The JA EFFECT – Widening Horizons
One JA Alumnus was impacted by a JA Volunteer who help widen her horizons of potential career options.
Author: Kelsey Matzinger
Published: Wednesday, 18 Jan 2023
Image caption: Socheth and her family
“By sharing my history and my present, it lets younger people know what's possible.” -Socheth McCutcheon
When she was a child, Socheth McCutcheon’s family escaped Cambodia, which was under the control of the Khmer Rouge, in search of a better life in the United States. Socheth’s family settled in Revere, Massachusetts, near Boston. Socheth didn’t see much of her parents growing up as they often worked two or three manual labor jobs to make ends meet.
In 8th grade, Socheth was participating in a Junior Achievement class. Her volunteer was “Mr. Drinkwater,” a local businessman and son of immigrants himself. It was the first time Socheth had seen anyone wearing a suit, and Mr. Drinkwater’s professional appearance and similar immigrant experience connected with Socheth. She began to envision life beyond the apartment she and her family were living in and the possibility of doing something besides the manual labor jobs on which her parents depended. Socheth never saw Mr. Drinkwater again after that JA class, but his influence inspired her to pursue a professional career. After high school, she attended Brown University and obtained a law degree. Today, she is an attorney for Verizon.
In the spirit of Mr. Drinkwater, Socheth now serves as a volunteer for Junior Achievement in New Jersey. She feels it is important to “pay it forward” by being a role model for young people, especially those with circumstances like the ones she experienced growing up.
“Even now as an adult I like to think about my own presence in younger people's lives who may be growing up the way that I grew up,” said Socheth. “Just merely knowing that this profession is out there or that this other kind of life is out there was enough, and I think that was what Mr. Drinkwater did for me which is to give me access to a different reality that I was living in.”
Socheth’s story is not uncommon among people who engaged with JA Learning Experiences while in school. In fact, our recent Alumni Survey shows 89% of people who engaged in JA learning experiences say it motivated them to succeed in their professional lives, and 88% say JA widened their horizons.
If JA has affected your life, we encourage you to pay it forward and share your story on social media using #TheJAEffect and share with a JA office near you.