BTS Scottsdale helps build business acumen, develop workplace skills and teach economic concepts to students through experiential learning with Junior Achievement.
In late February, members from the BTS Scottsdale office volunteered at "BizTown", a simulated miniature town run by elementary school students. Writes BTS Senior Consultant Marissa McCourry, “BizTown is part of the Junior Achievement program that teaches financial literacy, business management and work readiness to over 92,000 Arizona K-12 students (23,000 of whom will attend a day-long session at BizTown.) We supervised 100 6th grade students in the running of their businesses for the day (i.e., a radio station, TV station, real estate office, healthcare services, universities, etc.). It was fun watching them be "adults for the day". On their break, they went to the bank to put money into savings, to the post office to buy postage for a letter, and had their lunch. Several of them were overwhelmed by how busy their break time was. One student said, “I didn't have time to eat all my lunch because the line at the bank was so long.” Welcome to the real world!
As defined by Junior Achievement, “JA BizTown® is a learning experience that teaches 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students economic concepts, workplace skills, and personal and business finances in a student-sized town built just for them. During the in-classroom lessons at school, the students explore career options, interview for BizTown jobs, create a business plan, calculate operating costs, and design a marketing campaign. Then, during the BizTown simulation day, the students:
- Worked as an employee on a business team
- Priced and sold goods and services
- Opened a bank account and managed their personal finances
- Practiced responsible citizenship by voting and paying taxes
- Implemented a marketing campaign for their business”
BTS Scottsdale’s involvement with Junior Achievement started with BTS Senior Learning Developer Scott Hodin, who first volunteered as a coach at a JA You’re Hired! Challenge with his prior company. Due to Scott’s championing, Junior Achievement was also the recipient of the BTS USA Q4 2015 Charitable Donation.
Says Scott, “As a dad of two boys, both of my sons were able to participate in JA BizTown through their schools. My wife and I were very fortunate that the school district we are in was already aware of the tremendous value this program offered its students and chose to make this a part of the school’s curriculum. Admittedly, it wasn’t until my youngest son was slated to attend the JA BizTown experience that this program even landed on my radar. Leading up to that event, I was voluntold by my wife that together we would accompany our son’s class for the JA BizTown program and serve as “business consultants”. Truth-be-told, I still didn’t really know what I was getting myself into until the day I showed up to volunteer. However, what I experienced that day was nothing short of awesome.
First, serving the kids and seeing lightbulbs go off for them was incredibly rewarding. My wife and I oversaw “City Hall” with a small group of 5th grade students who went right to work and stayed actively engaged throughout the entire experience. It was a lot of work for everyone involved, but the things they learned throughout the session were not things that could be taught or “caught” in a classroom lecture or video presentation.
Second, this was the only other time outside of BTS walls that I’ve heard someone use the phrase “experiential learning”. Those words were spoken by one of the Junior Achievement staff members as she addressed the volunteers and described what goes on throughout the program. It became really clear that there are strong connections to the type of work we do every day at BTS. I mean, it was pretty crazy just how similar our businesses are. Junior Achievement uses experiential learning to help teach students about commerce, financial and business acumen, entrepreneurship, leadership, etc. and we do relatively similar things for grown-ups. That’s pretty remarkable in it of itself.
Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice all of the corporate sponsorship that comprised the “town”. There were miniature versions of company buildings for brands like Wells Fargo, Papa John’s, Avnet, Toyota Financial Services, Banner Health, etc. Many of the companies I saw that day are current or past clients of BTS. I imagined how awesome it would be to not only serve with an organization so well-aligned with our business, but also to roll up our sleeves and volunteer alongside some of our clients. What a great fit for BTS!
That opportunistic thinking led me to me to get our Sr. Director of Operations (BTS Scottsdale), Diana Koretski up to speed on JA BizTown and put her in touch with my contact at Junior Achievement Arizona. If the story couldn’t get better, it turns out that Diana’s life had personally been positively impacted by Junior Achievement during her youth. No surprise: she was very interested in learning more about how we might partner with them. As we began to have conversations with Junior Achievement Arizona, we also looped in Melissa Friedman – who was on-board from the get-go and was looking to us to essentially pilot some ideas with our office. Fast forward a few months and we have built a strong partnership with Debbee Donahue and the rest of the Junior Achievement Arizona team. This led to our most-recent volunteer day at a JA BizTown with over 100 students from Raul Castro Elementary School in Phoenix. We are already talking about what’s next in terms of opportunities with the organization and how we can continue to work together. This really has turned into something great and I can’t wait to see how this evolves going forward!”