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How to Connect with Students as a JA Volunteer

Building Connections with JA Students

Adult volunteer asking a question to a group of elementary school students in a classroom

Image caption: Unlock potential! Use these tips to connect with students in a JA environment


1. Introduce yourself

Plan an introduction or icebreaker game to introduce yourself. It helps build a connection and makes students want to engage. Share a bit about yourself, such as your name, profession, and why you're passionate about volunteering with JA. Your enthusiasm and authenticity will help students feel comfortable and eager to learn from you.

Sharing a personal story can be a powerful way to connect with students on a deeper level. You could share a story about a challenge you faced in your career or a moment of success that taught you an important lesson. Personal stories humanize volunteers and make them relatable, fostering a sense of connection and inspiration among students.

2. Set a positive tone

Your enthusiasm is contagious! When you show genuine excitement about the topics you're teaching, students are more likely to be curious and engaged. Share personal stories or examples that highlight the real-world relevance of the concepts you're discussing. Use your passion to fuel their interest.

3. State learning objectives

Remember: Students need to know why the content is relevant and how they will use it in real life. Relating the content to your own life makes it more relatable for students

4. Determine prior knowledge

Every student comes to the classroom with a unique set of experiences and knowledge. Some may already have a basic understanding of financial literacy or entrepreneurship, while others may be completely new to these concepts. By taking the time to assess their prior knowledge, you can tailor your approach to meet the needs of each individual student.


Elementary student sitting at desk, smiling at the camera

Image caption: Build rapport, foster engagement, and boost confidence while volunteering!

5. Use students' names

It may seem like a small gesture, but it can make a significant difference in building rapport and creating a positive learning environment. Try your best to learn as many names as quickly as possible. Have the students write their names legibly on the JA-provided name tents. 

6. Geek out! 

Do not be afraid to go down the rabbit trail with a kid by discussing a topic that interests them. Create a safe space where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Ask open-ended questions, invite them to share their knowledge, and celebrate their contributions.

7. Use positive reinforcement

Say, “Wow, team 3 is working really hard together, and they have a great plan in place for their presentation.” You have praised the high-performing group and reminded the less engaged teams what you expect.

8. Try fun attention-getters

Ask your teacher if they have any "callbacks" they use regularly in class. If not, feel free to use the following: 

  • "If you can hear me, clap once" Students clap once
  • "Marco!" Students say "Polo!" 
  • "I need your voices off and your eyes on me in 5,4,3,2,1" 

As a JA volunteer, you have the incredible opportunity to inspire and empower students on their educational journey. By taking the time to connect with JA students, you create a more personalized and impactful learning experience. Remember, every student's journey is unique, and making a connection, you can unlock their full potential.

Are you ready to make a difference in the lives of students? Sign up to volunteer today! 


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