Barb Hlus: A JA Story.

Barb Hlus refers to herself as “a Jane of all trades” because she can turn her hand to so many things. She has an accounting background dating back to high school when she did a work experience program through the TD bank. She then took the education program offered by the Canadian Institute of Bankers as well as the management-training program at the bank. After this preparation, she worked as a senior assistant manager at various branches of the TD bank until her third child arrived.

Barb has always been very active in her community. She has served on several school advisory councils, and is an executive leader in the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton. She was a member of a women’s investment club that met to study the stock market. She is involved in the cultural community, and, as a former Ukrainian dancer, she helped to choreograph the dances. She used to design and sew her own clothes, and, that way, she could always be certain that no one else would be wearing the same dress as her! Barb is a lifelong learner and has continued to take courses in interior design, investment, and accounting.

Barb first became aware of Junior Achievement ten years ago when she noticed that a JA course was being offered as an elective at Austin O’Brien, the school her children attended. However, it was when her daughter’s friend recommended the JA Company Program that her third child, Tetiana, decided to sign up for the eighteen-week program at the downtown central office. Tetiana was involved with the Company Program for three years and did extremely well. She earned awards for The Rookie of the Year and Achiever of the Year and later worked at the company’s downtown location as a JA centre lead. Tetiana has just finished her Bachelor of Commerce in Human Resources Management at MacEwan University.

When Barb saw the type of programming that JA courses offered — instruction on budgeting, business plans, and audits — she knew right away that she wanted to get involved with the organization. With her accounting background and her many life experiences, she knew she had a great deal to offer the students. Barb has also been a lifelong advocate for youth development in all walks of life — personal, business, family, and church — and so volunteering for JA made perfect sense.

Barb has been a volunteer for two years now and has taught Grades 4, 8, and 9.

Barb likes teaching the Grade 4 “Technology and Innovation” program because the students get a chance to exercise their creativity. After challenging the children to come up with a new invention, Barb has noticed that the children produce their best ideas if they are able to think about it for a little while. To give them the necessary thinking time, she finds that the four-hour course works best if it is split up into three separate sessions. With four Grade 4 classes at the school, Barb is often there for a month at a time, and students think she is a regular teacher.

Barb has also enjoyed teaching the Grade 9 program “Economics for Success” because it is about real-life budgeting, preparation she thinks that the students really need. Students contemplating leaving school and moving out on their own get a reality check when they have to make their $1200-a-month budget stretch to cover all of life’s necessities.

Barb’s oldest daughter, Namisha, is a licensed hair stylist and makeup artist, a singer, and a retail assistant manager. Her son Jonathon is completing a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and would like to work in sports psychology. Her husband Brian works as a manager in government affairs and relations.

Barb intends to keep volunteering with Junior Achievement because she finds that students need practical business information, and the JA courses offering hands-on, real-life learning fill a niche in the school system. She believes that by volunteering to teach JA courses, she can give back to the community and play her part in preparing students for the future.