Life Without Boundaries
“Every generation has a challenge, and this, I think, is ours…to create…an authentically, sustainably shared prosperity.” – Umair Haque, Generation M Manifesto, Harvard Business Review, July 8, 2009
Born in Jamaica, Alphie Aiken left her home country at the age of 8, relocating to New York City with her family. After school and college, Alphie went to work for a Fortune 100 company and was on a fast-track to management. She was achieving phenomenal success, all while leading the Women’s network and the African-American forum. But after fourteen years, she wanted something different.
You see, Alphie loved Junior Achievement. As a volunteer and mentor, she saw first-hand the power business had to transform children into entrepreneurs, becoming masters of their own destinies. At the end of her Executive MBA program, she began to have a burning passion for the children of Jamaica, for many of them didn’t have a future.
“For every 100 students that graduate, only 26 are ready to attend college or become employed,” shared Alphie. “I once heard the prime minister state, ‘When a Jamaican child is 5, you see hope and brilliance in their eyes. But at age 15, something dies.’ There was an epidemic in Jamaica – the children had no hope.”
So Alphie took the next step. She became a social entrepreneur – launching the first Junior Achievement chapter in Jamaica. In less than one year, JA of Jamaica reached more than 2,700 children and is on track to reach 6,000 next year. Alphie took JA intentionally to the schools where hope was needed most, where economic challenges had left so many children trapped. And, she brought Jamaica’s first Student Company Program team to the JA Americas Company of the Year Competition.
“We’ve made history this week,” shared Alphie. “These students completed the JA Company Program and they won the Jamaican competition. They were featured on all the major networks, every radio and paper in Jamaica. They spoke before national bank presidents and USAID, demonstrating how they could achieve greatness.”
At the JA Americas competition, the Jamaica team walked away with the Rising Star Award, a special recognition by the judges, recognizing the outstanding effort these young women made to move from poverty to success.
“These young women are now living a life without boundaries,” said Alphie.
Stories like these were abundant. The JA Company Program students were so passionate about their businesses, as it gave them a glimpse into their future. Not only had these students made lifelong friends, but they gained the power from learning new cultures and new languages. As members of the Access Generation, these students are fundamentally changing what’s possible.
To close, I’ll leave you with a few of the quotes from the students themselves:
• “We are just 18 years old and excited about our potential to reach the world” – Pablo, Argentina
• “While all countries are unique, we can come together as one region” – Daniella, Colombia
• “We see our potential as entrepreneurs” – Marcarena, Ecuador
Here’s to access and a life without boundaries!