Junior Achievement BizTown


by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- There's a town where the mayor is only 10-years-old and the CEO of one of the companies can't even drive, but the town is getting along just fine.

It's BizTown and it's the newest venture for Junior Achievement of Wisconsin. The Kohl's Education Center gives elementary students a life-like experience by letting them run the businesses in the town and the city government.

It's the way the non-profit is going these days---moving towards more hands on activities that teach kids about finances, the economy, and the workplace.

"JA BizTown comes to life when the kids get here. Commerce begins. The students begin running their business. They're certainly doing their jobs, they're on task, and they're paid for their jobs," said JA Wisconsin CEO Tim Greinert.

"I'm sending out all these loan agreements," said Melissa Romo. By day, she's CEO of Bank One, but by night, she's a student at J.W. Riley Elementary. That's where she had lessons leading up to her day in BizTown that focused on writing checks, making money, and most importantly saving it. Melissa is already applying that concept to her real life allowance.

"I asked my mom and dad if they could give it to me in dollar bills so I could save some and then spend on what I really want," said Melissa.

The students have the option of buying things like popcorn or headphones at BizTown, but they also have to run the businesses they're assigned to.

"I like to watch them. I like to leave them on their own," said teacher Argentina Burras. "I always feel that they depend on mee too much and I try to get them to not depend on me."

She says the Junior Achievement program has a way of teaching kids about society that she might not otherwise come up with.

"We introduce a lot of being an adult, being responsible and having to contribute and not just take from your community," said Burras.

Given the poor economy, Greinert hopes the kids will take the lessons they learn, home to their parents and remember them as they continue on their quest for success.

"The relevance for what we're teaching our young people about financial literacy has never been more important," said Greinert.

Even though the school year is over, students enrolled in certain summer programs will still be taking advantage of BizTown.

For more information on Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, log onto http://wisconsin.ja.org


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