NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - New Brunswick High students are learning to handle financial decisions by attending the Junior Achievement (JA) Finance Park in neighboring Edison. Its an experience that offers hands-on financial experience, and was a real eye-opener for many.

Students learn about money management from many perspectives. Each student receives a tablet with a distinct personal profile that assigns them  an occupation, income level, marital status, and dependents.

Stations at the event focus on various adult-sized issues, like insurance policies and costs, the types of bills that students will face, how to save money, how to wisely use credit, and create a realistic household budget.

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About 80 students attended the May 3 event, with a total of 200 students from NBHS participating this spring

JA helps students realize that the education they are getting today will help them to have a bright future tomorrow.

JA's unique, volunteer delivered programs, show NBHS students all of the possibilities that lay before them. They realize they can choose different paths; College? A specific trade? Start their own business? JA provided New Brunswick students with these important stats that helped put it all in perspective:

  • 20% of U.S. students will not complete high school on time and earn a diploma.
  • 49% of U.S. employers recognize that talent shortages impact their ability to serve clients and customers.
  • 36% of Americans say that they have at some point in their lives felt their financial situation was out of control.
  • 91% of millennials wish they had greater access to entrepreneurial education programs.

Paul Bryant, a NBHS financial literacy teacher, finds that a major challenge for most students is “managing their budget.”

During the seminars, NBHS students learn to distinguish what they need from what they want, and to then only buy what they can afford. The day culminates in a hands-on budgeting simulation.             

Students not only walk away with a better understanding of finances, but also with a newfound appreciation of how parents must carefully balance their money.

“I think I now understand what my parents go through every month, says Kim, a junior. “Being an adult is hard! Budgeting, and staying within that certain budget, is much more complicated than I thought.”

JA is the nation's largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.

Junior Achievement's programs—in the core content areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy—are designed to ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century.

Jonathan Jimenez is a senior at New Brunswick High School