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Jin Schofield decided that Grade 10 would be the year that she put herself out there and tried something new.

The Thornhill, Ont.-based student had heard about Junior Achievement Canada’s Company Program, which teaches local high school students to launch and run small enterprises. It piqued her interest because, while Schofield was focused on getting top grades in science, her plans to become a doctor also involve dabbling in entrepreneurship.

She joined the downtown Toronto program and became a member of a team of 20 or so youth that created Stackd, a matchmaking platform that helps people create online gaming teams free of toxicity, racism and sexism.

“I was just learning in Grade 10,” Schofield says. “But I ended the year with a totally different perspective than [I had] at the beginning.”

Eager to continue meeting other students, collaborating and learning about business, the following year Schofield signed up for JA again, and served as vice-president of marketing for their student team. Their mission this time was to develop a solution for business and society.

The team created MarketAngelo, an online game that teaches young people about sustainable investing based on their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) values.

They built a website loaded with engaging information that helps users pick stocks of companies effecting positive change to invest in. The team secured $8,000 in corporate funding to offer rewards to players at a series of online events.

MarketAngelo won numerous awards, including Company of the Year in Canada and then for the Americas region, advancing to the JA Worldwide finals.

The JA students decided to continue MarketAngelo as a business venture and it continues today. Schofield, now 17 and in Grade 12, is CEO at MarketAngelo, updating the site and managing its events.

JA Company Program is a life-altering experience for young people. The program is led by business mentors and the skills students learn set them up for promising futures.

Mentor Larry Chan, who has been volunteering with JA Canada for 21 years, sees many students like Schofield pick up skills and perspectives not offered as part of their traditional classroom studies.

“It’s a game-changer for a student’s life, no matter where they came from,” says Chan, who works as an executive search consultant by day and helps run the downtown Toronto JA program that Schofield attended.

He says students from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds join Company Program – it’s free and inclusive which means anyone can take part. “We love that about the program,” he says.

Many of the students already work hard on academics, but the program fills a remaining knowledge and experience gap. “It’s a scrappy mindset we want students to understand. It doesn’t matter what their job title is, they’re running a small business, it’s all hands on deck,” says Chan.

For example, Schofield learned about cold-calling companies for funding and took a deep dive into ESG investing. “You’re forced to gain a lot of expertise in that field and stay updated about it. I found that really fulfilling,” she says.

Chan says today’s driven young people often focus on their schoolwork and seldom have after-school jobs. He thinks they’re missing out. But Company Program gets them speaking to adults and becoming experts in cutting-edge topics such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“They gain confidence in themselves,” says Chan, “and that comes from doing something new, seeing themselves out in the real world and collaborating with others.”

Chan sees what the JA program does for students. “They have enhanced outcomes. They reach their potential,” he says.

Students who may not have believed it was possible for them to run a business or have a promising future career path are motivated to pursue their dreams. They build their resumes and with the skills gained in the program, some even get into top schools as a result.

That was certainly the case for Schofield, who will be attending Princeton University in fall 2022.

“The program helped me understand what I valued most in the world. It gave me a certain wisdom and a better understanding of myself,” she says.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with JA Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.