Volunteer returns to Greenwood Elementary and presents JA lessons to students

This article was written by longtime JA associate, Rob Wick.

57281765When Heidi Smithson, SVP/Group Head of Commercial Real Estate at First Midwest Bank, recruited employee volunteers to present Junior Achievement of Chicago (JA) programs to students at Greenwood Elementary in Waukegan she decided to reach out to one of her company’s business partners, Gary Wool, to participate.

“I knew Gary had attended Greenwood as a child,” said Heidi. “Gary was an experienced JA volunteer and would be a great role model for students at his former school.”

Wool had previously presented JA programs to students at Jack Benny Junior High and Waukegan High School, also schools that he had attended as a youth. But Greenwood was special as it was in the neighborhood where he grew up. Gary reminisced, “On the morning of the event, I parked a block away in front of my childhood home on Glendenning Place and walked to school just as I did four decades ago.”

Jane Lambiris, the school’s Assistant Principal, chatted with Wool when he first came to volunteer. “I discovered that his father had been a doctor in the area for some forty years and delivered babies – including me and my two brothers!”

Wool didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps career wise. His company, Wool Finance Partners LLC, provides real estate financial brokerage services to commercial real estate owners and sells and invests in commercial real estate. JA programs encourage volunteers to share their career experience as well as the educational path they took to get there. He noted that, “By doing this, I feel the students could believe that they too could succeed in their career aspirations.”

Wool said that the students were excited when they learned that he had attended Greenwood. He shared his fifth grade classroom photo with them – only one of the twenty-four fifth graders could identify him. They asked if any of his teachers were still at Greenwood. There aren’t any left of course, but Gary was happy to accept that the students thought he was young enough that there might be!