JA Finance Park as Rewarding for CU Volunteers as it is for Students

Editor’s note: JA Finance Park launched in Southwest Washington and Oregon late this spring. Funded in part by a grant from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) it gives students hands-on, “real life” budgeting experience. The NWCUF’s Josalyn Alston recently had an equally memorable experience as a volunteer. She shares the highlights, in her own words.

“Having a kid and a wife to take care of is TOO expensive . . . I’m staying single forever!”

“I don’t understand how I paid all of my bills, and still owe money . . . does this mean I have to give up my BMW?”

“I didn’t know my parent’s paid this much money to take care of my brothers, sister and I. I am definitely going to thank them for everything they do when I get home.”

Statements like this and more echoed through the conference center of the Red Lion Jantzen Beach Hotel in Portland, OR as 50 7th and 8th graders from Frontier Middle School in the Evergreen School District embarked on a journey filled with the opportunity to be an “adult” for the day. While some walked in “dressed for success,” others anxiously awaited the opportunity to see how much they would be making in hopes to buy a new sports car and travel the world. Not all of the students were not prepared to face the reality that being financially responsible takes more than spending money, it takes the know-how to spend it wisely.

The students were among the first to experience JA Finance Park, a mobile facility created by Junior Achievement of Oregon and SW Washington. JA Finance Park travels throughout the region providing an interactive venue in which students navigate through a maze of financial expenditures, while encountering real-life challenges. Through a partnership with the NWCUF, the Foundation staff along with credit union volunteers from the Portland area had the opportunity to help the students for the day. Equipped with iPads that featured an app exclusively created for JA Finance Park, students were given such simulations as being married with children, while managing a combined income of $58,000. Students then were tasked with purchasing a home, transportation, insurance, groceries, etc.

“I really enjoyed volunteering at the JA Finance Park event and found the event to be well planned, smoothly run, and impactful on both the students and me,” said Amanda Otto, a Unitus Community Credit Union staffer. “My favorite component of the event was how interactive it was. From the iPad app to the QR codes at each booth, the students had an opportunity to truly interact with their financial world.”

Other volunteers and parents were pleased to have the ability to be hands on with the kids, as well as to witness for themselves how much of an impact the program has had even after its first few visits to the schools Junior Achievement of Oregon and SW Washington serves.

As one 8th grade parent exclaimed, “It has been a joy to watch these kids experience what us parents go through to manage not only a household, but their livelihood well. My child has already asked me if he can get a summer job just to help where he believes he can. This program is amazing!”

The Foundation serves as a partner with JA of Oregon and SW Washington funding a multi-year grant and sponsors a credit union kiosk within the JA Finance Park. The kiosk is one of the few businesses encouraging students to save as students were required to open savings accounts and select from options including short-term programs like vacations or an electronics package, as well as longer-term options including saving for college.

In the upcoming school year, the NWCUF plans to work with JA of Oregon and SW Washington to establish partnerships with local area credit unions in order to bring JA Finance Park to their community public schools, and to create volunteer opportunities for credit unions staff.

For more information about JA Finance Park, or to inquire about volunteering with Junior Achievement of Oregon and SW Washington, please click here. For questions regarding the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, please contact Kim Vu at kvu@nwcua.org, or 800.995.9064 ext. 112.


Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, NWCUA.