On April 4, we welcomed more than 100 friends and supporters of JA of Western PA to the official groundbreaking ceremony for JA BizTown®! To all our speakers, distinguished guests and attendees who joined us, a heartfelt thank you for sharing in this exciting day with us!
Once complete, this fully-interactive community simulation will welcome more than 12,000 students in grades four through six annually to a dress rehearsal for life! Students will experience first hand how business and community intersect while learning about the economy, work and career-readiness and business management. Their learning journey culminates in a visit to JA BizTown®, where each student is assigned a job, completes a day’s work, develops a personal budget and makes purchasing decisions.
“JA BizTown® is truly a dress rehearsal for life and we are thrilled to bring the experience to students in Western PA,” said Dennis Gilfoyle, President and CEO at JA of Western PA. “As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of JA nationally and the 80th year of JA of Western PA, this new experiential learning opportunity will build upon our history of inspiring students in our community to dream big and reach their potential.”
During the ceremony, JA BizTown® was announced as Pennsylvania’s newest town. Honored guests and speakers included Dennis Davin, PA Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development; Jason Ortitay, PA State Representative; Rich Fitzgerald, County Executive; Gwen Rodi, Vice President of the South Fayette Township Board of Commissioners; Carol Jackson, Chairman and CEO of HarbisonWalker International, Inc.; Kannu Sahni, Vice President of Community Affairs for Highmark Health; Pamela Petrow, President and CEO of Vector Security, Inc.; Jim Scalo, President and CEO of Burns Scalo Real Estate; Julie Franczyk, Principal at Chartiers Valley Intermediate School; and students from local school districts.
“JA of Western PA has historically aligned with the needs of our region’s business sectors through decades of change – from the boom of heavy manufacturing to the region’s revitalization and the growth of new opportunities like technology, medical startups, energy and robotics,” said PA State Representative Jason Ortitay. “At JA BizTown®, students will be able to develop the 21st century skills needed to succeed in a rapidly-evolving economy and experience firsthand all of the different jobs needed to make a community thrive. This is an important program to cultivate the next generation in Western PA and allow students to explore all the possibilities our region has to offer.”
JA BizTown® is the culmination of years of planning and aims to develop workforce readiness, fostering future leaders and entrepreneurs who will contribute to the health and vitality of Western PA and its residents. The experience begins with nine hours of curriculum delivered in 12 lessons, covering topics like community and economy; work and career-readiness; and business management and culminates in a five-hour visit to JA BizTown®. At JA BizTown®, students receive job assignments and work in teams at their assigned business, each housed in a different storefront. At the completion of JA BizTown®, each student completes a day’s work, develops a personal budget and makes purchasing decisions. Assisted by volunteers and mentors, students are able to make key decisions in running their businesses and achieving success.
The storefronts and businesses in JA BizTown® are reflective of core industries in the Western PA region. Each is sponsored by a local company, including #1 Cochran, ACE Hardware, ALCOSAN, ANSYS, Burns Scalo Real Estate, Calgon Carbon, Clearview Federal Credit Union, CNX, Comcast Xfinity, FedEx Ground, Giant Eagle, Gordon Food Service, Highmark, Koppers, Mascaro Construction Company and Construction Building Trades and Vector Security. Additional sponsors include First Commonwealth Bank, H.F. Lenz Company, ikm, Jones Lang LaSalle, MSA, Range Resources, The Wilson Group and TriState Capital Bank. Further support for JA BizTown® is being raised through a capital campaign spearheaded by Campaign Chairman Carol Jackson, Chairman and CEO at HarbisonWalker International, Inc. and Honorary Campaign Chairman Evan Frazier, Senior Vice President of Community Affairs at Highmark Health.
“JA’s programming has long supplemented what students learn in the classroom and adds a new dimension by connecting the classroom and the real world,” added Chartiers Valley Intermediate School Principal Julie Franczyk. “At JA BizTown®, students will experience firsthand how the basic economic principles they are learning can be applied in the workplace and also learn the importance of soft skills – like active listening, communication, teamwork and problem-solving.”
JA BizTown® has an anticipated opening of Fall 2019.