We Must Prepare Young People To Succeed In Global Economy
Recently I helped with a group of ninth-grade students from Carbondale School District who were participating in our program called Finance Park at the Junior Achievement Mericle Family Center for Enterprise Education in Pittston Twp. The students were randomly assigned annual salaries, family statuses (single, married, children) and careers. Then they were given the opportunity budget and pay for their lifestyle with salaries that ranged from $25,000 to $110,000 a year. Some had hard choices to make, some not so difficult. This same scenario plays out with the dozens of school districts that send their students to us. As I walked around offering my support and talking with them about their choices, I found myself saying, “You may want to trade in the Chevrolet Camaro for the Ford Fiesta, because you’ve run out of money and you haven’t eaten yet.” It became clear to me that many students were frustrated. How true to life. Finances are frustrating. One student even said “I’m never asking my Mom to buy me anything” once he saw that after paying all of his bills, he was left with $75 for the month. The frustration abates, however, when we learn the skills needed to be in control of our financial future. And, for these young people, their experience in Finance Park was just a practice run — a well-structured and supervised exercise in financial literacy. Taking an honest healthy look at what it really takes to manage your financial future can be a challenge at any age, but at Junior Achievement we can help people at a younger age develop the skills and knowledge about the basics of personal finance. As we highlighted “Financial Literacy Month” throughout April, we taught our students the basics of financial literacy such as: paying yourself first; understanding a need versus a want; and preparing for emergencies, with relevant examples even at the kindergarten level. These lessons are freely provided to school districts by way of tested curriculum throughout the year and are often taught by experienced professionals who are encouraged to share their life experiences. We believe that teaching financial literacy from an early age encourages the skills needed to be successful. It is Junior Achievement’s ultimate goal to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. So as the students left frustrated with their simulated “adulting,” we hope they took away a better understanding of their parent’s daily responsibilities as well as a connection to their own future with the good choices they can make now. If you are looking to get involved with Junior Achievement and find out more ways to inspire and motivate young people, please give us a call 570-602-3600 or email us at Info@JANEPA.org. Ginny Crake is president of Junior Achievement of Northeast Pennsylvania at the Mericle Center for Enterprise Education in Pittston Twp.