On behalf of Junior Achievement of Greater Baton Rouge, I felt compelled to respond to The Advocate’s Oct. 12 article, “Dropout rate aid needed, PAR says.”

Junior Achievement has worked with Baton Rouge area students and educators for the past 56 years with programs in work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

The statistics for our community regarding student dropouts are indeed a worthwhile focus for our community leaders. Studies show the reasons students decide to end their education without graduating are complex; however, one reason is students have a difficult time connecting what they learn in the classroom with their lives.

No one can deny the decision to end their education is a life-altering event for the student in limiting future workforce opportunities, knowledge, confidence and overall well-being. The impact on our local economy is also felt.

Every day, Junior Achievement works passionately in partnership with our dedicated network of business volunteers and educators. JA programs directly link classroom learning to real life.

Although the problem is large in scope, collaboration and optimism are key. Educators cannot meet this challenge alone; we can and must all participate to impact this reality. According to the CityStats report for Baton Rouge from 2010, more than 71 percent of people in our community said they volunteered in some way that year. A community must come together to address community challenges.

Junior Achievement volunteers have found success in the workforce and share their experiences and beliefs about education and business with students. JA reinforces the value of an education and the importance of educational attainment.

In recent high school program evaluations, an average of eight out of 10 students report that Junior Achievement programs helped reinforce the importance of staying in school. Sixty-seven percent of JA alumni report that JA made them realize the importance of staying in school. In longitudinal studies, JA students were significantly more likely than their peers to believe they would graduate from high school, pursue postsecondary education and graduate from college.

We agree that commitment from our civic leaders to meet this challenge is necessary, but this is only one piece. The community can immediately influence our students’ beliefs about education through Junior Achievement and their own life experiences as a part of this community. Volunteers are critical connectors in helping students see their decisions about their education, its relevance and their own future possibilities.

Junior Achievement volunteerism is a way our community can make an impact in students’ beliefs about education.

Kathy Arnes, president

Junior Achievement of Greater Baton Rouge & Acadiana Inc.

Baton Rouge