Junior Achievement (JA) USA is an exciting organization dedicated to expanding education and employment opportunities for America's youth. For over 100 years, JA has brought community leaders and entrepreneurs into a classroom setting with school-age children to impress upon them the importance of gaining an education.
The organization was started by the heads of AT&T and the Swathmore Paper Company to help train young people to become productive members of the workforce, and "work readiness" remains one of JA's three pillars to this day. (The other two are "financial literacy" and "entrepreneurship.”)
JA programs are designed by educators and align with core curriculum standards. It links what students learn in the classroom to real work experiences. This is key because children often feel that what they learn in school has no bearing on real life. JA offers programming from kindergarten through 12th grade and bridges that gap, showing students the power of education in real-world terms and empowering students to be in control of their financial futures.
When I was 14, I was a member of Junior Achievement in Kentucky. I took part in the "Take Stock In Your Future" curriculum, a five-session course designed to introduce the stock market. The course taught me the stock market basics, how it operates, and how current events impact it.
The highlight of this course was the Stock Market Challenge, a live competition pitting teams of students against each other in a stock trading simulation. We started with $1,000,000 to invest, and over the course of several trading "days," we could buy shares in fictional companies and trade or sell those shares depending on what was happening in the market each day.
To prepare for the competition, I started reading the Wall Street Journal to understand better how current events impact market forces. I brought what I learned to my team, and together we devised a plan to conquer the fictional market.
Each trading "day" in this competition was about 60-90 seconds long. We simulated two months in about 90 minutes. My team invested wisely, followed events closely, and strategically sold and traded. When the closing bell rang, we had won.
My prize was a gift certificate to the Spire restaurant atop the Louisville Hyatt. I got to take my family to dinner with my "winnings" from the market. I remember that evening fondly. Not only because the Spire had the best view in Louisville, with its rotating restaurant, but because there, with the entire city spread out before us, I felt the thrill of winning and the exhilaration of having conquered the market.
Today, as Rubicon nears its public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, I look back fondly on those days when I was a kid playing "stock exchange." I was just as driven then as I am now, and my desire to win has not diminished.
The JA program introduced me to the concepts of entrepreneurism, and I took those lessons and built on them, eventually starting a business that would invent the digital waste and recycling category and achieve a valuation of $1.5 billion.
Soon you will be able to invest in that company by buying shares, and you, too, could "win the market" by investing wisely and following current events.