MADISON, NJ - Some of the most valuable lessons children learn in school are about the real world and their best school experiences happen outside the classroom.  

King's Road Elementary School Principal, Kathleen Koop jumped at the opportunity to give her 5th grade students a lesson plan and opportunity they will never forget through Junior Achievements of New Jersey's Metlife Foundation, JA BizTown.

On June 1, 2015 Madison's real Mayor Bob Conley swore in PJ the Mayor of JA BizTown®, a 5th grade student from Kings Road School who was elected by his peers prior to their field trip to the JA BizTown simulation. JA BizTown is JA of New Jersey’s newest two-pronged approach to financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness. JA BizTown is also effectively aligned with Common Core State Standards and New Jersey Core Curriculum.

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It was a proud moment for PJ’s father Paul who also attended for the day as a volunteer. "It was a great experience. I really enjoyed it."

Mayor Conley also addressed the 60+ students who were ready to role-play for the day in a variety of jobs in the 14 volunteer-assisted storefronts comprising this simulated mini-town, acting as CEOs, CFOs, utility workers, news reporters, Quest Diagnostics lab technicians, MetLife financial service managers, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Wellness Coaches, NJ Credit Union tellers, UPS workers, Walmart sales managers, and more. Mayor Conley shared with students how important it is for businesses to work together and to give back to build strong, successful communities.

"All the CEO's had to make a speech and students were required to attend the day in business casual dress," said Julia Nicolette, one of the Kings Road 5th grade teachers who took a lead role with the students getting prepared for the JA Biztown experience. 

"Students had 12 in-classroom lessons coming into the program. Students filled out job applications and their skills were assessed along with their top three choices. Each was then placed in a role according to that process," added Nicolette.

"The thing I love most about this program is that every student has a job that provides value. They are all busy, they all have an important role. Each student begins to realize that every function within the community is necessary for it to be successful. I believe my most important role as principal is to make sure every student understands their worth," added Koop.

Quest Diagnostics, with headquarters in Madison, is a strong community partner and a JABizTown investor, who generously underwrote student participation in the program, enabling JA to provide it to the school, students, and their families at no cost. 

As highlighted by Mayor Conley, it is thanks in part to Quest Diagnostics’ investment that students in New Jersey receive a life-changing learning experience at JA BizTown.

"This is about as memorable an experience I could have hoped for to give my 5th grade students as they leave Kings Road and go on to the middle school.  They probably are not going to remember that great day in math class, but hopefully we gave them the skills they needed and they will remember JA Biztown and how they applied them," added Koop. 

"I was so busy all day long.  When someone went on break you had to cover for them. I didn't know how hard going to work really was," said one student. "It was so cool though!" 

JA BizTown announced it's program pilot in partnership with the Metlife Foundation in spring 2014. Junior Achievement of New Jersey gives real world learning opportunities to 5th, 6th, and 7th  graders through JA BizTown. The program was made possible by the MetLife Foundation. 

JA BizTown is a standards-based, no-cost solution for schools in New Jersey. The program begins in the classroom with several weeks of teacher-taught classroom lessons in financial literacy education, community & the economy, work readiness, and business management. Students explore careers, complete a job application, and will be assigned a job within the JA BizTown of New Jersey simulated mini-city.  It all culminates in a day-long simulation field trip.

Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ) is dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers. They provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. During the 2013-14 school year, JANJ reached more than 56,000 students in more than 76 school districts across the New Jersey.

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