What Junior Achievement Has Taught Me

Regions team members have been teaching financial lessons to youth for years with this national nonprofit. Read what three associates have learned from their volunteerism.
May 24, 2024 11:00 AM ET
Headshots of Regions' Frank Haig, Toni Jones and Dhiraj Sharma.
Regions' Frank Haig, Toni Jones and Dhiraj Sharma.

By Kyndle Huey and Kim Borges

For over 100 years, Junior Achievement (JA) has helped youth gain a better sense of how to manage dollars and cents.

So, volunteering with JA is a natural extension of Regions Bank’s ongoing work to help people build financial confidence. In fact, each year, Regions teams support JA through thousands of volunteer hours.

We’ve written extensively about this volunteerism. But now we’re turning the tables, asking three of our team members – and JA volunteers – what they’ve learned.

Toni Jones, Branch Manager, Kilgore, Texas, and Junior Achievement of East Texas Volunteer:

Tell us about your JA volunteerism. When and how did you become involved?
I’ve been involved with JA for about three years. Kay Carroll got me plugged in when they were seeking volunteers. I then joined the board. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to contribute and make a difference. This year, I participated in the Stock Market Challenge as a trader, which was a blast!

What has JA taught you?
It’s never too early to start teaching kids about money. Empowering students early is essential for their future success. I had to learn the hard way how to manage my finances when I was younger. If I can impart that knowledge to just one child, I know it will set them way ahead of where I was at their age.

Why do you think it’s important for Regions to support JA?
It’s crucial because JA equips students with financial literacy and life skills that lay a strong foundation for their future success. Witnessing those “aha” moments as students grasp the importance of money management is incredibly rewarding. By investing in their financial education, we’re fostering trust and loyalty and helping people recognize Regions truly wants people to be financially healthy. It’s a win-win for the community and the bank.

Frank Haig, Mortgage Production Manager, Midwest Area and Junior Achievement of Central Indiana Volunteer:

How long have you been teaching JA classes, and what do you enjoy most about it? It’s been 15 years. My favorite part is seeing the curiosity in a young student. They are present. They ask questions for understanding. I never know what questions will be asked. It’s fun.

What have you learned from your JA experiences? JA has shown me there are engaged students who are prepared and curious. They’ve made me want to share my knowledge, and their curiosity has made me a more curious person. I’ve asked more questions since being part of JA. That’s a very good thing!

Why does Regions’ support of JA matter? It’s important because the students are the future adults of our community, and financial literacy is lacking in our communities. It also offers our team members to live our core values.

Dhiraj Sharma, Data Management and Governance Manager, Hoover, Alabama, and Junior Achievement of Greater Birmingham Volunteer

Which JA classes/grades have you taught? What is your favorite part of teaching?
I have taught primarily to elementary grade levels (2nd, 3rd, 4th) and a few times at the middle school level. Without a doubt, my favorite part is the inquisitiveness – ideas of the children on what they can do with money. Most times, with elementary children, they start with the idea that having one million dollars is going to be sufficient; or, children tell us if they become a sports superstar or Internet influencer, then they will be the richest person on earth – they don’t understand what our tax dollars get them. Once you start taking about creating a budget, savings, different types or sizes of business, goods, and services, we talk about the value of what we get from our taxes then they light up with ideas. Children quickly understand the importance of doing the right thing, the value of saving, having a roadmap and pivoting as life, society and our world changes. That makes the classroom become fun.

What has JA taught you about the students the organization serves? About yourself?
Teaching JA personally has been a refresher on various aspects of good financial choices and the importance of planning, budgeting, saving, and divesting. I wish we had learned this in grade schools growing up but feel fortunate I learned by observing my parents at home and college. JA helps stitch a bigger picture of how individuals, businesses, banks, the financial industry and local and federal governments all tie in together to make our lives and society a better functioning place every single day.

Why do you think it’s important for Regions to lend support to JA?
Regions is a known leader, a key institution in banking in our footprint and is recognized for our mission of making a difference in the lives of our community, our associates and our stakeholders. So, it makes sense for Regions to help the community learn and improve their financial education.