Students fired up about financial lessons, game SanTan Sun News

Students fired up about financial lessons, game

May 2nd, 2019 | by SanTan Sun News
Students fired up about financial lessons, game
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By COLLEEN SPARKS
Managing Editor

Excitement was high as sixth graders played a game in which they made decisions about going to college or getting jobs in a bustling classroom at Hartford Elementary School in Chandler recently.

The students were playing a game as part of lessons volunteer Karen Quick, who is on the board of directors of the Junior Achievement of Arizona, provided.

Nonprofit Junior Achievement of Arizona teaches Arizona students the skills and knowledge they need to manage their money, as well as plan for the future and make smart academic, career and economic decisions.

Since 1957, the organization has taught students in Arizona in grades kindergarten through 12 lessons in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

More than 8,000 volunteers teach the hands-on lessons to students in the state, which serves 83,000 students.

Nearly 40 schools in the Chandler Unified School District or that are either private or charter schools in the City of Chandler are taking part in the Junior Achievement of Arizona’s financial literacy program this school year.

Quick, a mother of two teenage sons, has retired from her finance director position at a technology consultant company and now does consulting work in finance.

On the first day of the lessons in Veronica Rico’s sixth grade homeroom, which has 26 students, the kids listened intently as Quick talked about how their skills, interests and aspirations can lead to careers.

She told the youngsters that if they earn high enough grades they could get scholarships to cover their college tuition, which many students in the classroom seemed surprised to learn.

Quick also told students to think about what type of college degree or training they would need to pursue careers they want. She talked about how her niece had to study whale snot as she is earning a marine biology degree.

The homeroom was starting lessons but the other sixth grade homerooms at Hartford had already finished the Junior Achievement lessons.

Quick asked students to write about what they thought they would need to know or want to know about to enter a career that interested them.

She urged them to think about whether they would need two or four-year degrees or special training and to think about if they want to do something because of the monetary rewards or because they are motivated “by non-monetary things.”

“Think about what it is you want to do, how motivated are you to do what it’s gonna take to achieve,” Quick said. “Next think about roadblocks. Maybe a roadblock is, I don’t have the money to go (to college) or a roadblock might be, I can’t really study marine biology in Arizona.”

A new survey by Junior Achievement (JA) and Citizens Bank revealed that 63 percent of teenagers believe they will be financially independent of their parents by the age of 30, meaning that more than a third of teens surveyed do not believe that they will achieve that independence.

The study found 44 percent of teens questioned believe they will begin saving for retirement and 43 percent believe they will have paid off student loans.

“These survey findings show a disconcerting lack of confidence among teens when it comes to achieving financial goals,” said Katherine Cecala, president of Junior Achievement of Arizona. “With a strong economy, you would think teens would be more optimistic. It just demonstrates the importance of working with young people to help them better understand financial concepts and gain confidence in their ability to manage their financial futures.”

Students broke into groups and played a game created by the Junior Achievement of Arizona that was similar to “The Game of Life,” known as “Life,” a classic board game of chance where players make decisions about careers, financial moves and other things.

The Hartford children drew cards to see what unexpected twists and turns they would take in the game.

Sixth grader Joseph Segovia, 11, loved playing the game at Hartford.

“It was fun and exciting,” Joseph said. “I learned that education is very important because you might need a lot of things in life. I wanna be an NFL player. I need to have a lot of determination.”

He said he does chores around his house to get money from his family.

Damaris Rubio, 12, of Chandler, also in the sixth grade class, enjoyed the financial lessons including the game.

“I think it was important to learn the type of careers you have and how important an education is to have a job,” Damaris said.

She said she might like to go to Arizona State University.

Jackie Ramos, 12, of Chandler, a sixth grader in the Hartford homeroom, already knows what type of career she wants to pursue – photography.

“I think that it was fun and I got to learn a lot of stuff about my future and what I’m going to do,” Jackie said. “It’s important to invest. It was really fun.”

“My cousin is a photographer and I think she could help me,” she said.

Paola Banda, 12, of Chandler, another sixth grader in the Hartford class, also liked the financial lessons.

“I thought it was fun because it showed us about our future, to save money,” Paola said. “It’s better to finish your education. You need knowledge to get further.”

Rico said the lessons are good motivation for her students, who “only know college is expensive” and are learning about how their grades and community service work can earn them scholarships.

The global economy is a theme in sixth grade at the school and students also learn about trade barriers and where different goods are made. Rico said it is good for students to hear someone different telling them about finances and planning their futures.

“It’s so much more meaningful,” she said. “They were so focused. From the very beginning she hooked them. I just think at their age level it’s very appropriate. It rings a bell.”

The students in Rico’s classroom and the other classes get about six lessons, with each one being about 45 minutes to an hour long.

“It is really important for them just to budget,” Rico said. “She (Quick) did a really good job.”

Her students, as well as fourth, fifth and sixth graders in other classes at Hartford and at schools around the state also visited JA BizTown at the Junior Achievement of Arizona’s main office in Tempe.

The youths spend a day playing the roles of business clerks, CEOs, physicians, bankers and other positions in an imaginary town. They take out loans, apply for jobs and run “businesses,” said Cecala, president of the Junior Achievement of Arizona.

About 21,000 students participate in JA BizTown every year in Arizona.

“At the end of the day, the kids say things like, ‘I’ve never worked so hard in my life,’” Cecala said. “It starts to prepare them for what the work world is like and gets them thinking, wait a minute, I was the clerk in this business and I saw the CEO; I could do that job.

“It opens their mind to possibilities to the things, to the types of jobs available and gets them thinking, if they want additional training that’s the time to get them.”

Junior high and high school students also can take part in JA Finance Park, where they explore personal finances with each student getting different scenarios.

For example, one child might be told they are an architect making $100,000 a year with no children or spouse, while another child must take on the role of a single mother with two children earning $32,000 a year. The students budget about 30 line items.

“They’re shocked to find out about gross versus net,” Cecala said. “You have to make decisions about housing, food, insurance, transportation.”

High school students can participate in a JA Student Stock Market Challenge, where they do a simulated stock exchange, getting a feel for what it is like to build a portfolio and manage risk.

“Our mission is to prepare young people to succeed in work and life,” Cecala said. “Kids are not prepared to succeed and we are a solution provider and we are doing this at a pretty large scale. We’re doing it in a really efficient manner.”

She said students who participated in Junior Achievement programs earn 20 percent more than the general population and more likely to be better off financially than their parents, according to a Junior Achievement study. The study also showed 95 percent of teachers report that students who took part in Junior Achievement “have a better understanding of how the real world operated.”

Quick said other lessons she planned to teach the Hartford group were on budgeting, getting insurance and risk management, among other topics. She also talked to students about how robots might replace people in certain jobs but people would always be needed to program the robots.

“I just like interacting with the kids and helping them,” Quick said. “It’s kind of interesting to see their eyes light up.”

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