JA BizTown® – An Experience for All Students
Author: Beck Harhai
Published: Friday, 07 Apr 2023
Image caption: West Mifflin LS students at JA BizTown®
JA BizTown® is a revolutionary education experience. Challenging the traditional classroom method, JA BizTown® thrusts participants into a real-world simulation that teaches them what it’s like to be an adult and emphasizes the importance of citizenship, financial literacy, work readiness, and community.
Through JA BizTown® for 4th - 6th grade students, Junior Achievement of Western PA (JA) provides memorable, motivational experiences to all populations allowing them to envision a life where their dreams become a reality.
Life Skills Students
Last month, JA welcomed West Mifflin Area High School Life Skills (LS) students to experience a day as a JA BizTown® citizen. LS classes are designed to meet the needs of students with intellectual, developmental and academic differences and focus on teaching them fundamental skills in academics, daily living and vocational, recreational and community participation.
JA’s education staff worked alongside West Mifflin LS teachers to design a day filled with impactful and applicable lessons and experiences. The citizens spent the day stocking shelves at Giant Eagle, preparing lunches at Sheetz, delivering supplies and routers from FedEx Ground and Comcast, and playing music from the Star 100.7 DJ booth. A few students even practiced handling money at Clearview Federal Credit Union!
With the help of teachers, volunteers and JA staff, the citizens successfully completed their tasks, leaving the learning experience with the skills they need to enter the workforce as an individual with developmental differences.
West Mifflin is not the first LS group to go through a day in JA BizTown®. Last summer, adult students from Life’sWork of Western PA spent a day learning about the workforce, financial literacy and good citizenship.
"Our Life’sWork students had an amazing time at JA BizTown®. They jumped right into the working world, working diligently for a business and earning and spending their paychecks,” said Ami Steinmetz, Director of Education & Workforce Development. “Not only is JA BizTown® a remarkable, innovative way to get young people to understand the workplace, but it's also a fun, energetic experience they won’t soon forget.”
Community Groups and Organizations
JA’s accommodation goes beyond LS students – the education team prides itself on working to deliver the impactful experience to all students in the region. Although most participants attend traditional k-12 school districts, JA has also welcomed many community groups and organizations to JA BizTown®.
Earlier this month, children from Love First Homeschool Co-Op visited the JA BizTown® facility. Because their home school co-op consists of only 20 students, they were paired with another group from the Pittsburgh Dioses Extra Mile Foundation. Together, the two groups successfully completed a day at JA BizTown®.
Involving High Schoolers
Although JA is committed to making BizTown® a meaningful opportunity for all, the material is designed for elementary and middle school children and is generally too basic for high school students. Yet, there are still ways for high schoolers to practice citizenship and, soon, join JA in another true-to-life educational experience.
High school students are welcome and encouraged to volunteer at JA BizTown®. Many schools recruit their own high schoolers to help their younger students during their trip. Through volunteering at JA BizTown®, high schoolers put their knowledge of financial literacy and citizenship to good use by leading and impacting the younger generation.
JA is also developing an educational experience like JA BizTown® specifically for middle and high school students. JA Finance Park is a simulation-based experience for personal finance planning and career exploration that helps students build a foundation to make intelligent financial decisions related to income, expenses, savings, and credit. Like JA BizTown®, JA Finance Park will involve in-class curriculum culminating with a trip to the JA Finance Park facility.
Planning for JA Finance Park is still in the early stages.
Planning Your Trip to BizTown
JA is committed to bringing the valuable lessons provided through JA BizTown® to students of all schooling formats and abilities. The facility is ADA accessible, and the education team is passionate about creatively finding ways to make the experience meaningful for everyone.
Although most slots are filled for this school year, dates are available for school year 2023-24. If you’re interested in a trip for your group or have any questions about JA BizTown®, please contact Senior Education Director Amy Sidwell.