Ninth-grade Pocomoke High School students were given the opportunity to experience a day as an adult during a visit to the Junior Achievement Finance Park® in Landover, Maryland. For many of the youth this trip was their first beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The students, accompanied by Pocomoke High School educators; superintendents from both Worcester and Talbot County Public schools; and business leaders from across the Shore, traveled to the 13,500 square-foot financial literacy supercenter to spend an immersive day making and learning from financial mistakes before ever having to do so in the real world. The students were greeted by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who gave a talk about financial literacy and presented Principal Annette Wallace with a certificate of merit for her achievements as Maryland Principal of the Year.
JA Finance Park® is a high-tech, modern “mini-city” of storefronts and kiosks. Inside the “city,” the students were split into groups and assigned a life scenario: an avatar with a career, salary, credit score, debt, a family, and financial obligations. On tablet computers, the students made their way through various phases of the day, which included savings, research of budget items, budgeting, shopping for items, and payment. They visited storefronts, making choices in areas such as housing, healthcare, transportation, home improvement, food, and philanthropy.
“It’s rare that you see students get such a one-on-one, hands-on experience,” stated Greater Salisbury Committee president Mike Dunn, a guest of the event. “I saw fully engaged students learning and, as importantly, enjoying their learning. It’s hard to imagine a better field trip, nor a better way to understand what financial literacy is all about.”
Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore provides the classroom-based Finance Park® program to 2,000 high school students across shore. Unlike the Pocomoke 9th graders, classroom students receive a computer-desktop version of the Finance Park Virtual® simulation thanks to presenting sponsor, Pohanka of Salisbury, as well as sponsors Arby’s, Allstate, PNC Bank, Wilgus Insurance, Shore United Bank, Delmarva Power, ERA Martin Realty, the Henson Foundation, and the Donnie Williams Foundation.
For the day-tripping students at the Junior Achievement Finance Park®, decisions proved difficult, as dreams of luxury cars and large homes sometimes were outstripped by the realities of home, childcare costs, insurance, and food. At the end of the day, with budgets finally balanced, the students gathered to share their thoughts on their eye-opening experience. Freshman September Morris said with a rueful laugh, “I’ll tell my grandmother I know her struggles.” Classmate Chase Fisher phrased his feelings even more succinctly, “Life’s hard.”
Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore is a 501c3 nonprofit organization committed to giving young people in all communities the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. Through its hands-on, age-appropriate programs Junior Achievement inspires our youth to live within their means, prepare for the world of work, and understand the free enterprise system. Today, JAES teaches more than 7,000 students across the Eastern Shore. To learn more about JA Finance Park® email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 410.742.8112, or log on to www.easternshoreja.org.