JA Company Program Students Give Back

The staff at Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas in Houston recently shared the story of two JA Company Program students who raised money to buy books for a local hospital--even though they could have used the money for themselves.

Each year, students in the JA Company Program learn how businesses function and the structure of the U.S. free enterprise system. George Bush High School seniors Chelsea Perez and Kelsey Vargas decided to make their company a nonprofit organization.

"From the beginning both Chelsea and Kelsey spoke about giving back and helping the youth of Houston. Both girls are economically challenged and really could have used the money they raised for college, but they said, 'These kids need us; as youth of the Houston area, it's our responsibility to take care of our own,'" teacher Chris Cipolla said. The students focused their nonprofit mission to bring comfort to hospitalized children, raising money to donate books to the Memorial Hermann Children's Unit.

The girls' goal was to make sick children feel special. Chelsea and Kelsey raised funds by asking for donations from local businesses, community members, and their high school peers, as well as by hosting face-painting at school and local events. On April 28, 2015, Chelsea and Kelsey fulfilled their organization's mission by taking the books they bought to the hospital, where they interacted with some of the young patients they sought to help. The girls were surprised by the strong response to their work.

"At first we were taken aback with all the attention we were getting, but when the nurse and doctor started to talk about how much the kids needed the books, we felt more at ease, and that what we did really could make a difference," Chelsea and Kelsey said.

This desire to make a difference drove their community-service oriented company. For Chelsea and Kelsey, the choice was easy and rewarding.

"Our message is that anyone can make a difference. We are two girls who come from humble beginnings that have hopefully brought some joy to children in need. Our challenge is for others to respond and either use their time, helping hand, or money to help people. There are so many wrongs in the world today, it feels really good to be a part of something good," they concluded.

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