Ken Kovacs: A JA Story.

Students are in luck if Ken Kovacs comes to their classroom to deliver a Junior Achievement course. He has lived such an interesting life and has so many stories to tell. He joined the military at the age of seventeen and served for 26 years in the logistics branch eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. During his military service, he travelled to many places including Israel, Dubai, Afghanistan, and Haiti.

When he left the military, Ken decided to pursue his interest in food and finances, and he took the two-year Hospitality Management course at NAIT. Ken especially liked some of the business courses he took at NAIT, so he furthered his business education through the World Financial Group (WFG) studying insurance, investments, and financial planning. He became a fulltime marketing director with WFG, and he finds his career very satisfying because his work involves sitting down with families and educating them about goal planning and finances.

Ken heard about Junior Achievement by chance. In November 2014, he was attending a meeting of the Business Network International (BNI) Heartland in Fort Saskatchewan, when a fellow member asked Ken if he could step in and teach a JA business class at short notice. Apparently there had been a cancellation, and an instructor was needed to fill the vacancy. Ken instantly agreed to help out, and two days later, he found himself in a Grade 8 class discussing spending habits, credit cards, and investments. He loved the experience, and during the last school year, he ended up teaching five JA courses in all to students in Grades 5, 8, and 10.

Ken finds that he can adapt his teaching style and explanations to suit the particular age group he happens to be with. He knows that interaction is the key to motivating the younger students who love to participate. Ken draws upon his hospitality background to construct scenarios, and he has no shortage of helpers when he tells students they are going to build a restaurant; they eagerly volunteer to be cooks, hostesses, servers, and bussers. Ken finds that older students are ready to accept his message of “Save before spending,” after he frames the financial situation from their perspective. For instance, Ken asks the students to consider how much money they would like to spend at Christmas. He then encourages students to consider their possible sources of income, including money that might be earned from an as-yet-to-be-started entrepreneurial venture.

Ken aims to teach one JA course a month, and he intends to continue volunteering with the organization for as long as his voice holds out. What keeps Ken coming back is that very few young people know how finances actually work, and he believes that the sooner we can reach students with real-world financial education, the better off they will be in the future. Ken’s enthusiasm has been contagious, and the World Financial Group has embraced his involvement with Junior Achievement. No fewer than 15 WFG agents have signed up to teach JA courses! WFG’s mission is to teach families how money works so that they can achieve financial success, and Ken thinks this philosophy aligns perfectly with Junior Achievement’s focus of preparing young people for success in a global economy.