Why I Volunteer: Karen Czack

Posted in: Volunteers

Karen Czack is the VP of Global Chip Products at American Express and Chair of the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement, Central Arizona. She recently contributed the below Q&A for her employer’s intranet. A great opportunity to hear from someone in the business community why she chooses to volunteer her time and expertise to JA:

In addition to being the Chair of the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement, I help lead American Express’ Junior Achievement partnership program in Phoenix. American Express sponsors five elementary schools in the area and all American Express employees have the opportunity to volunteer to teach the Junior Achievement curriculum to children who attend these schools.

Each year, approximately 200 American Express employees, including five coordinators who organize the classroom assignments and train everyone, volunteer with the program. It’s a huge effort!

What do you do?
I recently taught “Junior Achievement, Economics for Success” to 7th graders. The curriculum focuses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness, all of which I think are essential skills that help one to have a highly fulfilling and high-quality life.

Why Junior Achievement?
I first learned about Junior Achievement in 1997 when I joined American Express. I was impressed by its impact. The efforts of Junior Achievement directly affect our community’s future, as the curriculum supports the development of students to be our future constituents — employees, customers and shareholders.

What surprised you the most about this experience?
The majority of the students in my class had never heard about budgeting or saving money for a rainy day. It was very apparent that parents were not teaching this — nor the other topics covered in classes — to their 12- and 13-year-olds.

One of the students shared this with me:

“I want to be a Chemical Engineer after college. JA was very fun and taught me that I will need to save hard because I will need over 4 years of college. There were so many lessons on how to prepare for life and save my money and use it first for needs, not wants.”

Needless to say, this was a rewarding experience for me.

Why is this cause important to the community?
Junior Achievement educates young people on business and economics, helping to improve the quality of their lives. Volunteers help to develop:

  • The desire in young people to value education and stay in school
  • Positive attitudes in young people toward work
  • Business and education partnerships that create a bridge between the classroom and the workplace