Written by Russell Fisher, JA Ottawa volunteer for 20 years
When I started with the Ottawa Network for Education in 1999, I really did not know what I was getting into. Twenty years, and many sessions later, the children and classroom experience still impress and enthrall me.
My origin story begins like most volunteer experiences – a friend needed some help and I was available. In this particular case it was to present a day program to a grade 8 class. At the time, I saw it as a small way to give back to the community – a small time commitment where some kids would appreciate a fun day off from their regular schedule. And while the program was that for the kids, for me it became much more.
After the session, I was speaking to some of the students, and I began to truly understand the impact that the program, and that we the volunteers, could have on them. One girl in particular still stands out. She sat in the front row, in a bright pink, velour, track suit. Her goal – as disclosed by her to the class – was to drop out of school at 16 and work at her cousin’s hair salon.
After we had presented our Economics for Success program, she made time to come and see us. She said that our presentation had changed some of her ideas. She thought that she would try to finish off high school. She said dropping out of school might not be a good idea.
I do not know if she completed secondary school, but I like to think that we made her think about it. And I know that the JA program made her reevaluate her decisions.
Participating in the ONFE programs is something I look forward to. I hope the conversations, discussions, and presentations will cause the children to pause, think, and foster new ideas and new lines of thought. To some this may seem unlikely, even laughable. But I have seen its impact. And I know the value it can bring.
Since I started, the JA program has grown and evolved. Now sessions are presented in multiple schools across several grades. There are also programs geared to high school students to help foster an interest in business.
Support at the corporate level also continues to grow. In the last session where CIBC and JA collaborated, we organized a volunteer crew of 27 people to provide a classroom experience to Ottawa youth. It is this sort of ongoing support and commitment that makes me proud to stand in front of a group and tell them I work for an organization like CIBC.
I call on everyone to stand up and try to add value to their community. The programs are fun, and the rewards gratifying.
Russell Fisher, CFP®, FCSI®, CIM®, RRC®
Senior Financial Planner | CIBC Imperial Service
Getting involved in JA Ottawa is easy—and so rewarding. onfe-rope.ca/our-work/ja-ottawa/