As an educator, Diane Lefebvre highly recommends that every student in northern Alberta needs to participate in Junior Achievement. Having participated in the Company Program as a student herself, she recognized the value of the program and as an educator, brought it to her own students. Diane has spent 9 years as a teacher, and now works as a Technology Consultant for the Edmonton Catholic School District.
Diane remembers being in 9th grade when a Junior Achievement staff member visited her school to talk about the Company Program. Thinking it sounded like an exciting new challenge, Diane decided to take part in the program. She looked forward to the opportunity of meeting new friends outside of school. Diane took part in the Company Program for two years, producing hand-painted light switch covers, and hand-painted Christmas ornaments.
Diane recalls that her first year was not as successful as she had hoped it would be, but also admits that was part of the reason she wanted to return for a second year. “I wanted to challenge myself to do better, I wanted to take my experience of knowing what didn’t work and create something that did.” She says one of the most valuable lessons she learned was that even if you fail, you get up and you try again.
The perseverance and drive that Diane gained from the program were skills that she hoped her own students would develop. In 2009 Diane took it upon herself to act as Company Program advisor to a group of students at the all-girls junior high she taught at, the Jean Forest Leadership Academy. Through the two years that Diane led the program, she was in awe of what her students managed to accomplish.
Her first group of students produced t-shirts to raise awareness about a charity for Muscular Dystrophy, and gave all of their company’s profits to that charity. Diane was so proud of how socially conscious this group of students was at such a young age.
Her second group of students produced organic hand-lotion, and had the opportunity to compete in The Big Pitch – a Junior Achievement competition where students’ present their business plans to a panel of top-level business executives in the community. Diane reflects on that time as a great period of growth for those girls. “That experience helped a lot of those kids break out of their shell, and the confidence that they displayed in that moment was incredible.”
Diane admits that it was a completely different experience working as an advisor for these students than it was teaching them. “In the Company Program, you don’t want to give students all the answers. You want them to be able to figure things out for themselves. And it’s difficult to step back because you don’t want to see them fail. But you just have to get yourself in the mindset that even if they stumble, they are still learning such valuable lessons.
Diane says that her time as a student in the Company Program was one of her best memories in high school, and participating in it was one of the best things she’s ever done. As for her experience as an advisor, it reaffirmed her belief that the program really does help prepare students for the future. “The practicality of the program is huge for the kids. The skills that they learn puts them steps ahead of most people.”
Diane has also had some of Junior Achievement’s in-school programs into her classes. She believes those programs are just as valuable to young students as the Company Program is to high school students. “The knowledge that kids gain from JA’s programs provide a solid base for the skills that they will need to succeed in the work world, and provide a great springboard for their future.” She continues to be an active advocate for Junior Achievement programs in the Edmonton Catholic School District, and in the Alberta Education system.
Diane urges people to take the initiative to spread the word about what Junior Achievement provides students. She says “every student needs to take part in a Junior Achievement program. People think the entrepreneurial spirit is just about making money, and it’s not. It’s about taking a risk and challenging yourself. Being innovative. Trying to decide how to make things better for people. How do we improve our environment? How do we improve our society? It’s part of our goal in Alberta, to make those improvements. And the Junior Achievement programs are a way to get there.”