Brian Sowl, director of security compliance at Nelnet, has been making volunteer work an integral part of his life for 20 years, dedicating time to organizations like the Boys Scouts of America, United Way, and Food Bank of the Rockies. But the organization Brian spends the most time with?—Junior Achievement (JA).

If that name sounds familiar, it no surprise; Nelnet supports JA across several cities and partners with them on events like the Bowl-A-Thon and the Stock Market Challenge. JA works to create the next generation of community leaders by educating young people on entrepreneurship and work readiness.

Volunteerism plays such a large role in Brian’s life that JA has recognized him as the organization’s Rocky Mountain Volunteer of the Year for the 2017-18 school year. Recipients of this award are nominated by teachers, students, volunteers, and JA staff.

Brian’s first volunteer experience with JA came in 1997 when he was attending Colorado State University. After spending five weeks mentoring a third grade class in Aurora, Colorado, he continued to support JA even after receiving his diploma.

He estimates that he supports JA about 10 times each year, but also makes time to work with local organizations like Goddard School and Mount Olive Lutheran Church.

“I feel it is very important to support the community you live and work in,” Brian said. “Life is so much more enjoyable when we help one another and find ways to make life easier for everyone.”

He makes sure that all of his team members find volunteer experiences that match with what they already enjoy doing. If it’s something that they love doing, they are much more likely to make time to volunteer.

“It all starts with Nelnet’s core values; ‘give back to the communities in which we live and work’ is very important to Nelnet’s success,” Brian said. “We encourage all Nelnet team members to find what you are passionate about and look for opportunities to give back.”

In order to find volunteer opportunities, Brian’s approach is simple: just ask. Many of his experiences stemmed from approaching organizations with which he already had connections, like his son’s Boy Scout troop and his local church. A simple “how can I help?” goes a long way toward making an impact in a community.

With a full-time job and a busy family, he understands that schedules get crowded. For those who are interested in volunteering, but don’t feel like they have time, Brian suggests prioritizing time management and involving family whenever possible.

“Giving back to the community is so rewarding for the individual, but also helps Nelnet. You are networking and building relationships in the community that can lead to new team members, vendors, and business opportunities,” Brian said. “I encourage all Nelnet team members to live the Nelnet core values and make time to give back to their communities.”

Brian will be officially recognized as the Volunteer of the Year at the 2018 Junior Achievement Rocky Mountain awards ceremony.

For more information on Junior Achievement in your community, visit their website.