Ian McDonald: A JA Story.

Growing up in Edmonton, Ian McDonald had always imagined pursuing a career in law or politics, but it wasn’t until he entered the Junior Achievement program in high school that he began to consider a different path. Junior Achievement introduced Ian to a wonderful group of caring and committed business-minded people who opened his eyes to the opportunities in the world of business. After two years in the program, Ian went on to complete a degree in commerce at the University of Alberta.

Today, Ian is a partner at Grant Thornton LLP, a leading Canadian professional accounting firm. He also uses his business acumen as the owner of a number of small businesses in the oilfield service and real estate sectors. Looking back, Ian attributes his interest in business directly to his participation in Junior Achievement.

In 1988, thanks to Ian’s strong leadership in Edmonton’s business community, Junior Achievement approached him about becoming a volunteer. He was eager to be involved because the program had been so influential in his life. Since that time, Ian has been an active and dedicated volunteer, sitting on the board from 1988 to 2007, and acting as board chair from 2006 to 2007. During his time as chair of the board, Ian was one of the founding funders for a fundraising campaign to establish and move the organization into the Junior Achievement Centre in the World Trade Centre, the organization’s current home.

As a Junior Achievement volunteer, Ian has spent countless hours in Edmonton’s classrooms since 1991 delivering enthusiastic programming to get youth excited about business. For over 20 years, he has partnered with same teacher, Darien McConaghey, to reach hundreds of students. A highlight of his participation has been watching the program expand into younger classrooms and seeing the excitement the elementary school children bring. Reaching younger generations is Ian’s major focus; he hopes to engage and excite them and encourage years of participation in Junior Achievement and the business world after graduating.

Ian believes the program excels in teaching students the basics of business so they leave with real-world skills. In the classroom, Junior Achievement students are presented with real-life case studies in which they solve problems, balance budgets, design marketing programs, and much more. “The only difference between a student business and mine is a few zeroes,” Ian explains.

Looking back on his time in Junior Achievement, Ian appreciates how beneficial it was to have a safe environment in which to learn and fail. He notes that he learned the most from his student businesses when they were failing, because that experience taught him to deal with adversity and work through hard times.

Ian is excited about the future of Junior Achievement and hopes to expand the program so it can reach and influence every student. He has big dreams of making the student experience even more robust by creating a realistic student commerce centre where students can learn to trade, invest, and work together in a real-world environment.