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Highland Rotary Club Helping to Put Elementary Students on Path to Success

Holly Brooker reads to students in kindergarten Shawn Zarafa speaks with Grade 5 students


The Junior Achievement (JA) program is continuing to grow at Highland Elementary School (HES), thanks to a long-standing effort by the Highland Rotary Club.

JA is a nationwide program designed to inspire young people and help prepare them to succeed in work and in life. The program helps students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to plan for their futures and make smart academic and economic decisions.

The JA lessons presented to HES students focus on the areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. The curriculum is taught by Rotarians and other community volunteers who are recruited by the service club. Living up to their motto of “service above self,” the Rotarians volunteer to visit classrooms each week for five weeks to teach students through presentations and hands-on activities. All lessons are aligned with federal and New York State learning standards and are tailored to each grade level, K-5.

“The lessons are practical and fun, and are delivered in an age-appropriate way that really helps students understand the concepts that are being taught,” said Holly Brooker, a volunteer who is both a Rotary member and a Highland parent.

Brooker, who has been teaching a Kindergarten class basic financial literacy concepts such as “wants” versus “needs,” earning, and saving was involved in JA as a high school student and then worked part-time for the nonprofit organization after graduating from college. She says the experience has had a positive impact on her life, and she is happy to see the elementary school program thrive in Highland through the strong partnership with the Rotary.

In fact, the JA program at HES has grown so significantly since being introduced 20 years ago that it is now being taught in nearly every classroom in the building. Steve Laubach, the Rotary’s membership chairman and the group’s former president, attributes the program’s success in large part to the steady support of Highland administrators and faculty.

“We are extremely appreciative of Superintendent Joel Freer, Principal Matt Darling, and all of the teachers for helping to keep the momentum going and allowing us to expand the program over the years,” Laubach said. “The kids love it, and the volunteers love it. It’s a win-win!”