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Doubling Down on College Success: CA and JUMA Partner to Help Scholars Save Money for College

On Sunday, November 9th, two high-stakes battles were being waged at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. As the Saints and the San Francisco 49ers went head-to-head on the field, the high school students who hold jobs with JUMA Ventures competed against one another to see whether the boys or girls would emerge victorious at the end of the game. This week, the boys inched ahead, outselling the girls at the food and soft drink concession stands JUMA operates in sport and concert venues across the city, including the Superdome, the Smoothie King Arena, and Tulane University’s Yulman Stadium.

For the second year in a row, Collegiate Academies is partnering with JUMA Ventures, a nonprofit organization that provides after-school and evening jobs to high school students and matches their earnings to help them save for college. This year, ten students at CA’s three schools hold jobs through JUMA, and they are fixtures at home games across the city, selling popcorn, peanuts, soda, water, and ice cream to a steadily rotating group of spectators. “Coming to work is my favorite part of my Sunday,” says Devin Johnson, a junior at Carver Prep who started working with JUMA this year. “This job gives us responsibility and the feeling of being an adult. I have a lot of fun working here.”

Scholars who hold jobs through JUMA earn $7.25 an hour, with the opportunity to earn more depending on how many items they sell. Students decide independently what percentage of their earnings to put in a special college savings account; for every dollar that they deposit into that account, JUMA offers a two-to-one match, turning $1,000 into $3,000 for higher education. In 2013 alone, 751 students across the country participated in JUMA, and these students collectively saved more than $238,000 for college. On top of the hours they spend working at games, students also take part in a computer-based financial literacy curriculum and receive support from JUMA staff during the college planning process.

Mikeisha Mitchell, a senior at Sci Academy, has been working with JUMA for two years; this year, she began as the Youth Manager, which gives her additional responsibility to support her teammates. “I spend part of the game working at a cart, and then I check on the other students for the rest of the game to see if they need anything.” So far, she’s saved nearly $600. Mikeisha takes her job as Youth Manager seriously: “I started helping Wentrell [a junior at Sci Academy], and now she is on her way to becoming a manager. When you go into a job field, you have to interact with other people; this job is helping me get those skills.” Torrey Fingal, JUMA’s New Orleans Site Director, believes that the skills that scholars learn on the job will help them in college. “[After working with JUMA,] students will be able to stand out from the crowd because they know what it means to work with purpose.”

Tre Stigler, another senior at Sci Academy, has earned over $200 this year that he plans to spend on books and other supplies when he starts college next fall. Tre says that JUMA has helped him improve his leadership and management skills. “When I’m in college, I’ll need to manage my own schedule and take responsibility for my work. If we lack leadership skills in college, we lack the responsibility to push ourselves forward.”

Justine Modica, Collegiate Academies’ Director of College Completion, agrees with Tre. Since helping to launch CA’s partnership with JUMA in the fall of 2013, she’s seen many students benefit from the program. “One scholar in the Sci class of 2015 used to get frustrated with school work and take lots of breaks. Since joining JUMA, he has become a stronger leader and scholar. Last year, he became our scholar recruitment leader, and he got up in front of the entire sophomore class and talked about his experiences. He even had some of the most significant growth on the ACT, I imagine due in some part to his renewed sense of ownership over his future.” For Justine, the key to building relationships with organizations that provide resources for our students begins with a shared goal. Like Collegiate Academies, JUMA is committed to helping students develop the skills to succeed in college, and giving them the support they need to thrive. “One of the reasons our partnership with JUMA works so well is that there’s a lot of trust between folks on our team and the New Orleans JUMA manager, Torrey Fingal.”

When developing partnerships with new organizations that will provide resources for our scholars, Collegiate Academies focuses first on the fundamentals, looking for alignment in our missions and ensuring that our scholars will receive consistent support from the leaders of the partner organization. “Talk frequently with the people who are working most directly with kids,” Justine advises. “It’s really hard to determine how a program will play out until you start talking on a regular basis—this will give you a sense of what you each really need from each other in order to help kids grow the most.”

For kids like Devin Johnson, CA’s commitment to building strong and trusting relationships with partner organizations has been influential. “Working with JUMA gives you the skills to see that hard work really pays off. Every student should be a part of this program.”

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