Daisy Garcia -Montoya 
Education Reporter

Students at Northeast High School are getting first-hand knowledge from business companies through the 3DE Junior Achievement program. 

The 3DE program was introduced to Northeast High School after the Junior Achievement of Greater KC, a local chapter of the national Junior Achievement USA program, decided to bring the unique approach to Kansas City after hearing about the pilot program in Atlanta, Georgia through the national organization. 

The program centers its approach on rethinking high school education by providing students with real-world example case studies and opportunities to work with local companies to prepare students with skills needed in post-secondary life. 

The Junior Achievement of Greater KC chose Northeast High School and Olathe East High School as the two schools in the Kansas City Metro to roll out the 3DE program.

Director of Programs and Experiences with Junior Achievement of Greater KC Kate Hood says that the schools were selected due to a history of working together as well as the willingness to bring a new approach to teaching by the districts. 

“The schools were chosen based on principal interest and where the district leadership felt like there would be a really good environment for this pilot program to happen,” Hood said. “The principal at Northeast was creating a lot of good change and the district felt that he would be able to really adopt this model and make it flourish in his building so that’s why Northeast was chosen.”

Photo: Junior Achievement program 

Since the program was initially rolled out during the 2022-2023 academic school year among freshmen, the cohort currently includes freshmen and sophomores with the plan to include all high school grades as the cohort moves forward. 

As part of the curriculum of 3DE, students have case challenges where they analyze business problems, provide pitches on how a process or business can improve and present solutions to the partners they are working with. Students work in groups during five-week intervals in which they are assigned a company with a case challenge question and must do research to help solve the problem. 

“Businesses get those ideas and have the opportunity to implement those pieces if they want to. We know from businesses that they’ve taken ideas back to the leadership team to put them into the mix of what they might do next, which is really cool that a freshman or sophomore in high school is helping inform what a very large successful business might do next to improve their business plans,” Hood said. 

Through partnerships with local companies, students have worked with Sporting KC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, among many others. 

To provide extra support to the schools and students in the implementation of the program, the Junior Achievement of Greater KC provides an in-school full-time Senior Director. 

Northeast’s Director of School Leadership Dr. Stephani Reynolds said that her role helps the school have an outside person that they can refer to in regards to questions regarding the curriculum and program and provide them with the necessary tools.

Photo: Junior Achievement program 

“Having someone in the building, they have a natural person. There’s a person there that’s guiding the process so it kind of takes the stress off the district and school,” Reynolds said. “It helps make sure that everyone gets everything they need because teachers have enough on their plate by having an outside person (Junior Achievement) able to come in and be that stable environment.” 

As the program has taken off, Reynolds shares that there has been a significant and notable difference in student’s confidence and ability to lead conversation with coaches and have ownership of their own opinions.

“This program is teaching them how to be their own advocate and teaching them to have a voice and be able to say ‘You know what, I need to stand up for myself and be able to say this is what I want, this is what I need’ and being that self-advocate,” Reynolds said. 

Career Technical Education Teacher Megan Vargas said that through the case challenge questions, students are building their confidence and understanding the importance of collaboration and communication as well as cultural agility. 

“These skills are not just for the classroom, they’re for everyday life. It’ll help them in the workforce and help them in their communities moving forward,” Vargas said. “I believe this program is great for any school, especially when you have a child engaged in it and willing to learn. It’s not just academics, it’s also social and helps with emotions. It’s a level of confidence within them to let them know that they’re doing good.” 

For more information on the program, visit: https://jagkc.org/3de/