A woman and child holding a workbook
Kids love learning about financial education – you just need to get on their level.

That’s what Heather Eades-Yuenger and Nicole Wangberg discovered when they partnered with Junior Achievement North to bring financial education curriculum and Affinity Plus volunteers to elementary schools in Grand Rapids and Bemidji, respectively.  Supported by funding from the Affinity Plus Foundation, Heather and Nicole are making financial education fun for kids across the northland.

“We’ve received an amazing response,” said Heather, in her third year spearheading Junior Achievement in of Grand Rapids. “Watching those children light up, the retention, the excitement – it’s great to watch it all come together.”

Junior Achievement North integrates financial education, career readiness, and entrepreneurial curriculum into students’ education. It’s important to equip students with these skills, so they’re better able to unlock their potential and enrich their lives. 

Through the Junior Achievement curriculum, the elementary-school students get age-appropriate lessons. The kindergarteners, for example, learn the basics about where they live, what region they’re in, and how all the pieces of a community work together. 

“It’s really neat to come in for the next session and they start telling us about what they’ve learned and what they’ve seen since the last time we met,” Heather said. 

Nicole brought Junior Achievement to 3 classes in Bemidji in the spring of 2023, and it was an immediate hit with the students and the teachers. The Bemidji volunteers worked with one kindergarten class and two fourth-grade classes, and said the students were interested and involved in the lessons.

“We would do our lesson at the beginning of the session and then they break off to do the activity,” Nicole said. “It’s really fun to see them engage, whether it was coloring or writing, they eager to answer the questions, and each one wanting to show you the work they did.”

Both Nicole and Heather said, with additional funding from the Affinity Plus Foundation, they planned to expand Junior Achievement for students in their communities, with potential for more volunteers and more classes interested in getting involved. And with Minnesota now legally requiring financial education before graduation, Junior Achievement is more relevant than ever.

But as important as financial education is, it’s also key to make the connections with students early on so they get comfortable asking questions and knowing there is support out there for them.

“We’re excited to see this program grow", Nicole said. “It’s already had a big impact with employees being able to connect over the curriculum. Kids remember you.”