by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
John Koons has always volunteered. It’s in his DNA.
The summer he was 15 his parents urged him to go do something.
Too young to get a job he went to University Hospital and signed up for the Volunteen program as a candy striper.
“It was one of the greatest experiences I ever had in my life and I learned about life out there more than anything,” he said. “I just loved volunteering. Actually that turned into a part-time job my junior and senior year of high school.”
At 64, Koons recently celebrated his 44th year with OG&E and plans on holding his current title of community relations coordinator at least six more years to give him an even half century with the utility giant.
Maybe it’s no coincidence OG&E was one of the four founding companies of Junior Achievement when it came to Oklahoma City in 1966.
Junior Achievement inspires Oklahoma K-12 students by bringing the business world to life inside the classroom through memorable, exciting, hands-on learning experiences.
Established locally in 1966, JAOK serves more than 56,000 Oklahoma students in 68 school districts and 292 schools. Junior Achievement utilizes more than 3,800 dedicated members – like Koons – of the community to implement their programs.
In 1988 Junior Achievement was looking for volunteers to go into metro classrooms 45 minutes a week for six weeks to teach financial literacy.
“I volunteered and I fell in love with it,” Koons said. “I’ve never had any kids but I think I have a gift working with kids. It just took off from there and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Jo Wise, OKC Regional Director of Junior Achievement, says Koons is now Junior Achievement’s No. 1 volunteer in the state.
“The fact that teachers constantly request John to return to their classrooms speaks volumes on the impact he has had on their students,” added Wise.
Koons is living proof that anyone can volunteer.
“Everybody has a story,” Koons said. “Being there in the classroom, that’s what’s important to these kids. They know you’re volunteering. They know you don’t have to be there. Just to show you care, there’s nothing better than giving.”
“It’s such a great feeling to see that you’re making a difference.”
In 2015, Koons was honored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.
“John was born for this job,” said Madison Elementary math teacher Anne Luttrell Lawrence. “He has touched the lives of thousands of kids at Madison. He has taught them not to mess with electricity and how businesses are organized. He is Cat in the Hat every spring and Santa Claus every Christmas. Madison Elementary thinks the world of our friend and mentor, John Koons.” In addition to mentoring, Koons is past chairman of the Junior Achievement Board of Directors and an avid recruiter for new mentors.
One of Koons’ favorite volunteer stories happened just a few years ago. Teaching seventh graders financial literacy, he found himself at a Norman Chamber of Commerce banquet when some friends came up.
“They said he’s not into school at all … but he came home after you started teaching this and he’s excited and talks about it all the time,” Koons said. “What was really neat six years later I saw that couple again. The mom said (the son) was now at the Price School of Business at OU. It was Junior Achievement that started him in that direction.”
Junior Achievement makes it easy to volunteer in the classroom. Lessons are premade and all volunteers have to do is show up.
“I find that when I share the things I didn’t do well in my life that’s when the kids really sit up and listen,” Koons said. “I tell them my story and how it hurt me over the years.”
And Koons jokes he has lots of those experiences.
“I don’t have the best story in the world about education because I went to school for two years after graduating high school in 1970 and both years I did terrible,” he said. “My dad looked at my transcript and said ‘you’re wasting your time and my money. I think you need to go to work for a while and then see if you are serious.”
So Koons entered OG&E in the mailroom. More than four decades later he’s worked his way up the ladder. Years later Koons went back to finish his degree and then earned a master’s degree.
It’s a story that Koons enjoys telling and one that has made an impact on literally thousands of Oklahoma school children.
by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer