By Lee-Ann Scott, Ottawa Volunteers in Education Program Director for ONFE
When I heard the name, Max Lane, the JA Ottawa volunteer I was to interview for National Volunteer Week, it immediately brought to mind images of a super hero. I was not disappointed!
Max got involved in JA Ottawa through his colleague Ben Felix at PWL Capital back in 2013. Max has a high regard for Ben and refers to him as a ‘serial volunteer,’ someone who is always helping others. Little did Ben know, true to his moniker, he helped Max by putting him on his own journey of being a serial volunteer, starting with JA Ottawa.
The Ottawa Network for Education’s JA Company program is a 15-week program that allows grades 9 to 12 students to learn business fundamentals and the art of entrepreneurship as they operate a student-led company. Because of this unique hands-on experience, students often apply their newfound skills to their education and future careers. Experienced volunteers from the business and financial field volunteer as mentors and get to know the students over the 15-week program.
Engaged to be married and soon starting a new adventure across the country, Max is an energetic young man full of life. Volunteering provides a refreshing and rewarding change of pace in his workday as an Investment Advisor. “Volunteering in the JA program allows me to give back to the community and give students an opportunity I wish I had and that is very rewarding. The experience complements my work success and is a great way for me to be a part of a success that is greater than what I can do on my own.”
Max recalls his first JA Ottawa experience delivering a program called JA Dollars With Sense to a congregated gifted class of students. “Delivering the JA program creates an environment to learn. You start with the scripted program but it can go into different directions of learning. The students in the gifted class asked very detailed advanced questions about business and finance. It was thrilling to be able to give them the freedom to direct their learning.”
JA Company at the Glebe Collegiate is run as an after school program. Any student in grades 9 to 12 can join, which provides a unique opportunity for students from different backgrounds, grades, and social circles to work together. “The Company provides an opportunity for a mix of students who wouldn’t normally connect,” says Max. “Together there is a common goal to learn about business outside the classroom. Some students have become friends because of JA.”
Max has mentored students in the program who are now graduating and he has seen their growth and potential. “I had the privilege of witnessing the learning of students who joined the Company in grade 9 who are now graduating. In their first year, their business floundered. The second year the students changed the product and they made 900 % profit. I had one student from grade 9 through to grade 12 who isa true entrepreneur, and started her own business selling paracord lead shanks online—she totally got it! JA was the environment to foster her skills and now she’s off and running. I am sure she will go very far in business. At the end of each Company program, the students give presentations to business community leaders who come to the school for the JA presentations. It means so much to the students to have this opportunity. I can’t say enough about the program. Every school should run a JA Company.”
Annabella Bergmame-Smith was delighted to provide a personal testimonial, “I can’t thank Max enough for being there for me these past four years and helping me develop greater self-confidence while always encouraging me to dream big. I am speaking for all of the JA students at Glebe when I say that he played an extremely vital role in our successes as people and companies.”
Max recalls how he did not learn about running a business until after he started working, “Growing up in academics, doing my bachelor’s degree in Math and then going for my master’s at the University of Ottawa, I didn’t really know what a business was. It wasn’t until I landed in wealth management and got to learn about our clients and how they made money with their various businesses and careers that I truly understood how to make a business work. I wish that I had had a program like the JA Company to help teach me what goes into making a business: the leadership, the delegation, and the hands on business skills that come with the actual experience. That’s why the JA Company has got to be one of the best programs out there for students who want to learn about these practices when they need it the most.”
When asked the question if he will continue to volunteer, Max quickly answers, “I will always volunteer after this experience!” Said like a true serial volunteer.
JA Ottawa inspires young people to dream big. We need your help to empower students with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to succeed. We currently have schools on the wait list for a JA Company program. To get involved, contact Albert Wong, Director for JA Ottawa at email@example.com.