Globe-Trotting Volunteer Spreads JA Mission

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For a passionate advocate of economic development, an association with Junior Achievement seems natural. But for one New York native a JA introduction required a 4,700-mile trip to the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria. Devin McGrath shared his impressions with Amanda Sattler, executive vice president of Junior Achievement of Southern California.

McGrath graduated from college with a desire to make a difference in the world. He enrolled in the Peace Corps as an economic development volunteer and traveled to picturesque Berkovitsa, Bulgaria. There, he was involved in different community projects and programs. Eventually, he discovered Junior Achievement.

"It sounded to me like Junior Achievement was teaching students every practical business skill," McGrath said. "It turned out to be my most successful project while in Bulgaria."McGrath began his JA work with students, helping to start a cooperative with local tradesmen and crafters. The student business was named "Original Craftsman Berkovitsa (OCB)," and the goal was simple: to export unique hand-made items from local artisans to Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, and across the world. They also would later partner with another JA school in Toronto to import Canadian goods, as well.

The young people involved with OCB immediately grasped the concepts and what needed to be done. OCB became profitable shortly after, with a 185-percent return on their first stock offering."

Being involved with Junior Achievement has been one of the proudest experiences of my life, not just because of the business fundamentals the students learned, but because of the leadership, confidence and communication skills they grained through the program," McGrath said.

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