A Big Leap from JA You’re Hired!

Posted in: Alumni Stories, JA Impact

Hear how Mary’s life has been transformed as a result of her participation in the JA You’re Hired (now JA Inspire) program:

It’s a story that begins in 2009 in an all-too familiar way. Mary, a young Latina high school student from an underprivileged community in South Phoenix, begins her senior year of high school. She’s faced with societal stereotypes and pressure from her family. But what isn’t typical is Mary’s ambition, drive and her commitment to exceed expectation. With hopes of being a first generation college graduate, and raising a sweet, infant son, Mary divided her time between a local public school and Metro Tech High School, an academic magnet school.

It was through Metro Tech that she had the opportunity to participate in Junior Achievement’s inaugural JA You’re Hired! program. Designed to prepare Arizona high school students with critical work-readiness skills, JA You’re Hired! equipped Mary with tools such as resume writing, mock interviews, and honing conversation skills through preparatory lessons delivered by a volunteer in the classroom.

Then, Mary was given the chance to apply these new skills with hundreds of others students at the JA You’re Hired! Challenge, where she participated in various workshops and even had the opportunity to interview for summer internships.

Mary remembers, “I was very nervous. I’d never had a job before, never completed an application, never interviewed. But I appreciated that the interviews were low-key, low-pressure; I preferred that model to a normal one-on-one, alone in a room.”

To Mary’s surprise, she was offered two summer positions, and eagerly accepted a position as an intern in the HR file room at the University of Phoenix. To ensure Mary was ready for her internship, she participated in weekly Saturday sessions with Junior Achievement to learn more work-readiness skills such as budgeting and presenting. She began her internship in June of 2009, and by August of that year, she had impressed supervisor in her capabilities and proved her readiness to enter the working world, and was offered a full time position.

“Without the JA program, I don’t know what I would be doing now. I’m really grateful because the program gave me the key to the door,” she says.

She’s confident she would have gone on to achieve her goals, but says that her experience with Junior Achievement gave her the extra push she needed to become the positive example she wants to be for her son. In fact, Mary’s mind was set on pursuing a position in the financial world, but with help from Junior Achievement, she realized her passion for HR and overseeing projects.

Six years later, Mary is still employed with University of Phoenix, where she now works as a HR Information Systems Analyst, after a series of promotions. She’s nearly finished with her Bachelor’s degree in project management, being provided to her at no cost by University of Phoenix. One day, she hopes to be the head of her department, “a big leap from the HR file room internship,” she emphasizes.

She hopes that her son, Michael, will get to experience Junior Achievement for himself in school, so that he, too, can also benefit from all that the Junior Achievement and the JA You’re Hired! program offered her.