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Ohio State Students Mentor JA Company Program Students This Summer

“Practice makes perfect.”  “We learn from failure.”  “Try, try again.

We have all heard these clichés but we also know there is truth to them. We learn from our experiences, yet we don’t often get to practice at life and business. Junior Achievement (JA) programs strive to instill confidence in kids by having them practice the business of life through activities focused on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness skills. The JA Company Program hits all three of those categories, and, by allowing high school students the opportunity to build their own business, the JA Company Program provides the ultimate “practice ground” for launching a start-up.

While normally run during the school year, this summer JA of Central Ohio is partnering with The Past Foundation to hold a summer camp implementing the JA Company Program on Tuesday and Thursday mornings beginning June 6th. The ideas, products, companies, and revenue created in this program are all real but the students have mentors on-hand to guide them through market research, business structure, management and leadership, marketing, sales, supply chain management, and finance. This is where students from The Ohio State University have stepped in to help.

With entrepreneurship growing in central Ohio the past several years, Ohio State has begun several programs and classes surrounding entrepreneurship and innovation which is producing business savvy students. Cole Morris is one of these students who will be a mentor during JA’s summer program.

“As a peer mentor, I’m able to share advice and resources directly with the kids that are more actionable; instead of giving the “big picture” answer and telling the students the overall summary of their journey, I can help them navigate each stepping stone with advice tailored to their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations as young adults,” said Morris.

While pursuing finance and data analytics at Ohio State, Morris has also been through the fundamental development phases of starting a business at least three times – providing him the opportunity to interact with small business owners, venture capitalists, accelerators, and more within the Columbus entrepreneurial community. He is looking forward to sharing this knowledge with the summer camp students to help them progress to the next step with their company.

Ibrahim Mohmed is another Ohio State student who will serve as a mentor during the summer camp. Through his personal business (IFAA), Mohmed has already been involved with the The Wellington School JA Company Program*, but is excited to work with more high school kids this summer to help them and their ideas grow.

“Starting and learning how to operate a company is one of the hardest things to do, but it is so beneficial. It will push these kids out of their comfort zones, teach them to be independent, and to learn from their mistakes,” said Mohmed.

If you have a high school student, definitely consider registering them for this summer’s JA Company Program camp, because remember:

“Practice makes perfect.”     “We learn from failure.”     “Try, try again.

Pictures from when the Russian students visited The Wellington School

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*The Wellington School students, in partnership with JA of Central Ohio and the Columbus International Program, are starting a business with peers from Siberia. In January, the Russian students visited the US and in March the US students visited Russia to continue development of their company. Abe Mohmed and his team at IFAA are helping to create an app for the team and plan to have the beta out at the end of May 2017.

JA BizTown Summer Camp


Summer of 2016 began with two weeks of JA BizTown Summer Camp in June. JA BizTown is a simulation where kids in fourth through sixth grades have the opportunity to run a mini-city for the day. Each student has a job that ranges from CEO to Sales Manager or radio DJ to physician. Their goal is to pay off the “business loan” they took out from Huntington Bank by the end of the day. Leading up to the simulation teachers go through 12 to 19 lessons preparing the students for a day at JA BizTown – teaching them how to write a check, the difference between debits and credits, relationship building, and more. Now imagine all of this in one week and you have JA BizTown Summer Camp!

Okay, maybe not exactly. However, the differences are very cool. Having the same kids for an entire week allowed the JA BizTown staff to create a more interactive curriculum and focus on teamwork.

“It’s exciting to have the same kids for five days. It was great to see the kids have the opportunity to build their team throughout the activities,” said JA BizTown Program Manager Diane Betteridge.

With the high-level objectives of teaching kids about entrepreneurship, marketing, customer service, financial literacy, job preparation, philanthropy, teamwork, and personal development, JA BizTown staff brought in speakers, had kids complete projects for non-profit organizations, played out “shark tank” skits, and ran several days of JA BizTown.

A benefit to summer camp is that campers get to go through a two-day-long simulation of running JA BizTown instead of just one. However, before they could run the city they needed to go through some “training”.

ribbonOne of the activities JA BizTown campers participated in was a program called My Special Word, created by JA’s very own Board of Directors Chairman, Dwight Smith. The idea behind My Special Word is to teach students that words are impactful, and using positive words can help inspire, lift you up, and ultimately change how you feel about yourself, others, and the environment. Each camper was given a wristband that said “What is Your Word?” and encouraged to go home and discuss with their family the creation of their special word. The next day, students came back to camp and made a bracelet with their special word on the band. JA is about so much more than financial literacy. A little girl named Lauren lost her mom to cancer last year. She chose the word "ribbon" for her special word because she used to hate seeing cancer ribbons everywhere. She said “ribbon" now served as a reminder to her that it is good to remember the people we love but is are also a message of hope for fighters and survivors. WOW! What an amazing kid!

And there is more. Continuing to teach personal development, JA BizTown Summer Camp instructors brought in non-profit organization My Very Own Blanket to discuss philanthropy. Afterwards, kids worked in their business groups to make blankets for foster children who typically don’t have anything that is their own.

In addition to My Special Word and My Very Own Blanket, JA BizTown campers did learn about financial literacy through games and lessons, along with building miniature cities to learn about community, and participated in job interviews in preparation to run JA BizTown.

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The two most popular jobs are that of the Mayor and radio DJ. Learning about communication skills and public speaking, the kids take part in an election for the two positions, giving speeches on why they are most qualified, leaving their fate up to the voters – JA BizTown citizens. Check out the slideshow to see what their days at JA BizTown looked like including surprise visits from the CD 102.5 ice cream truck and Donatos and Canes for lunch!

On the last day of summer camp, campers were divided into teams and given materials to build a game. Teams then had to create and try to “sell” their game to a panel of JA BizTown instructors – much like the popular tv show Shark Tank. While not as harsh as some of the actual Shark Tank panelists (ahem Kevin O’Leary…), students still learned a lot about entrepreneurship and what it takes to sell a product and build a business.

Check out the below slideshow to get a recap of the two weeks of JA BizTown Summer Camp!



Next year’s JA BizTown summer camp will run the first two weeks of June ( Save the Date: June 5-9 and June 12-16) and is open to students entering fifth through eighth grade in the fall of 2017. Trust me, your kids will not want to miss out! For more information, you can click here or email Pete Crozier at pcrozier@jacols.org.

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  • "I can't think of a better gift for kids than to prepare them for success in the real world." - Aaron Bahe, Columbus City School Teacher

  • "I loved being the mayor of JA BizTown. I now have a good understanding of how busy business can be." - Gabbie Schneider, JA BizTown Student

  • "I loved my job as the CFO! It was so much fun. If I did this everyday it would be great!" - JA BizTown Student

  • "Kids are capable of more than we know. JA is a great way to demonstrate the real life skills they will all need." JA of Central Ohio Volunteer

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