Opinion

Guest Perspective

What Would Horace Moses Do?

At one time, Horace Moses may have been best known as the president of the Strathmore Paper Co. in West Springfield, but his legacy is much bigger than that.
In 1919, Moses founded Junior Achievement, the worldwide financial training program for young people. Growing up on his family’s farm, Moses acquired the habits of fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurship. He not only worked the fields, but networked with a variety of business owners to sell the farm’s products.
Moses was quick to learn that through hard work, determination, and ambition, one can achieve the American Dream. His philosophy wasn’t limited to personal gain, however. Moses donated his time and wealth to a variety of worthwhile causes. One initiative close to his heart was ensuring that children develop the skills to secure their own economic success. It was this goal that led Moses and Theodore Vail, president of American Telephone & Telegraph to found Junior Achievement right here in Western Massachusetts.
Today, JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. Although born of humble beginnings on the Big E fairgrounds, JA reaches more than 4 million students each year across the United States, and another 6 million in countries around the world. JA’s volunteer-delivered K-12 programs help prepare students for the real world by showing them how to effectively manage their finances, generate wealth, and help build robust communities.
Moses and Vail realized the importance of teaching young people that thrift, economy, and industry are necessary to sustain the American vision. Almost 100 years later, nothing has changed.
Each year, roughly 1.3 million students drop out of school. Each dropout costs society approximately $200,000 in lost tax revenue and government expenditures over his or her lifetime. The personal cost of dropping out of school isn’t just economic — there’s a psychological price, as well. As someone who’s gone from high school dropout to college graduate, I can tell you that being a dropout can be debilitating. The lack of skills eventually damages your self-confidence, resulting in a social paralysis. You feel trapped in your situation. You want to work, to achieve, but lack the foundation and support system to overcome your circumstance.
Horace Moses knew that it doesn’t have to be that way, and that by investing in our children we could help them become productive participants in our national economy.
Addressing the dropout population is only part of the solution. Approxinately 45% of today’s college graduates don’t have the skills to advance past an entry-level job. Managers at more than 53% of large companies and 67% of small companies say it’s difficult to recruit employees with the skills, training, and education their companies require. In time, this skills gap will invariably weaken our ability to compete in the global marketplace. Helping our children aspire to succeed is not only imperative to their own well-being, but to our own economic and entrepreneurial survival.
What would Horace Moses do in the face of today’s problems? He would commit his resources to find a solution. That’s why he co-founded Junior Achievement. JA supports youth development by fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship, and by instilling and modeling key business and work-readiness concepts such as leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking.
I encourage you to join me in following his example by making an investment in the youth of Western Mass. We don’t need to dedicate the time or resources Moses had at his disposal. We already have a structure, it just needs caring professionals, community leaders, and supporters. Find out how you can empower students to stay in school, develop the skills necessary for economic success, and live the life each of us hopes for for our own children.
Get involved with Junior Achievement of Western Mass., your local school system, or other worthwhile cause. You can change the direction of a generation. That’s what Horace Moses would do.

Thom Fox is the community outreach director at Cambridge Credit Counseling and vice chairman of Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts. He also serves as a start-up mentor at Valley Venture Mentors, member of the National Academy Foundation STEM-21 Advisory Board at Sci-Tech, and member of the Financial Stability Network of Hampden County; (413) 330-5254; [email protected]

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