After-school JAM Club promotes entrepreneurship and giving back

An after-school club started by some kids at Avonworth Primary School has become so popular, there are now 24 of them in four states. The club is all about making and giving — making things, selling them and giving away the proceeds. It’s entrepreneurship with heart.

The children are only five to eleven-years-old, but they’re already running a business. Hard at work after school, they write thank-you notes and fill and label “tin bins” with games inside.

The club started with two girls and a teacher four years ago — Julia Nardozzi, Amelia Lucas and teacher Maureen Frew — the first letter of each name spells “JAM,” the name of the club.

“It’s been really cool to see it grow from two first graders to like 80 kids now,” Julia says. The girls started the club because they like making things in Mrs. Frew’s tech room. “It’s just so crazy to think like, wow… we started a business in first grade and it’s still going now in fifth grade,” Amelia adds.

They also design and sell T-shirts that promote kindness with the phrase: #bethekindkid. When their first order came in for 500 shirts, they had to learn business skills on the fly.

Mrs. Frew explains, “At that point, we were out of our element, so the kids got to learn about outsourcing and supply and demand and distribution.”

In the past four years, they’ve sold 50,806 T-shirts! The kids at Avonworth Primary wear their T-shirts every Wednesday, and the students and the faculty say the message is taking effect. Nine-year-old Elsa Garabagldia says of the T-shirt message, “I would say it’s mainly about being kind and always, no matter how people look or who they are, always be kind to them no matter what.” Nine-year-old Imogen Boggess says, “It means just to be kind and stand up to someone.  You can do chores without your mom or dad asking you.”  And 8-year-old Catheryn Behr adds that kindness can be contagious: “If you do some something kind to a person, a person might do another kind thing to another person and so on.”

Proceeds from the shirts and tin bins go to various charities. Kids can present their ideas about what charity they want to support and the club votes.  Allison Linhart, who’s 10-years-old, says, “That’s really the good part because we get to have fun doing stuff, but then we get to give back with the money that we make.”

It’s also helping kids connect what they learn in school, like math and writing, with the real world of business, in addition to many other lessons. “Whenever you grow up, you should help people, and this is going to help you because you already have experience doing that,” says 11-year-old Brynn Huffmyer. Fifth-grader Grace Keller says, “I’ve learned how to (form) my ideas and get them to work. I’ve learned how to express myself.”

These kids at Avonworth Primary are proving little people can definitely do big things. “Most people, they just think since we’re little we can’t do stuff, but right now, we’ve been doing some really awesome stuff together,” Allison Linhart says. Eight-year-old Aria Burgoine emphasizes, “It started from a group of people, and now we’re making a change in the world from just kids.  We can do more in the world, and that’s what we’re showing.”

There are now 20 JAM Clubs across Pennsylvania and four in other states with the help of funding from the Grable Foundation.