Published January 2001

Business people return
to class — to teach

By Kimberly Hilden
Herald Business Journal Assistant Editor

For five years, Bill Reith has been teaching Snohomish County children about the free-market economy and the role business plays in that economy. He has taken abstract concepts such as “marketing” and “social responsibility” into eighth-grade classrooms and given those phrases real-world depth. And he has been able to do that with the help of his real-world business experience.

Reith is an accountant with Hascal, Sjoholm & Co. in Everett. But for about 10 hours every school semester, he takes on another role, standing in front of a classroom as a volunteer for Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound.

“I really enjoy that type of thing,” Reith said about his Junior Achievement gig at Lakewood Middle School. “I left there the other day charged.”

What’s so satisfying, he said, is bringing economic reality into the classroom by relating to students’ everyday lives.

Using curriculum provided by Junior Achievement, Reith teaches “Enterprise in Action,” a program geared toward eighth-graders that focuses on the United States’ economic system, including a section on organizing a business and producing and marketing a product.

“We actually do one project, and the kids love this, where we analyze the profit and cost of producing hamburgers,” he said.

“The kids are able to see that they may make 11 cents per hamburger, but multiply that by thousands of hamburgers, and it becomes a viable business,” said Reith, who also is a Junior Achievement board member for the Snohomish County region.

Since 1953, volunteers like Reith have been teaching children about the values of free enterprise, business and economics through Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound, which is part of Junior Achievement Inc., a nonprofit economic education organization that is active across the United States and the world.

The organization has created curriculum geared toward every grade level, from the youngest elementary students to graduating seniors.

Kindergartners, for example, learn about working and earning money, the value of money, teamwork and consumer choices through a storybook and related activities in curriculum titled “Ourselves.”

Sixth-graders learn about international issues such as countries and their resources, trading, foreign currency and exchange rates in “Our World.”

And high-schoolers gain an understanding of micro-, macro- and international economics in “JA Economics.”

To teach, volunteers go through a two- to three-hour training session, said Torque Zubeck, Snohomish County Regional Director for Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound. The time commitment varies depending on the grade level, with elementary-school volunteers making about five visits a semester and high-school volunteers making about 10 visits.

“The majority of our volunteers are from local businesses,” Zubeck said. “Boeing is our No. 1 supporter in the area. We also have people from Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Everett Mutual — all of the banks — and (CPA firms) Moss Adams and Hascal, Sjoholm.

“We have quite a bit of support from BF Goodrich, teaching as well as Job Shadowing,” Zubeck said, referring to another Junior Achievement program in which students visit a job site and “shadow” employees for a couple of hours. “Verizon just hosted a Job Shadow (and) is a big supporter of Junior Achievement locally.”

Last year, Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound served more than 12,000 students in more than 60 Snohomish County schools — at no cost to the schools or teachers that requested the program, Zubeck said, adding that the organization does not receive government funding, relying instead on donations, a handful of grants and fund-raising efforts.

“A lot of companies invest in Junior Achievement because they see the value,” Zubeck said. “We also do a lot of fund-raising. We have the Bowling Classic in spring and had 4,000 bowling for us, raising over half-a-million dollars last year. We have a golf marathon, auctions, the typical stuff that you would see with nonprofits.”

Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound is always looking for more classroom volunteers, Zubeck said.

For more information, visit the group's Web site,

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