How Helping Others Helps You

As an aging (but in my mind, youthful) basketball player, one of my favorite plays is the “give & go.” During this play, you pass the ball to a teammate (“the give”), then you fake your defender, run towards the basket, receive a pass from your teammate (“the go”), and are rewarded with an easy basket.

This issue of SpaceCoast Business highlights the 2012 Junior Achievement (JA) Business Hall of Fame inductees. These are local business and community leaders who are outstanding role models and ambassadors for JA, an organization that focuses on educating young people in grades K – 12 about the U.S. free enterprise system. The main focus areas of the classroom programs are: workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and economic empowerment.

In 2011, Junior Achievement of the Space Coast conducted more than 200 classes for 8,600 students. Also, more than 200 community and business leaders participated as classroom instructors. Volunteering as a JA classroom instructor reminds me of the “give & go” play. You give of your time and knowledge to help young people and in return you receive many valuable benefits. I would like to provide my Top Eight list of the rewards (“the goes”) of being a JA classroom volunteer.

  1. Learn New Skills – trying to keep a classroom of 25-30 elementary or middle school students fully engaged and interested for 45 minutes will motivate you to develop your presentation skills and reinforce the value of meeting preparation. (Also, you quickly learn to never turn your back to the class or tell “bad” jokes.)
  2. Re-energize your Career – after spending an hour per week for 7 weeks teaching a group of intelligent and highly motivated high school students about ethics, economics, or careers you will view your career in a whole new light. You will be surprised at the improvement in your energy level and positive attitude.
  3. Touch a Student’s Life – one of the best feelings in life is to have a young person tell you that something you did for them or said to them many years ago had a positive influence in their life. You have the chance to make this happen every time you enter a JA classroom.
  4. Community Involvement – we are very fortunate to have a warm and helpful community in Brevard County. JA provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate this same spirit to our young people.
  5. Have Fun – all JA activities are very interactive and the students learn by doing. There is a JA activity that requires students to work in an assembly line environment to make a pen. There is a production goal and a quality control checkpoint. Do you remember the episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy works in a candy factory? Yes? Well, now think about 28 students trying to work together to meet a production goal with pen springs and cases rolling around the floor. There are no dull JA classes.
  6. Impact Local Schools – JA allows you to make a positive impact on our schools and to meet some of the hard working and dedicated professionals in the Brevard Public Schools system.
  7. Family Connections – one of the most rewarding experiences for me was to teach my own children and their friends in a JA class. Most importantly, it allowed me to discuss with them the many beneficial aspects of the business world and ways it positively affects them. On a lighter side, it gave me the opportunity to “show off” for them and to get to know their teachers and friends better.
  8. You Never Know (Career Transitions) – Sometimes, your career moves in unpredictable directions. One day, you are a business professional and the next day a new opportunity presents itself. In the future, maybe the skills and experiences you gained as a JA classroom volunteer will help you move into a rewarding new career field.

Give & Go, Yin & Yang, The Circle of Life – whatever you call it, there is real power in helping others and the benefits you receive will far exceed your volunteer efforts.

Tim Muth is the Director, Student Assessment in the College of Business at Florida Institute of Technology and teaches several undergraduate and graduate business courses.