During the Fall semester, HBS volunteers and the freshman students from Cambridge Ridge and Latin School (CRLS) worked together to compete in the state wide Junior Achievement (JA) Titan competition. The culmination of everyone’s hard work was 14 CRLS teams reaching the semi-finals in December.
Started in the spring of 2002, the partnership between HBS and CRLS took on a new level of commitment by both parties this fall. Junior Achievement was incorporated once a week into the CRLS students’ schedule for the first time, rather than being an after school program.
Over 70 students in School 2 were supported by 55 HBS volunteers from the EC and RC cohorts throughout the semester and competition. The volunteers taught basic business concepts using mini-cases and served as advisors or consultants to the student teams competing in the JA Titan competition.
The JA Titan competition is a computer-based simulation that places 8 teams from various schools in Massachusetts into industries where they battle for the top ranking. Much like Crimson Greetings, the students must make investment decisions, evaluate market characteristics, set prices, determine production quantities, and attempt to predict their competitors’ strategic moves.
Moon Lee (OI), one of the leaders behind the foundation and growth of the program had this to say about the fall program, “We were very excited about the opportunity to have official class times each week dedicated to JA but we were also nervous about the responsibility that placed on us. The volunteers did an awesome job of committing to the program and making the students at CRLS their top concern. The program was a terrific success and now that we have done it we know we can continue to improve and grow. Having 14 teams make the semi-finals was great. Our goal now is to get a team to the finals.”
It would seem that getting a team to the finals will be quite an accomplishment. In the fall competition over 150 teams competed state wide from grades 9-12 and only 8 teams reached the final. To get to the finals, a team must place in the top 3 in their industry during the first round of competition and then win their industry outright in the semi-finals. Moon said, “This fall our students and most of our volunteers were new to the program and competition. We know that a lot of the other schools have student teams that have been competing for several years now. That said, we had several CRLS teams finish breathtakingly close to getting through to the final.”
Winning has a big reward for students as they move to MIT to compete in the finals. They can bring home cash prizes of $500 a person and a new computer for their school. This years CRLS industry winners and semi-finalists were honored during an award ceremony involving volunteers, parents, and faculty. The dean of School 2, Debra Socia, explained, “JA is a great program for CRLS because it gives students another avenue to be challenged, succeed, and be recognized for it. Last year one of the kids that won carried his trophy around for a week showing everyone. More important than any of that is the mentoring the volunteers provide for our students.” In speaking with Dean Socia it was also clear that she was very impressed with the concepts the students learned and their ability to grasp them. She said, “I overhear some of the conversations the students have and I can’t believe the language (business words) they are using. They are debating and discussing business concepts I know I hadn’t heard of when I was a 9th grader and I still don’t think I know some of them.”
When Moon was asked about the future of JA he said “The volunteers have had a tremendous impact on the students at CRLS from our own observation and what CRLS is telling us. We want to go back this spring and continue to build on the foundation we have built, increase the size of the program to incorporate another school if possible, get at least one team into the finals, and secure the future of JA. The students at CRLS are energetic, smart, and capable of doing their part. To do our part, we are going to need additional volunteers from both the RC and EC cohorts and leaders from the RC class to run JA next year.”
If you are interested in learning more about JA, being a volunteer during the spring term, or running JA next year please email Moon Lee or Brandt Pyles.