Jason Stein, a member of the 10th Honors Cohort, reflects on the impact of the group’s global experience bringing the Junior Achievement (JA) program to middle schoolers in the Bahamas. Stein (BSBA ’08, MBA ’12) continues to engage with Fisher as a member of the Honors Cohort Advisory Council. He is an equity research analyst for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio where he manages a large-cap industrial equity portfolio.

Jason SteinThe Bahamas trip was one of the more impactful parts of my Cohort experience because it allowed us to see the world, take in a new culture, gain practical life experience and make lifelong friends. The priority of the experience was to teach the JA program to middle school students in the Bahamas. JA works with educators, parents, business professionals and the community to deliver K-12 programs that foster work readiness, entrepreneurship skills and financial literacy skills through experiential learning. To prepare for this task, the Cohort students first taught the JA curriculum at local middle schools throughout Columbus. We then took that same curriculum with us to teach the children in the Bahamas. I remember the students being very excited for us to be there, with smiles all around.

The most impactful thing I took away from teaching JA to the students in the Bahamas was that most people in the country aspired to have jobs in tourism (cashiers or dealers at a casinos, or workers at high-end resorts). Even though we were there to encourage education and business, most students had a difficult time relating to those as actual career options. I was particularly taken aback by this. This was a stark contrast to the students we worked with in the affluent suburbs of Columbus, many of whom were interested in becoming doctors, zoologists, lawyers, teachers and architects, or those we met in the Columbus Public School System, who were interested in becoming athletes, dancers and rappers or singers.

This difference speaks to the advantages that some are born with relative to others, and it highlights the importance of giving back to those not afforded those advantages. That’s why the Cohort’s focus on developing strong leaders who possess empathy and who are focused on aspects beyond bottom lines is so important.

The Bahamas trip also provided us with the opportunity to experience a different culture and learn more about its customs and traditions. We attended a youth parade, called Junkanoo, which is a festival to celebrate freedom from slavery. I also remember trying, for the first time, conch, which as it turns out tastes much better than it sounds. By the end of the trip I was ordering conch on everything! We also spent a lot of time bonding as a Cohort. I remember the strong camaraderie on the trip and the activities we participated in — trampolines/trapeze, nightly karaoke, long dinners together and an excursion to the Atlantis resort, where we rode a shark-tank waterslide. But most of all, I remember really bonding with my fellow Cohort members and creating the lifelong friendships and connections that are still so important to me today.