Jill Howard, career and college coach for West Kentucky Educational Cooperative, conducts a Junior Achievement program Wednesday at McLean County Middle School. Howard volunteers with sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at the school.

Junior Achievement of West Kentucky volunteer numbers are being affected by what is being called the “Great Resignation,” while the number of program requests are increasing.

Autumne Baker, vice president of area operations for JA West Kentucky, said McLean County JA programs are staffed with enough volunteers for this year, but are still on the lookout for those willing to help.

Baker said JA does not nave any issues filling positions at Calhoun Elementary School, but Marie Gatton Phillips Elementary School, McLean County Middle School and McLean County High School face challenges with volunteers regularly.

“Sometimes the teachers are teaching the programs themselves,” she said. “We don’t want to continue that in the future.”

JA has been holding programs in area schools for more than 20 years. In 2022, the number of students served through the organization was right over 1,000.

“We won’t know the total amount of students for this year yet but we are probably around the same number,” Baker said.

Dan Douglas, president of JA West Kentucky, said they are seeing “the perfect storm” with companies.

“There are more people leaving the workforce in record numbers than ever before,” he said. “There are people still working from home, and basically staffing shortages that businesses are seeing in every sector.”

This has caused a trickle-down effect for JA that they hadn’t seen prior to COVID.

“Before COVID, we had 600 to 700 volunteers we could call upon, and now there are probably 300 to 400 volunteers we could call upon,” Douglas said.

Baker said volunteers are crucial to the success of the organization.

“JA volunteers give students the tools necessary to contribute to the economy,” she said. “Financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship have always been cornerstones of success in adulthood, and JA’s programs prepare students to be better employees and citizens of the community.”

The decrease in available volunteers has coincided with the increase of demand for the program, with “digital fatigue” causing the uptick in requests.

“(Schools) are requesting our programs at an even higher rate compared to before COVID, but as fast as the schools have come back and through with digital programming, we have less volunteers to call on,” Douglas said.

While JA is not the only organization facing challenges related to staffing shortages and resignations, Douglas said they are “probably the heaviest users” of volunteers than just about any other non-profit.

“We’re seeing a lot of our faithful volunteers who have stuck with us doing more programs, which you can sustain that for a little bit, but at some point you worry about burn out,” he said.

For the programs JA isn’t able to accommodate, Douglas said they are having to tell teachers they will have to teach them themselves.

“That’s not ideal,” he said. “The JA model is having that business professional that’s somebody different from their teacher, and to be that role model aside from the teacher.”

Last year, JA volunteers visited more than 1,000 classrooms, which is one of their larger years, Douglas said.

“Coming out of COVID, we’ve actually grown,” he said. “We had over 23,000 students last year. Before COVID, I think we were at a little over 20,000 students.”

JA volunteers receive training as well as a program kit that contains all the materials they will need.

“In the kits we give volunteers, they have a teacher and volunteer guidebook,” said Chelsey Chaney, Ohio Valley program manager. “It has tips on things you can say or experiences you can share. It walks you through every step.”

Volunteer opportunities are available at many local schools — including at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Volunteers will set five to six visits of 30 to 45 minutes directly with their assigned teacher at times and dates that work for their schedule. No special skills or teaching experience is required.

For more information on becoming a volunteer, contact Baker at 270-684-7291 or For more information on JA West Kentucky, visit

Karah Wilson, 270-691-7315,, Twitter: @karahwilson19

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