Evan's Story - A JA Experience

 

Image caption: Evan Boesen

We believe deeply in the impact that the JA experience has on students, but hearing it directly never loses its meaning. Once in a while, we get a student testimonial that stops us in our tracks. Evan’s story did exactly that. In fact, we were so impressed with what he had to say and the amazing things he’s achieved that we asked him to speak at our recent JA of Lincoln Dinner & Auction, and the whole crowd got to see just what and amazing kid he is.

In his own words, here’s what JA alum Evan Bosen says his Junior Achievement experience meant to him:

Ah, elementary school! It’s supposed to be one of the best times in your life, and in all fairness, I had a pretty good experience: I was surrounded by kind teachers and I went to an awesome school (Sheridan Elementary)...but if I’m being truthful, my favorite part of the day was at 3:38, because I was moments away from running into the comfort of my mom’s arms, right outside the school door. We’d drive home, the place where I felt I could truly be myself. 

See, it wasn’t always easy for me. A lot of time as a young kid, I felt like an outsider. I was curious and wanted to talk about the world around me. I simply wanted to make friends with everyone I met. I had big ideas! I never thought about being “cool” or what that meant, which sometimes left me in the category of “dork” or “dweeb” from my fellow classmates. 

Most days, it was no big deal, but some days, I felt really alone. I even wondered if maybe something was wrong with me. Then, in the 5th grade, my perspective changed drastically after receiving a classroom visit from a Junior Achievement volunteer. 

That volunteer was different than anyone I’d met at school, and guess what? She was there to talk about all the stuff I found so interesting! Leadership! Marketing! Mock design! All the good stuff. It made me more curious than ever (so I’m sure I talked A LOT), but rather than making me feel like my questions were weird, she answered them with a warm smile and made me feel included...like what I had to say mattered. 

And maybe it did! 

“This is what it feels like to feel at home while at school,” I remember thinking. The gears were turning, too. I started thinking about some of my big ideas and imagining ways to bring them to life. 

Fast forward to middle school. Wait - nevermind. Middle school was horrible! Fast forward to high school and the feeling of relief that first week of Lincoln High. I was finally in the right place and began to find “my people.” 

I also realized I was developing a true love for plant science, and applied to the Ag Bio program at The Career Academy, a special offshoot of learning through Lincoln Public Schools that allows students to pursue their passions while gaining real world experience. I started spending half my days at Southeast Community College for Ag Bio classes, and the other half at LHS. I started to feel like I truly belonged, and like I was learning cool stuff I could share with others. I also remembered how my elementary school experience with Junior Achievement had made such an impact on my life. 

I started to wonder if I could do the same thing for students who felt the way I once did, only by sharing my love of plants and community! 

I decided to create Branching Outward, a project supported by a local nonprofit, Blixt Locally

Grown. Our mission? To work alongside schools and communities to grow produce and possibilities! 

I’ve been fortunate to work alongside the Community Learning Center at Lefler Middle School with an amazing group of students in their outdoor garden space. We spend half of the class learning about plant science, and the other half exploring our own humanity and the important role each student plays in our community simply by being themselves. Together we grow, just like the plants. We are having so much fun! The main goal of our time together? To help people who haven’t yet found their people to find their people, which is exactly what Junior Achievement did for me in elementary school. By rewarding my curiosity, and helping me feel like my ideas were valid, JA helped me feel a new kind of belonging that stayed with me. I became more confident in my ideas and found friends who felt the same. Now I try to share that feeling of confidence and belonging with middle school learners at Lefler and beyond! 

I get excited about a lot of things: college, my future, (my new job at Earl May), and all the cool things we are doing with Branching Outward. I also think it’s important to acknowledge the role the past has played, and how the experience I had with Junior Achievement is already helping me pay some kindness and gratitude forward. 

I am grateful and glad for the opportunity to connect with Junior Achievement as a small child. I know that if it unleashed so much possibility in me, that others certainly have had similar experiences. 

Just imagine the impact today! 

Growing in gratitude, 

Evan Boesen 

LHS/The Career Academy 
Ag Bio Pathway, '22 
www.branchingoutward.org

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