JA Volunteer Uses Personal Experience to Inspire Students

Justine Waldron of Junior Achievement of Western New York, shared this story of Melissa Hagberg, a JA volunteer who used her own story of overcoming the odds to be a successful engineer. Melissa wrote a letter to the JA office in Buffalo to express her appreciation for getting to work with students.

"I usually work in a friend's classroom. My friend had told me how some of the kids with learning disabilities were struggling. I thought, 'wow I have a great opportunity!' I tell the students that in my job, I get to have phone conversations with people in China, Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, and more. They can see that you don't have to work in a big city to work with all different kinds of people and it becomes more real to them. "I then proceed to ask the students what they think I do. I have not had one student guess correctly yet. Most of the time the answers I get are assembly line, management, HR department and secretary. When they are done guessing, I tell them I work in product engineering as a drafter and that I went to school for civil engineering.

"The reaction is priceless, but still not as good as the one I get after I ask the next question: would you believe that I am dyslexic? Usually the room gets quiet and the students stare at me. I had a student once tell me 'you don't look dyslexic.' I had to laugh and responded 'what does dyslexic look like to you?' I then tell the students about my learning disability and that it wasn't easy, but I was able make it through school and achieve a lot in life.

"My last words to the students are that regardless of where they come from, or any problems that they may have, they can achieve great things--but it takes hard work. They say if you have one person that has motivated you in life you are a very lucky person. I am blessed. I have had several great teachers, family friends, grandparents and coaches that helped me become who I am. I thank you for the opportunity to work with kids and teach them about the global economy."

Thanks again,

Melissa Hagberg

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