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JA and MasterCard: Equipping Students for the Future

Kids today have the opportunity to learn so much, thanks to the Internet, computers, smart phones, and more.

However, experiential learning goes a long way to help students learn and retain what they’ve learned for a longer period of time.

In St. Louis, we host two such experiential learning opportunities for students: fifth graders visit JA Biz Town and 8th through 12th grade students visit JA Finance Park.  More than 20,000 students each year attend these sessions, the culmination of four weeks of intense lessons on entrepreneurism and financial literacy via the Junior Achievement curriculum at their schools.

Despite the fact that our JA BizTown attendees aren’t old enough to drive, work, or vote – when they’re on-site, they take turns at being JA BizTown citizens for the day – operating banks, managing businesses, investing in stocks, and earning profits!  It provides terrific insight to what they’ll experience as adults, and helps them understand more about how business works in the ‘real world.’

Companies like MasterCard make this experiential learning possible, by sponsoring storefronts and helping further students’ educational experiences.  Students attending JA BizTown work in one of 17 businesses, make financial decisions, pay taxes, and donate to charity.  Each JA BizTown citizen has a job for the day, gets paid twice, manage checking and savings accounts, shops, gets health check-ups, may be interviewed on TV and much more.  It’s active learning in force – and students participate in actual decision-making for their businesses with consequences.

In JA BizTown, students are now able to learn about an additional way to pay for items for their businesses – a debit card.  Previously, students only had the option of spending cash or writing a check for the goods and services they need to run their businesses.  With more and more consumers using electronic payments in their personal and professional lives, it’s important for students to have exposure to these different methods of payment, so they are aware of all of the options available to them, and the impact of these choices on their business and the business’ bottom line.

A recent study conducted with 3,000 students who participate in JA programming show a 100% gain in knowledge in the areas of work readiness, business management, economics and personal finance/.

So, my thanks to MasterCard, and to the other companies who sponsor the educational programs that help students understand the value of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

What specifically do you feel young people should learn in these areas to be prepared for their future?

/Test results are gathered from pre- and post-tests during the JA program experience.

Lori Jacob is a guest blogger and President/CEO, Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis, Inc.