Susan Bendle: A JA Story.

Susan Bendle’s career in banking began in 1981 when she accepted an entry-level teller position at CIBC. She is now a senior financial advisor for the Canadian Western Bank (CWB) and has been working for the institution since July 2000. Although Susan puts in long hours at CWB, volunteering for the Junior Achievement school programs is a high priority for her. She makes sure she sets aside time for JA activities because she believes that the business community has a vested interest in ensuring that students stay in school. She has discovered that the JA programs allow her to play her part in emphasizing to students how fundamental education is to their future success.

In 2015, in addition to delivering JA school programs, Susan was pleased to be able to participate in the interviews for the Company Program scholarships. Whenever possible, she also makes a point of attending the annual Junior Achievement Alberta Business Hall of Fame event.

Susan wanted to participate in a program that promoted financial literacy for youth. Fortunately she managed to connect with JA, and for over ten years, Susan has taught financial literacy courses to students in Grades 3, 8, and 9. Then gradually she began focusing her attention on the program she most enjoyed presenting: the Grade 9 Economics for Success, a full-day program which she is able to deliver about five times a year. Her familiarity with the program means that very little preparation time is needed, and so she can be called upon to step in at short notice if need be.

Susan has seen firsthand how students benefit from the real-world situations presented in the Grade 9 program. Through guided exercises, Susan encourages students to think through the difficulties of surviving on minimum wage. Susan has also added a few activities of her own to complement the course. For example, before she introduces the realistic budgeting exercises, Susan motivates the students by playing a modified The Price is Right game featuring groceries and hygiene items.

After completing a preliminary budget, students receive a sample paycheck and need to recalculate their monthly expenses. Susan takes advantage of this eye-opening moment to engage students in discussions about how expensive it is to live on your own, and what it means to run a deficit. She emphasizes that constantly being short of funds is a very unpleasant situation to be in; friends will definitely not want to keep lending money, and they will eventually disappear. By dealing with real-life financial issues before they leave home, students are prepared and can take steps to forearm themselves by staying in school.

Susan’s enthusiasm for the JA programs is contagious, and she has convinced several other colleagues to volunteer. Her daughter, Joanne Bendle, also volunteers for the Grade 9 in-school program. Although Joanne is a fulltime student enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce degree at MacEwan University and also works part-time as a teller, she nevertheless finds time to help out with JA programs.

To balance the long hours spent at the office, Susan enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, and going for frequent walks. On weekends and holidays, she travels to Lac Ste. Anne, a wonderful family retreat, that Susan has enjoyed since she was two years old. She treasures the time she spends at the lake relaxing with her large extended family.

Susan has every intention of continuing to volunteer with JA because the organization’s core values of inspiring students to reach their potential align with her own beliefs. In addition, Susan loves the dynamic atmosphere and the energetic and enthusiastic staff at JA, and she always looks forward to lively interactions with the students. Susan is truly a dependable, dedicated volunteer!