Young entrepreneurs try their hand as real workers in a
by: Cindy Garrison, 
Cedaroak Park Primary fifth-graders Hannah Balducci and Joe Gilligan exchange a check in payment for a puppy that Joe is adopting from the animal shelter, which was part of Junior Achievement’s BizTown in the Portland area. The animal shelter was the only nonprofit business in BizTown.

Fourth and fifth-graders at Cedaroak Park Primary School were very busy on a recent Wednesday. They had been training for three months to run Junior Achievement's (JA) BizTown in Portland, home to 18 simulated businesses.

The businesses include program sponsors such as Key Bank, Fred Meyer, Allstate Insurance, Best Buy, Qwest, UPS, a television station, newspaper, construction company, city hall and a sports store.

The city's mayor was fifth-grader Mikayla Medberry, who ran for office and was elected.

'I learned that work is hard,' said fifth-grader Jacob Montpart. 'You think it's fun and games.'

Jacob worked as a photographer for the BizJournal, taking photographs and selling and delivering newspapers. He was paid 5.84 cents per pay period. There were two.

'I don't think I want to be a photographer when I grow up,' he admitted. But he did add that police work looked interesting.

Daryl Wainwright, a fourth-grader, was a savings officer for KeyBank.

'Since I'm really good at math, they put me as a savings officer,' he said. 'I learned that the savings officer is pretty fun, and it's really fun to be in the bank.'

He made $8 per pay period, but he didn't spend it all. He was too busy working and learning.

He learned two things about business during the 4½ hours he worked on his job.

Daryl learned that it's important to advertise.

'There's a lot of competition,' he said.

He also learned that nonprofits have to earn a profit.

'Running a town helped students understand how important learning, technology, reading, writing, mathematics and oral communications will be in their futures,' said Principal Sharon Newman. 'This experience brought out talents and achievements in students that I have not yet seen in them in a traditional school environment.'

Most had never experienced anything like this before. However, they were prepared.

This year's focus in class has been on civics, according to teacher Cheri Weaver.

'The hard work that went into specifically training for the big day as well as academic learning for the past five or six years came into play at BizTown,' she said. 'It empowered the kids to realize that there are reasons for learning those skills and values.'

She was proud of the way the students made the connections between school and work such as meeting deadlines, teamwork and work ethic.

'Many students mentioned how they had not expected to be working so hard (yet they loved it),' Weaver said. 'They knew they were doing important work.'

Aside from their work role, students had to write checks, make deposits, take out and pay off business loans and even visit the wellness center.

It costs JA $40 to run the program for each student. Schools are only asked to pay $10 per student.

A lot of training is involved in the process. Students spend hours studying for their roles. Teachers and parent volunteers also are trained to work.

Maryjane Davey, a parent volunteer, wished she could have trained a little more for her position. She was helping out in the television station.

'It was a great experience,' she said. 'The kids learned so much. At any point (in their education) it would prepare them for what the world is going to look like.'

Her daughter Miranda was the chief executive officer of the wellness center.

When it was all over, 'she was exhausted,' Davey said.

The fatigue, however, was worth it to the savings officer.

'JA BizTown is a lot of fun,' said Daryl. 'Probably the funnest place ever - anywhere.'

For more information on JA BizTown, call 503-238-6430.


Cindy Garrison is employed by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and often writes articles for the Tidings.

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