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JA Finance Park Experience Has Lasting Benefits

The unique experience at a Junior Achievement Capstone facility frequently engages and inspires students, but a recent email tells how the magic of JA Finance Park® can have unexpected consequences.

JA Finance Park combines classroom learning with a day-long visit to a fully interactive, simulated town. Students have jobs and become providers for their families and must accommodate the needs of the family while creating and using a budget. Volunteers are able to share their professional expertise with students to help them make informed choices during the experience.

Sarah Connell, program manager of JA Finance Park for Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, shared what the JA experience meant for one father and son.

“A teacher from Carson Academy told me a truly touching story about a father and son,” Connell said. “This father and son in the past have not been particularly close. After a little persuasion from the child’s mother, the father volunteered to come to JA Finance Park today.

“They kept their distance from each other at first. But as the day went on and as the father helped many students understand the stock market and how to check stock prices, you could see how proud that child was of his father. He started telling other students, ‘That’s my dad over there!’ This JA experience has brought the father and son together and that this is something they will share forever.”

Birmingham Police Impart Economics Lessons to Middle School Students

The Ensley neighborhood of West Birmingham, Ala. sees more than its share of crime. Birmingham police officers are common neighborhood fixtures. But recently, 18 police officers reported for duty at Ernest F. Bush Middle School dressed as civilian Junior Achievement volunteers. They were there to deliver JA Economics for Success® in the JA in a Day format.

Birmingham Police PhotoJennifer Hatchett, director of marketing for Junior Achievement of Greater Birmingham, shared a story that aired on the local ABC station about the visit. The volunteers were led by Deputy Chief Irene Williams. Williams said the JA program materials provided clear instructions to help the students choose careers and then consider the pathways that lead to those careers.  

“Students need to get good study habits in place. To get these jobs and careers is going to require they put in some effort. We want to let the students know there are a lot of decisions along the way to get there. We want to chart a path to show them how to get there and that it’s attainable,” Williams said.

Williams says decisions aren’t just learned in the classroom or found in textbooks. They’re also about who the students befriend. “Friends can take you up or they can take you down, so you need to associate yourself with good people.”

Students seemed to grasp the concepts well. Miguel Page is determined to run for the nation’s highest office—after a career in teaching.

“College is going up $1,100 a year, so before I'm in 12th grade, I’m going to get a job and my own bank account,” Page said. “I want to change the world.”

High School Heroes Teach JA Lessons and Learn Life Lessons

Students from Richardson High School, just north of Dallas, have confirmed a truth once written in ancient Rome by Seneca the Younger to his friend, Lucilius.  “Docendo discimus: by teaching, we learn.”

The High School Heroes Program allows high school students to teach JA programs to elementary school students. Usually, students co-teach with a peer. Through this program, the high school students serve as powerful role models for younger children in their communities. They also increase their self-confidence and feel empowered to make a difference in the lives of others.

According to Barbara Heise, senior education manager at Junior Achievement of Dallas, through the High School Heroes program, 36 Richardson students taught JA to students at nearby Northwood Hills Elementary. The student-teachers visited for an hour each week for five weeks. And the effect has been marvelous.

Beth Brown, the students’ teacher, explained, “Every time we go to the elementary school and I peek through the classroom doors, I see amazing things. The look that the high school students have on their faces when teaching the younger students is priceless. The high schoolers are animated and working so hard to teach the lessons.”One student described her excitement. “Working with the younger students helped me decide what I want to do when I graduate from high school.”

Heise summarized her impressions of the High School Heroes Program. Observing one classroom, she saw a big high school football player bending down to work with a tiny first grader. “It really touched my heart,” she said.

Mom and Daughter Team Up to Inspire First Graders

“It was a wonderful experience!”

That’s how JA volunteer Carolyn LaBute described her first volunteer experience with a classroom full of first graders. Carolyn is a trust officer with Somerset Trust Company and taught the JA Our Families program, which focuses on the roles people play in the local economy and engages students with activities about needs, wants, jobs, tools and skills.

Carolyn shared her experience in a thank-you note to Kelli Ruiz, director of education for Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania. But before Carolyn had set foot in the classroom, she learned that her daughter, Caitlin, needed volunteer hours for her college, so she invited her along.

Mom and daughter got the picture book, “A Chair for my Mother,” to read to the class. The book tells the story of a girl named Rosa. After a fire destroys her family’s home and possessions, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save and save until they can afford to buy one big, comfortable chair that all three of them can enjoy.

After Caitlin read the book to the students, she donated the book to the class. It turns out the whole LaBute family likes to give of their time and treasure. Carolyn’s dad had received many awards for his volunteerism in the community. Carolyn and Caitlin took the awards to show the class.

“One little boy was so excited after seeing the volunteer awards, that he yelled out ‘I want to be a volunteer!’” Carolyn said. “Thanks for letting me be a part of this.”

A Chair for my Mother

JA Principles Overcome Favorable Exchange Rate

The vital money-management lessons taught in Junior Achievement programs know no boundaries. A recent situation shared by Linda Strosnider, area program coordinator from Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana, proves that to be true.

Fisnik (Nik) Daci is from Oslo, Norway. Although Nik was born in Norway, he is quite proud of his Albanian heritage. His parents escaped Albania’s political conflict years ago and moved to Switzerland, before settling in Norway. Nik has spent his senior year of high school as a foreign exchange student in Washington, Ind. at Washington Catholic High School (WCHS). While at WCHS, Nik, an avid soccer fan, played on the school’s soccer team. He fit in very well with the students and is well-known for his respect for adults. His classmates have accepted the outgoing classmate with open arms.

According to Strosnider, Nik’s host family became concerned, however, as he generally spent between $200 and $300 each time the family visited the mall. The student found the prices to be so inexpensive when compared to his home country, that he could hardly control himself. All of that changed, though, after he completed JA Personal Finance®.

Strosnider taught Nik’s class a couple of the sessions. She said, “One of my teaching points was recognizing the difference between a want and a need. I explained that I taught my own children that the ‘needs’ require first consideration when thinking about financial budgeting. The ‘wants’ may be considered after all other financial obligations have been taken care of—if there is any money left over. However, once in while it is OK to splurge, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion.”

Shortly after the conclusion of the JA Personal Finance program, Nik and his host family made one last trip to the mall for Christmas shopping. This time Nik stated he was “not going to buy anything today.” He said he really didn’t need anything and was going to start saving his money for the things he would need in the future. His host family was relieved by his new financial discipline.

“Nik will return home in early June. Hopefully he will take his newfound financial knowledge with him and apply it to his adult life,” said Strosnider.

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