Junior Achievement: A Legacy of Volunteerism

When Will Kennemur graduated from Clemson in 2013 and moved back to his hometown of Columbia, he knew he wanted to get involved and giveback to the community he loved. Throughout his life, his mom, Mary Kennemur, had instilled in him the importance of community service and helping others.

Sadly Will had lost his mother in 2012. Mary Kennemur had been a successful businessperson, volunteer and philanthropist with a tireless commitment to helping others. Her motto was  “To whom much is given, much is expected.” She gave wholeheartedly to her community serving on the boards of the University of South Carolina, the SC Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of the Midlands, the Girl Scouts of South Carolina and Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.

Mary was also a huge supporter of Junior Achievement (JA) of Greater South Carolina. Her career in the financial services industry provided her with an understanding of the importance of educating students about work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. So in 2013, Will reached out to his neighbor, Kathy Simmons, JA’s Program Director, to offer his services as a volunteer for the organization.

JA’s unique approach allows volunteers from the community to deliver its award-winning curriculum while sharing their experiences with students. Volunteers truly embody the heart of JA. They transform the key concepts of JA lessons into messages that inspire and empower students to believe in themselves and show them they can make a difference in the world.

JA found the perfect volunteer placement for Will. For the past three years he has been teaching “JA Our Families” to first graders at Heathwood Hall, his alma mater. “I love kids and volunteering with JA is a great way to give back to my old school.  It didn’t take long for me to move from being a stranger to Mr. Kennemur. Now the kids are full of questions about Heathwood when I was here. And there is no better feeling than to be greeted with smiles and hugs as I walk around campus,” shared Will.

“JA Our Families” is a five-part program that introduces students to entrepreneurship and how family members’ jobs and businesses contribute to the well being of the family. After participating, students are able to describe the similarities and differences in families; categorize needs versus wants; describe jobs people do; analyze their skills to find ways to help their families; and identify goods and services provided by local businesses. The final session pulls everything together. Students become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses

Will has witnessed firsthand how the program makes a difference. In a recent class, he had a student who often interrupted and didn’t seem to pay attention. By the end of the program this student had learned so much. “He developed an amazing business plan for a cake business – he really got it! It was so rewarding to see this kid understand and apply the concepts we had been working on. It made it all worthwhile,” said Will.

In addition to his volunteer work with students, JA also invited Will to serve on its Young Auxiliary Board. “This has been an amazing opportunity for me. I have met lots of folks that I would never have met otherwise. We help to recruit volunteers and to fundraise at events like the Bowl-A-Thon that is coming up on January 16th. We also have an opportunity to interact with the board of directors. Some day I hope to serve on a board and this opportunity has given me insight into board service,” shared Will.

Will encourages others who enjoy working with kids and want to make a difference to volunteer for JA.

“They make is so easy for volunteers. I know exactly what is expected of me. I am provided with a great curriculum with all of the tools I need to teach my classes. And while I am in the classroom I also have the support of the teacher.  It is good to know there is someone there just in case. You know first graders have a lot of energy,” chuckled Will.

Mary Kennemur would be so proud of her son and the legacy he is creating for the next generation.

For more information about volunteering for Junior Achievement of Greater South Carolina visit http://centralsc.ja.org/ or call 803-252-1974.

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