A look at Julie Gauger’s involvement in her community might feel time-consuming and overwhelming to many people. But to her, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Julie has been with Securian Financial for 31 years and manages our Leadership Development Center. She’s also a prolific volunteer. She is particularly connected with Junior Achievement (JA), the world’s largest organization dedicated to equipping students in grades K-12 with the skills needed to effectively manage money, prepare for the workforce and start a business.
Julie serves as Securian Financial’s volunteer lead for JA, and recently, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest (JAUM) honored her work with the 2018-19 JAUM Metro Volunteer Lead of the Year.
We wanted to learn the full extent of Julie’s volunteerism — and in the process, we learned the impact she makes in many young lives.
How did you learn about Junior Achievement (JA) and what drove you to get involved?
I have been actively involved in JA for over 18 years. I learned about the program from a Securian Financial recruiter who was involved with the organization. My son was just starting kindergarten and I had hoped to teach his class through the program, but that wasn’t an option for his teacher and school district. Luckily, I found a match with another school and teacher, and I have been teaching the kindergarten curriculum to her classrooms for 18 years. I keep telling her I will continue to teach her class until she retires!
What types of volunteer roles do you take on with JA?
Currently I am on Securian Financial’s Corporate Council for Junior Achievement and am volunteer lead for the company. I also volunteer for several other Junior Achievement programs including BizTown, Finance Park and JA in a Day, in addition to working on the weekly curriculum that is taught by our classroom volunteers. I have also served on the JA Peer Board for the Twin Cities and coordinate all volunteer events related to JA.
What excites you about working with JA?
One of the most exciting parts of working with JA is getting to shape young minds. Junior Achievement programs equip students with the skills needed to succeed in school and in life. This includes teaching them how to manage money, how to prepare for a successful career and how to start businesses that create jobs. We help our students understand the importance of financial literacy and how it will prepare them as they become adults in their communities.
I have so many stories and memories from over the years. Some of have been eye opening for me and have helped me recognize what we as individuals sometimes take for granted. In one of my classes we were talking about wants and needs. The students were talking about “wanting” stuffed animals, Pokémon cards, dolls – things like that. And one girl shared that she just wanted a mattress. It brought me to tears.
Aside from JA, are you involved with other organizations?
I stay pretty active with a number of organizations, and I volunteer with Securian Financial Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) when opportunities arise. I love the variety of organizations we support as a company.
My other volunteer work includes:
- Habitat for Humanity: Securian Steering Committee member and volunteer
- St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation: Securian Financial Winter Run Steering Committee member and volunteer coordinator
- Red Cross: blood donor recruiter
- Bluebirds and Blooms: Delivering recycled flowers to individuals living with memory loss or long-term illness.
What is your advice for someone who wants to build a volunteer relationship with a program, but doesn’t know where to start?
There are so many opportunities to get involved, and there is really no shortage of need. You can find something that aligns with your interests and passions, your skills or areas you want to develop.
Obviously, you can do a search on the internet for volunteer opportunities close to your home or work. And I’m proud that Securian Financial makes finding volunteer opportunities easy by having a database of volunteer events sponsored by the company. Many of these options are scheduled during the work day, so you don’t have to find time in your personal life, which can be a concern for some people looking to get involved.
I will end with saying, at the end of the day, it's important to be kind. I don’t volunteer for the recognition. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I have the means (resources, time, skills), and I believe I often get more out of it than the organization I am serving. My cup is full.