Gary Silsbe was a dedicated volunteer for 36 years with Junior Achievement. He participated as an advisor to our Achievers and was a member of Junior Achievement’s Corporate Connections Committee; a committee whose members actively seek out volunteers from their workplace, and increase awareness of Junior Achievement in corporate Edmonton.
Gary first heard about the JA Company Program through his employer AGT, now TELUS, in the early 1980s. At the time, AGT put together a team of advisors annually to support the JA program. With a background in finance, Gary was sought out to be on the AGT advisor team. Not knowing what to expect from the program, he signed up as an advisor with some trepidation, but he was pleasantly surprised by the high calibre of the program and the students it attracted.
Over the years, Gary saw many changes within the program; it has progressed to keep up with technology, moved locations, and broadened its scope. But he noted that the essence of the program has always remained constant: at its heart are business advisors coming together with students to give them hands-on experience as they set up and run their own companies, and learning from their mistakes and successes as they go.
Because the JA Company Program is a high-impact program that targets a small number of students, each participant receives a tremendous amount of attention and is exposed to quality instruction. The result is that students in the program want to be there and are dedicated to doing their best.
What Gary wasn’t expecting when he began volunteering was how much fun he would have working with the students. He loved connecting with the younger generation to demonstrate how a business operates and watch them grow and take on responsibility. He often noticed how shy and quiet some students are when they start the program, and how much they can transform by the end of the year.
The students aren’t the only ones changed by the program; Gary said being involved as a volunteer has changed his life as well. Looking back, he recognized that he used to be shy and introverted. He said that volunteering as an advisor with Junior Achievement helped him develop stronger public speaking and presentation skills. Ultimately, he grew as a leader because of his participation and acknowledges the importance of that change early on in his career.
Having watched the program grow over the years, Gary felt it had done a good job of keeping up with business trends. Junior Achievement has adjusted and updated the programming to ensure the students exiting the program are prepared to move into the business world today. The program has evolved to be entirely cloud based, allowing students to access everything from home. Gary felt that by keeping its programming current, Junior Achievement will continue to attract the top students.
For Gary, the true strength of Junior Achievement is demonstrated by how many students, upon completing the program, return as advisors. He believed that speaks well of how the program is run and what people get out of it. When the business community is matched up with students, both parties learn a lot from each other, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Gary Silsbe passed away in late 2015. Beginning in 2016, the Gary Silsbe Endowment Fund will award a JA Company Program student a $2,000 scholarship based on their community engagement and leadership. More details will be posted on the JA Company Program student page.