Elementary School Students Get Real World Experience in BizTown

NJ Spotlight News | May 27, 2016 | Education
Junior Achievement of NJ offers a free program for students that lets them show off their skills in a simulation.

By Briana Vannozzi

These are mini moguls in the making.

It’s called BizTown. And on this day, 85 fifth-graders from Orange elementary schools are taking charge of companies along a simulated Main Street at Junior Achievement of New Jersey.

“The purpose of Junior Achievement is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. We do this through the eyes and the lives of our volunteer role models with our business education partnerships,” said Junior Achievement of New Jersey President Catherine Milone.

Students elect a mayor, choose CEOs and work together as executives, small business owners and entrepreneurs. They make transactions and handle real work problems.

“It helps young people understand financial literacy, career readiness, understand the different careers in the different businesses. It brings to life what their future is going to hold,” Milone said.

“The CEO of a company you have to make sure everyone is doing their job and you have to make sure that they’re doing it correctly. So it’s a lot of work because if your business fails, they all put it on you, so you have to make sure it runs smoothly,” said Park Avenue School fifth-grader Jada Howell who served as CEO of Healthy Hut Cafe.

Junior Achievement is a free program for all New Jersey students. After they complete 13 hours of lessons in class, they head to Main Street to put their skills to work.

“It’s fun because you get to live the life of an adult,” said fifth-grader Carl Jones.

Jones is the financial manager for this investor’s bank branch.

“A lot of people come and you have to write down their names and then take their money and then give money so you have to do math too,” he said.

“This is probably an experiment why your parents are always tired when they come home from work ,” said fifth-grader Layette Jones.

“We impact 62,000 students annually across the state of New Jersey from K-12. This particular program will be reaching 5,000 students this year,” Milone said.

It’s all made possibly by corporate sponsors. The newest to Main Street? Investors Bank.

“I think it’s such an important thing for them to learn at this stage because at this stage they’re very impressionable and giving them the opportunity to learn how to save money will impact them for the rest of their lives,” said Investors Bank COO Domenick Cama.

About halfway through the day all the team stops and hold a business meeting, much like they would in the real world, to assess what’s working and what’s not.

“So we see what we’re doing to make a difference and what can we do to make more of a difference,” said Daniel Guaman.

Guaman is part of the community assistance center.

“We work all day giving jars to all the businesses we see and we talk with the workers and we find for the families who are in need,” he said.

Future leaders and business owners in the making. But for now, they’ll just enjoy being kids.