By Molly Moser
In a classroom at St. Mary Immaculate Conception (SMIC) in Guttenberg, seventh and eighth grade students are gathered into small groups. The room is abuzz with conversation; students alternately cheer and groan. Classroom volunteer Diane Bieber races from group to group, passing out cards that represent various cash values, and students cross items off a shopping list as they are able to make purchases. At the end of the activity, the team with the most purchases and the most remaining money wins the game.
This is Junior Achievement, a volunteer-delivered, K-12 program that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, harnessing experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and to equip them with the skills to make their dreams reality.
SMIC principal Steven Cornelius became familiar with the program during his 36-year career as a principal in Dubuque. “Junior Achievement (JA) is so beneficial to our kids. All of my Dubuque schools participated,” he said. Cornelius connected with Bieber, who retired to Guttenberg in 2012. “I mentioned JA and she just sparked. This was something she really wanted to do.”
“I volunteered with Junior Achievement while working for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Cedar Rapids. After retiring to Guttenberg in 2012, I discovered that JA wasn’t available in the area so I contacted Father Bries and Mr. Cornelius, the Principal at St. Mary's, about starting the program here,” Bieber said.