“Good people of Morgan Elementary School. We live in a great nation full of opportunity, full of optimism, full of hope”, begins JA Biztown mayor Nate Preslar. “ In recent months I believe that our freedoms and liberties have been slowly deteriorating. Unemployment is rising, the income gap is growing, and men and women march on Washington D.C. in protest. Yes, the Dow has dropped tremendously, and in Greece, Neo Nazis are gaining political power. The world and its future may appear bleak to you. Don’t give up. Coming to J.A. Biztown, you may see a town that is insignificant, that is just another fieldtrip. I on the other hand, see a town of hope, a town of prosperity, a town of promise, and a town of opportunity waiting for us. Students don’t believe the future is bleak, where others see disparity, I see opportunity. How do we harness this opportunity? We start today! I believe in America and the free market. I believe in competition and hard work, and I believe in you! Don’t give up, there is opportunity awaiting us in life and in this town. God bless you, and God bless America!”
To most it would seem like a regular day, business opened, consumers shopped, workers resumed their posts. To Morgan Elementary fifth graders this was anything but a normal day. After boarding buses and arriving at JA Biztown students were transformed into workers of this fictional city. Students had been preparing for this field trip for over four weeks, learning such important skills such as check writing, filling out deposit slips, how to maintain check registers, and the relationships between loans and interest. They learned about philanthropy, taxes, goods, and services. Students even ran for mayor and held job interviews for titles such as CFO of Alphagraphics or gas meter readers at Rocky Mountain Power/Questar Gas.
This was the first year Morgan students were able to participate in JA Biztown and the students’ excitement bridged over into a great learning experience. JA stands for Junior Achievement which is the self proclaimed “world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.” Junior Achievement has made it their mission “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy”, and inspire they did. Although they were able to catch only a glimpse of the business world, the students were able to see how knowledge, creativity and team work creates such a boundless potential.
Morgan Elementary fifth grade teacher Blaine Curfew states, “Students got a taste of what life in the business world was like. Students had to work as an employee, they received paychecks and had to deposit (deposit slips and all) those paychecks before they could spend their money. Students had to make choices of where their money went and I think they felt what ‘opportunity cost’ really means. In general, students learned about the basic flow of resources and how they relate to goods and services in a free market economy.”
To keep the students informed as well as offer advertisement to JA Biztown, business students ran and published JA’s own JA Deseret News as well as JA TV which was broadcast throughout this fictional city. Those who had received the job of CEO gave speeches at the town meeting letting students know what services could be had or purchased at their businesses. Students working as bank tellers were busy cashing checks or recording deposits for the 15 plus businesses.
Fifth grader Kaven Johansen, ad executive for The JA Deseret News, liked how the workers worked together for a common goal, each helping the other during breaks. JA Biztown elected mayor Nate Preslar echoed this as he states that he “learned to work with other members of the town. It is important to work hard and it’s not easy to do what adults do.” All in all, he along with the rest of the students ,loved this experience, an experience of a lifetime. Among all the field trips students participate in this one stands out as one of the most inspiring and influen,tial among the students.