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Sacred Heart Students Help Junior Achievement Teach Business Concepts at Trumbull School

Touchpoints bring program to life in a physical and visual way to facilitate learning

Top row: Pat Eknoian, Anthony Christian, Matt Day and Joe Larocca. Bottom row: Jay McEachern, Professor Tuvana Rua, Alex Ferris, Montgomery Gray, Allan Zilnicki, Braden Hearney and Jasen Ricciardi.

Fourth- and fifth-graders at Daniels Farm Elementary School gained insight into the future when 13 students from Sacred Heart University’s Business Administration Club visited recently to assist Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County in a one-day experiential teaching session.

The SHU group was led by Prof. Tuvana Rua, advisor for the BA Club, while Senior District Manager Meg Melagrano served as JA’s point person.

Junior Achievement helps guide students in grades K-12 on financial literacy, career readiness and innovation. It had created and was teaching a curriculum at Daniels Farm school when, six years ago, Rua got involved as a parent volunteer through her daughter, who was then a student there. The following year, she got BA Club students involved and began to create and inject collaborative activities that helped bring the curriculum to life. Experiential components include board games that help demonstrate the supply chain process, expenses, revenue and costs.

“Kids learn through doing, and every year the program has grown beyond what JA first offered. At the beginning of every year, we review the program, brainstorm and enhance it to make it more fun. Our students assist in making the material more accessible and easier to use, through the activities, PowerPoint slides and online quizlets. A highlight is a spelling competition interacting with a rock-climbing wall onsite. We also do a mini business idea competition at the end of the day,” explained Rua.

“Sacred Heart students volunteer, which serves SHU’s community service mission. And they can put the all-day experience on their résumés. They benefit by learning leadership, polishing their presentation skills and solidifying their own learning and knowledge through teaching. This can be a great conversation-starter in a job interview, as they might literally be sitting across a JA alum. Plus, they feel like rock stars at the end of the day,” Rua remarked, with regard to how SHU students benefit from their participation. “At the same time, kids in the program get their first business experience and get to ask their mentors about their college experience.”

Junior Achievement has been delighted with the partnership, according to Melagrano. “Older students mentor the younger, who see volunteerism in action. They add a burst of energy to the program. And the physical activities migrate to desk work to apply terms and concepts. The rock wall, for example, is a really innovative way to activate initiatives and helps kids visualize our concepts,” she said.

John Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Daniels Farm, agrees. “This is a great opportunity for my students to have college students come in and instruct them. They are in training for the real world and have a different perspective than us veteran teachers, who were starting out 20 to 30 years ago. Our Trumbull students are also extremely up-to-date on technology—all of them have Chrome books—so there’s a good synergy with tech-savvy SHU students. That’s such an important aspect of education these days,” he shared. “And this is like an in-house field trip and opportunity to engage in real-world learning, and for my students to start thinking about what they can do in real life.”

Sacred Heart’s students are equally charged up. Junior Pat Eknoian, president of SHU’s BA Club and an accounting and finance major, said it’s been a great interaction for him. “It’s fun to be off campus, and JA has been a commitment for me for the past three years,” he said.

The elementary students enjoy it, as well, like one high-minded fifth-grader, who commented, “It’s very intriguing to see what Sacred Heart students are accomplishing. You realize that you have to work hard to reach your goals. They teach their ideas more physically than verbally. We’re learning about entrepreneurship and the importance of having good skills to earn a good income.”