JA Alumni Story: Colleen Jennings-Roggensack

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“Without a doubt, I use the skills I learned in JA when working with my staff.” It’s not always easy to assimilate into a new community, but Junior Achievement programs can provide a challenging and fulfilling environment as a means to connect with others.  For Colleen, it was this environment that resulted in the leaderships skills that continue to benefit her today. 

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack grew up in a military family and her father’s new job with Ford Motor Company led her and her family to Detroit.  It was her first time living in a major urban setting and Colleen’s mother thought she needed some community involvement to help her adjust.  Junior Achievement instantly came to mind being Colleen’s brother, Carl, and sister, Cheryl, had both been involved in Junior Achievement programs.  It had a major impact on Cheryl, providing her with the skills to serve as an economic advisor to Mayor Washington in Chicago and international work in Paris and Bahrain.  Colleen hoped to gain an equally strong skillset through JA. 

Colleen participated in JA’s Company program, allowing students to start and run an entrepreneurial business after their school hours.  She and her JA associates developed a business where they created, canvased, and sold wall hangings and peace signs to members of their community.  Through learning about business plan creation, return on investment, and establishing territories, Colleen was able to develop the critical thinking and teamwork skills necessary for success in her future. 

Above all, though, Colleen said that “JA taught [her] about leadership, making sure that it is collective and not from the top down.” She learned that it’s important to discover the strengths of your team members, utilize them, and ensure that they are recognized for their strengths to make them feel important and respected for their contributions. It’s through this technique that “you make sure that the ideas come from all over.” 

Colleen has great memories of her time with Junior Achievement and appreciates having had such a supportive environment to practice her business skills.  Her participation reinforced her parents’ philosophy that all business leaders have a duty to prepare today’s youth to succeed in work and life. She is thankful for the opportunities Junior Achievement provided, and still utilizes those skills in her work today. Colleen’s story is a testament to the support and confidence that Junior Achievement has and will continue to provide for students throughout the country.