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December 10, 2015

Junior Achievement (JA) of San Diego County works with students in grades K-12 on workforce preparedness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Each program is designed to teach students how to get a job, start a business and learn the basics of how money works. The San Diego County division has been serving youth since 1950 — reaching over 56,000 students last year alone.

Programs are delivered by volunteers, who represent the professional world and receive specific training to share JA’s curriculum throughout the community. These professionals are brought into the classroom and in front of students to show them the possibilities in education, work and their futures as a whole. JA reaches students in a variety of ways including programs like McGrath JA Family Biztown and Mission Fed JA Finance Park, in-classroom activities at local schools, and job shadowing opportunities with businesses in the area.

Mission Fed JA Finance Park, the organization’s latest programmatic venture, is an experiential program that immerses students in adult situations in order for them to learn — a format proven highly effective in other JA programs. At its core is budgeting and career exploration. At the start of the session students are presented with occupational information, including salary, current and projected in-demand industries and educational attainment needed. They are then asked to choose a career path based on what they learn. During the simulation portion, students are assigned a specific profile based on the occupation they’ve chosen with details like salary, credit card debt, number of children, etc. They assume this profile as they walk through various life situations — where to live, what to drive, how to qualify for a mortgage, what type of groceries to buy and more. The exercise shows how the careers they choose are tied directly to the lifestyle they will have, which helps highlight the idea of future education or training after high school.

Mission Fed JA Finance Park opened in October with a cohort from CONNECT2Careers’ (C2C) summer 2015 class. The Finance Park experience served as the program capstone, tying together what the students learned in their summer job training and work experiences to their future endeavors. Students learned how to apply their C2C experience to saving and budgeting, keeping a job, finding future jobs and taking on adult responsibilities.

“C2C and JA are close partners when it comes to preparing San Diego’s young people for their future,” says Stephen Colón, C2C Program Coordinator. “The simulation experience at Finance Park give young people opportunities to practice sound financial management in a supportive environment.”

Valerie Hash, Mission Fed JA Finance Park Implementation Manager, says that students who experience JA’s programs leave with a better understanding of how the things they learn in the classroom will apply to world of work. This knowledge leads to increased engagement, a better investment in their own education and often a greater respect for the teachers, parents and other adults in their lives who live through what’s simulated in the programs every day. “Relevancy is the key for a lot of students,” says Hash. “Our programs help kids see the relevancy of what they are already learning in the classroom and how that applies to the world of work and being an adult.”

If you are an educator interested in having students attend Mission Fed JA Finance Park, contact Valerie Hash at Spots are filling up quickly.

If you are interested in volunteering for JA San Diego County, visit

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