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Junior Achievement of Polk County: A Foundation for Financial Literacy and Career Readiness

I’m honored to have a platform where I can spotlight one of the organizations that I hold very near and dear to my heart because I benefitted from it as a student and years later was able to serve as a volunteer. Today, I would love to highlight the Junior Achievement of Polk County. Junior Achievement of Polk County has a specific curriculum to impact children at every level of their education, from elementary through high school. Their curriculum centers around their core mission “to improve the quality of life for young people by preparing them for adulthood, empowering them to take control of their personal finances and their future careers, giving them the opportunity for financial independence and continued economic opportunities.”

As a financial advisor, clients frequently talk about the things we wish we had known when we were just starting in our careers. I love the fact that students are starting to get exposed to things like creating a budget, saving for the future, and pursuing a career, thanks to Junior Achievement of Polk County.

One of the areas our board has been passionate about preserving in Polk County is the Junior Achievement classroom sessions.

After the pandemic shutdowns, many other chapters significantly reduced or stopped their classroom education programs. These classroom sessions consist of volunteers going onsite to local classrooms and teaching for about half a day to students as young as kindergarten through 7th grade. The curriculum will differ from grade to grade. In first and second grade, the students have more activities and where they create cities and learn the different businesses that make up a local community, such as a bank, a school, a library, a city hall, etc. While students who are in middle school will be more interested in creating a budget and how money works. I still remember when I volunteered with the seventh-grade class, and one student was very disappointed that the sports car would eat up more than half of their assigned monthly budget. I made sure to let him know that it was better to learn that in the classroom than in real life after you bought the car.

Middle schoolers, and some as early as fifth grade, get the chance to visit Biztown and Finance Park.

The current closest location is in Tampa, and we are working to bring our very own facilities to Polk County. There is a curriculum prior to their trip to Biztown or Finance Park, where they learn different financial literacy principles. They get to visit these spaces as the final capstone for their financial literacy and apply what they have learned are a way for students to have a day in “Biztown.” They are given a job that day with their pay rate/salary. They work at their business during the designated shift and then can visit different businesses when their shift is over. Now I actually did this back when I was in sixth grade, I have a core memory of being the cashier at Kane’s Furniture, because clearly they knew I had a calling for handling money. Just kidding, they probably didn’t know that, but I digress. I can tell you the collective highlight of that day was getting to “buy” your lunch at McDonald’s after you got your pay for the day. I asked if that was still the case at Biztown, and they confirmed, it is indeed still very popular.

When it comes to reaching high school students, Junior Achievement pioneered a new education method called “3DE by Junior Achievement.”

3DE integrates, real-world experiences across core academic subjects, inspiring students to become and stay engaged in their learning while developing core life skills of collaboration, critical and analytical thinking, cultural agility, communication, creativity and innovation, and self-direction. One of our local high schools, Tenoroc High School, was the first to debut this program in Polk County. These 9th and 10th graders have presented on case studies for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Delta, and Arby’s, just to name a few! Junior Achievement partners with local and national businesses to showcase what they know about the partners and build presentable solutions. Can you imagine presenting to Sheriff Grady Judd as a 9th grader? What an opportunity!

Junior Achievement does so much for our community’s students that this blog will become a novel if I don’t stop myself. I’m fortunate as a board member to see what we do on a regular basis. There are so many ways to get involved with what we are doing in Polk County, whether that means volunteering in a classroom, donating as we build our very own Biztown and Finance Park, or mentoring 9th and 10th graders as they prepare their presentations. Be sure to visit to learn more.

January 2024

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