Sheryl Wallace remembers her first Junior Achievement experience in fifth grade. At the time, she hadn’t been introduced to business or entrepreneurship concepts at home. So when her JA classroom volunteer began talking about ideas, innovation, business, and the importance of getting a good education, Sheryl took notice.
“My exposure to business was sparked, at that time, at a young age. Being inspired by education, wanting to grow and learn, and business concepts came to an intersection with JA.”
After finishing her secondary education, Sheryl went to the University of Minnesota for her degree, and then started her career at Cargill. Her employer was a strong supporter of Junior Achievement, so she began volunteering at a local middle school. Then life got busy, and she took a hiatus from volunteering.
While on a business trip to Singapore several years later, she attended a Junior Achievement event and saw how Cargill’s Asian communities were connecting with JA globally. She thought, “Wow, I miss it. I feel this void and I need to get reconnected.” When she returned to the States, she contacted Al Johnson at Cargill and asked, “What are we doing with JA these days? I’d like to learn more and see if there’s a fit.”
Sheryl is a firm believer that there are different signs in life. Junior Achievement was something she deeply cared about but had moved away from it due to other life priorities. Now she’s reengaged as a JA volunteer and on Cargill’s Corporate Council. “It’s been great to see Cargill’s involvement expand and the impact being made in our communities through JA.”
During a recent JA Job Shadow event at Cargill headquarters, Sheryl was inspired by the kids’ level of engagement and curiosity. They asked thoughtful questions about Cargill job opportunities, toured the trade floor, and learned about technology. “It was fun for the kids to experience business firsthand. It brought the working world to life.”
She believes it’s important for students to visualize themselves being successful. She’s hoping that as a JA volunteer she can ignite that same spark with students that someone lit within her 30 years ago. “I’m hoping that I can touch one life, maybe a dozen lives, to inspire kids. Knowing that you can give them the confidence to make a difference is a pretty special experience.”
For Sheryl, JA fostered an environment that helped her get engaged, learn, and build confidence and she hopes to give back by creating similar experiences for students through her volunteerism. During a recent JA Job Shadow, she had an emotional moment reflecting on the impact JA has had on her both as a student and as volunteer. “In the world that we face today, we must provide opportunities enabling everyone to be successful, to bring out their potential, to leverage the gifts that they have. This will make a difference!”