Dedicated. Passionate. Inspiring. These words describe Ruslyn Nanan, a longtime volunteer with Junior Achievement. Ruslyn’s curiosity was piqued many years ago when she was working at CIBC and discovered that the bank had a policy that only managers were eligible to volunteer for JA. As soon as this volunteering opportunity was opened up to the next level of employees, Ruslyn jumped at the chance to participate, and from the moment she taught her first class, she was hooked.
Ruslyn now works as the branch manager with the Royal Canadian Bank at Manulife Place in downtown Edmonton, and she appreciates what a strong corporate sponsor the institution is. This year, Ruslyn liaised with the JA committee to coordinate RBC day in May, arranging for the bank employees to deliver 27 JA courses in a single day. Ensuring that there were back-up volunteers ready to take over in case of illness or unforeseen circumstances was quite a feat, but the day was a resounding success. Ruslyn feels her hard work was well worth the effort because she was able to recruit new volunteers and spread the word about how valuable the JA programs are.
Over the years, Ruslyn has taught many classes, but the Grade 9 program, Economics for Success, is a clear favourite. Because she knows the program inside out, Ruslyn is able to focus all her attention on the classroom dynamics and adapt her style to suit different situations. She loves interacting with students on the verge of young adulthood, and she loves the challenge of keeping them engaged.
Ruslyn knows that at the beginning of the full day Grade 9 course, she has to work extra hard to convince some students about the value of staying in school. She motivates students by telling them that many ideas for multibillion-dollar companies like Google and Facebook came from the younger generation. Because she is respectful and listens to everyone’s opinion, the students soon open up and are ready to share their own experiences and to heed her advice. Ruslyn considers that she has accomplished her mission if she changes the course of just one student’s life for the better.
Ruslyn has brought both of her sons into the classroom because she has found that they are great icebreakers and are able to reinforce the message about the economic advantages of staying in school. Students listen when Kyle, 30, tells them how he persevered and finished his first degree at a time when his friends were all leaving to work in the oil fields during the economic boom. Then when the bust followed a few years later and his friends went back to school, Kyle had a good steady job as an occupational therapist. Because he travels frequently, Kyle is not able to volunteer as often any more. However, Ruslyn’s 23-year-old son, Keegan, a blue seal chef, has stepped up. Students really relate to Keegan because although he looks so young, he has fascinating real-life stories to share about the food business.
Besides volunteering with JA, Ruslyn is also involved with raising funds for United Way and the Stollery Children’s Hospital. An empty nester, she is never short of things to do because she has so many interests and hobbies. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, especially old movies, and she has fun going golfing and dancing. She also has a keen interest in soccer and cars, and enjoys attending the Vancouver International Auto Show.
Ruslyn believes in JA’s vision and mission and considers that her life has been greatly enriched by her involvement with the company. She derives such a great sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction from delivering JA programs and interacting with the students, that she has absolutely no plans to stop when she retires. She loves being part of the great chain of volunteers and mentors, and she loves inspiring others to continue this worthy tradition.