Fifth-Graders Test Mettle, Business Savvy at JA BizTown

By Matt Halvorson, NWCUA Communications Research Analyst

I spent Tuesday this week at Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown in Auburn, Wash., along with a group of parents, school officials, and volunteers from Harborstone and Woodstone Credit Unions and the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA).

JA BizTown is basically set up like a mini city, a room the size of a large gymnasium lined on all sides with storefronts. There are no houses, no apartments, and there’s not much time for relaxing. JA BizTown really is all business.

Large groups of kids come to BizTown after weeks of preparation at school, where they’ve been prepped to run a business for a day. They fill roles like CEO, CFO, mayor, delivery person, construction worker and sales manager, and as volunteers, we helped shepherd the kids through the day, taking on one business as our own.

BizTown 4

The day started with the 100-plus kids—fifth-graders from three different area elementary schools—gathered “in uniform” in the center of town, listening to the student mayor give an opening speech.

From there, the students went to work. I was overseeing the Best Buy store, where the CEO, CFO and two sales managers immediately set about to establishing prices that would allow the store to turn a profit, cutting payroll checks and getting familiar with the computer systems. They also had to get their personal finances in order, so a trip to the bank (the bank!?) was their first stop (and their only available financial institution…) once they got their first break.

Once things got underway, there was no stopping to catch your breath. When the sales managers weren’t ringing up a sale, they were restocking the shelves and trying to answer questions for customers. The CFO spent his day running from his computer to the bank and back, logging deposits, cutting checks and paying bills to the various BizTown companies that came to collect.

BizTown MemoBizTown also features a UPS delivery service that allows students to send memos across town to their friends. My Best Buy CEO got a message from his buddy that aptly summed up one of the day’s lessons.

“So how(‘)s your biz,” it read. “Mine has a LOT of paperwork. Sincer(e)ly, Seth.”

At one point during the day, my exhausted CFO looked at me and asked, “Is your job like this?”

“Not exactly like this,” I said, knowing that I at least usually have time to go get the occasional cup of coffee during the day. Aside from managing to get his hands on a second piece of pizza during his lunch break, I don’t think he’d had a moment’s rest.

The day finished up much like it had started, with the kids all gathered up in the center of town listening to speeches, cheering for award winners and applauding each other’s efforts.

BizTown 5BizTown 6

But it also wrapped up with 100-plus fifth-graders suddenly more aware of just what all is involved in running a business, managing their finances, and going to work every day.

Even though we are already more than halfway through Financial Literacy Month, the NWCUA will work to continuing partnering with Junior Achievement and other organizations that promote financial literacy throughout the year. Keep an eye on Anthem and on the NWCUA’s website for opportunities to get involved.


Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor:

Posted in Around the NW, Events, NWCUA.