By: Amanda Cuda

To see Amanda Cuda’s article on the Connecticut Post, click here.

Bernadine Venditto, president of Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County.

Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County / Contributed photo

On the internet Dec. 11, 2021

BRIDGEPORT — A $255,000 grant to Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County could go a long way toward helping Bridgeport students become better and strong leaders, said the program’s president.

“Obviously we’re thrilled by it,” said Bernadine Venditto, president of Bridgeport-based Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County, in a news release. “What the grant will allow us to do is grow and continue to reach more kids.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim recently announced that Junior Achievement was receiving the grant, which is funded by the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act.

“If we want Connecticut students to compete in the global economy, we need to equip them with entrepreneurial, financial literacy, and career readiness skills,” Himes said in a statement.

The funding will be distributed through the City of Bridgeport in payments of $85,000 over the next three years.

Venditto said one of the main things the grant will be used for is to help Junior Achievement develop and implement a new year-long middle school leadership program. She said the program will, among other things, teach these students basic financial literacy and give them insight into a possible career.

“It helps them to understand (basic concepts such as) credit versus cash and ‘What is debt?’” Venditto said

Another piece of the leadership program is JA Inspire Virtual, a sort of virtual career fair in which students can pilot avatars of themselves through a series of career “booths” set up by various employers who are partnering with Junior Achievement.

The grant will also help support programs that the local Junior Achievement is already doing, including partnering with other organizations for various events. Venditto pointed to the recent Manufacturing Career Awareness event — which was designed in collaboration with The WorkPlace and was attended by approximately 140 high school students from seven area schools — as an example.

Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County aims to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade to succeed through programs focusing on financial literacy, work and career readiness, and entrepreneurship. It is part of the larger Junior Achievement organization, which has 104 chapters across the country.