MADISON, NJ - This month, 150 fifth grade Madison students went on a field trip to BizTown, an innovative, hands-on educational program designed by Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ) located in Edison, NJ.
JANJ is a well-known non-profit organization and global leader in the fields of financial literacy, career readiness, and economic education. Their BizTown project, in partnership with business and educators, brings the real world to students, opening their minds to their potential and preparing them for the work world.
Fifth graders began their BizTown experience weeks in advance of their trip in the classroom with a curriculum that centered around financial literacy, savings, taxes, a community’s economy and how money moves through a town. Students also learned about the importance of being active citizens and were encouraged to explore their interests and/or strengths that may someday evolve into future careers.
BizTown is actually a 7,000 square-foot conference venue comprised of 14 mock storefronts, including MetLife, Walmart, Investors Bank, and Chick-fil-A. Students role-played in this mini economy as CEOs, CFOs, bank tellers, newspaper reporters, healthcare technicians and more -- and even dressed the part. Junior Achievement staff and volunteers from the NJ corporate community served as coordinators of the event and guided students through their exciting day. Parent volunteers from Madison were also on-hand to help the students be successful in their roles.
Luke Seifried, a fifth grader from Central Avenue School, said, “The thing I liked most about BizTown was the atmosphere. It was really cool acting like an adult, and I really liked being CEO. It was difficult being the boss and keeping everyone under control, but it was fun.”
The day began with the swearing-in of student BizTown mayors by Madison’s very own Mayor Bob Conley -- a major highlight of the day. Jake Kurilla from Central Avenue School and Miles DePaul from King’s Road -- who each won tight mayoral races at their schools -- were sworn in by Mayor Conley, who remarked that a big part of his job is to bring businesses, higher education, and municipal government together to work for the greater good. Kurilla and DePaul then raised their right hands and took their oath of office for the day.
"It was impressive to see students applying skills they learned in the classroom to real life situations in Biztown,” said Thomas Liss, Principal of Central Avenue School, who was on-site at BizTown when his fifth grade students attended. “Students worked hard, and learned what workplace readiness looks and feels like."
Overall, the two days went smoothly and the mock storefront businesses appeared to be humming along nicely, but a few students did encounter some problems. Jack Scalley, CFO of the radio station BizNJ, could not understand why he was short $137 for the day until he realized he hadn’t yet made several deposits. Riley Holland, Manager at Investors Bank, was totally exhausted by all the activity taking place at her branch, and Noah Rega -- wearing his signature safety gear as Logistics Engineer of the Phillips 66 Refinery -- graciously provided energy to a number of businesses even though their checks hadn’t yet cleared the back because their CEOs forgot to sign them.
Other highlights of the day, as far as the fifth graders are concerned, were buying song requests and “shout-outs” from the DJs at the radio station, cashing their payroll checks to buy trinkets at Walmart, and swiping their “debit cards” to buy snacks and beverages at Chick-fil-A.
For more information or to volunteer at JA Biztown, visit janj.org or email Angela Celeste, Manager, at email@example.com.