By Kristina Houck
Ashley Falls School fifth-graders were recently adults for one day. The Carmel Valley students went to work, earned a paycheck and managed their finances at
Junior Achievement of San Diego’s BizTown.
Jessica Maltzman served as mayor of the simulated town.
“BizTown gets us prepared for the real world,” said 10-year-old Jessica. “Instead of showing us something, we’re doing it.”
JA BizTown is a two-story, 10,000-square-foot mini-city where students discover how the “real world” works. Modeled on San Diego, BizTown features 21
retail and service businesses, as well as a city hall, two financial
institutions and a nonprofit
Each student works, earns a paycheck and manages a checking account. The 4.5-hour simulation also includes two town hall meetings and three business meetings in the shops.
“They learn the relevance of what they are learning in school to their real life,” said Joanne Pastula, president and CEO of Junior Achievement. “They learn how to apply what they are learning.”
Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement is a nonprofit organization that offers kindergarten through 12th-grade programs that foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.
There are 118 Junior Achievement locations in the country. Junior Achievement San Diego launched in 1950.
San Diego’s JA BizTown program opened in 2007. About 150 schools throughout San Diego County participate in the program each year. Annually, the organization reaches almost 14,000 students through BizTown and 50,000 students through its other programs.
The San Diego Women’s Foundation recently awarded Junior Achievement of San Diego a $55,800 grant so fifth-graders throughout the region can visit
“Financial management and well-being is definitely something we’re lacking as a society as a whole,” said Jenny Erdmann, a financial adviser and four-year member of the San Diego Women’s Foundation, an organization that educates and inspires women to engage in significant and sustainable philanthropy to strengthen the region. “I think it starts really young. I was excited to see that we’re taking charge and starting to educate our children early on.”
“This is life; this is a community,” said Tracy Johnson, who has been the executive director of the San Diego Women’s Foundation for seven years. “They’re going to learn, grow up and remember this experience and implement it into their own lives.”
Students visit BizTown after five weeks of classroom lessons where they learn the rights and responsibilities of a citizen, how to manage personal finances, and how to run a successful business. Students apply and interview for jobs before they arrive at BizTown. Jack in the Box, which is headquartered in San Diego and represented at Biztown, is often the most popular job prospect, Pastula said.
“What goes on in the classroom can be somewhat removed from the children on a day-to-day basis,” said Ashley Falls teacher Mary Ann Loes. She and two other teachers brought their 66 fifth-grade students to BizTown on Jan. 14. “What’s nice about BizTown is it takes studies such as math, economics and even social studies and it puts the children into an environment where they really utilize those skills in a real-life way.”
“It’s skills they’ll actually need when they go out on their own,” added Ashley Falls teacher Kris Pike. “It brings it to life for them. It makes it more meaningful.”
For more information about Junior Achievement of San Diego, visit www.jasandiego.org.