Guest column: John C. English, Junior Achievement 2012 Business Hall of Fame

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Photo by Photographer: Sebastien Girard

By the time I graduated from high school, I could solve some pretty impressive calculus equations. I headed off to college where I would learn how to apply those math skills to physics problems. By the time I received my engineering degree, I could calculate the angular momentum of a satellite circling a planet, given their masses, distance of separation and velocities.

I was ready to be an engineer in the real world.

I was not ready, however, for the business side of being an engineer. Soon after being hired by a consulting engineering company, I was pleased to successfully complete my first engineering project. Then I found out that although I had made my "deadline" (by pulling an all-nighter at the office with my team), I completely blew the project budget by using too many staff hours.

Budget? Too many staff hours? I came to realize that without managing the business, there would be no raises, no promotions, or worse, no engineering company.

I started out behind the curve on business operations and management. I spent years hustling to learn and grow in those areas of the business. School had prepared me academically, but I personally had not found a serious exposure to what it meant to run a business.

Prior to getting involved with Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida (JA), I did not realize that there was an organization whose focus was to reach out to school-age children to teach them about how business works in the real world.

Looking back, I wish that I had been exposed to JA as a student. JA provides programs that teach young people about economics and free enterprise, personal finance and job readiness. The programs focus on three pillars: financial literacy, work-readiness skills and entrepreneurship, with the importance of staying in school — a basic premise of all three pillars. During the 2011-12 school year, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida reached over 11,000 students in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties at the elementary, middle and high school levels. By teaching financial literacy (interpretation: basic old-fashioned economics) and job readiness, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida provides the foundation that is needed for our future generations to succeed.

Our goal this year is to reach even more kids, but as a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization, we can't continue to grow and teach our children the economics of life without the support of our community. There are many ways to support Junior Achievement, such as making a donation, volunteering at an event or in a classroom (which I promise is really fun!), or becoming an event sponsor.

Currently, sponsors are needed for the 2012 Business Hall of Fame, Collier County event, at which Junior Achievement will recognize two of our region's most exceptional role models and entrepreneurs: Richard Akin of Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida and Phil McCabe of Gulf Coast Commercial Corp. The proceeds will directly benefit Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida and its programs.

The dinner and awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 30 at the Waldorf Astoria, and there are many ways you can participate. Sponsorship opportunities include Silver Sponsors at $1,800 for tables of 10, including two JA students, and Bronze Sponsors at $900 for tables of five including one JA student. Additionally, sponsors are needed to support student admission at $125 per ticket. Single tickets are available for $250. Interested businesses and individuals may call (239) 225-2590 for details.

Please join me in attending this prestigious event to honor two outstanding business leaders and help support JA programming in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties.

To attend, make a donation or volunteer in the classroom, visit www.jaswfl.org or call (239) 225-2590.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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