage, this is not complete but I am hoping that it can be awarded to the student who has shown the most improvement during the company programme,” he said, adding, “Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Junior Achievement is to see a young man or woman who may not be academically inclined and may lack self-confidence but who finds an aspect of the company programme, which suits his or her own skill set, such as marketing or sales and who blossoms as the year progresses.”
JA President Paul Byles has been involved with the programme in various capacities over the years, so has seen firsthand the life-changing benefits that so many young people have enjoyed by participating.
“Junior Achievement has made significant strides over the past two decades,” Byles explained.
“As president, I am especially proud of the tremendous growth of the programme and the stellar support provided by Rotary Central throughout the years. The various advisors, volunteers, board members and parents should all be proud of the significant impact Junior Achievement has had on the youth of the Cayman Islands.
“In all my years involved with this programme, be it as a board member or in interviewing students for the vice president of finance award, I have never met a student who has not demonstrated that they have benefited or grown in some way as a result of Junior Achievement”.