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Technology Spotlight: Junior Achievement of Central Virginia

Junior Achievement of Central Virginia (JACV) is a finalist for ConnectVA’s Innovation in Community Impact Award offered in collaboration with RichTech. Learn how Junior Achievement is helping students prepare for financial literacy through a technology-based approach with their JA Finance Park program.

Tell us about JACV:

Junior Achievement of Central Virginia (JACV) is dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a volunteer network, JACV provides in-school and after-school programs for students focusing on three key areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. JACV serves 25,000 students throughout Central Virginia.

What was the need that you recognized in our community?

In 2014, JA was selected as one of two annual partners of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce in providing a solution to needs outlined in the Capital Region Collaborative (CRC) study published in 2012. The CRC included feedback from local business leaders that many local high school graduates do not have the basic skills needed for entry level jobs, and that adult workers often need retraining .

Through this partnership, JA is working collaboratively with the local Chamber Business Councils to reinforce and promote local businesses volunteering for JA Finance Park as a specific way they can be a part of the solution to helping equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.

How did this need inspire you to create an innovative technology-based solution?

Middle and high school students are more tech savvy than ever. In fact, 44 percent of Millennials look at their phones more than six times an hour. Incorporating technology into students’ learning and absorption of materials through the redeveloped curriculum is intended to help them make better connections between what they learn in school and how to apply it in the real world.

JA Finance Park provides middle and high school students in Central Virginia with the opportunity to experience and prepare for their personal financial futures first-hand.  The students’ experience begins with four weeks of in-class, teacher-led personal-finance instruction, aligned to the Virginia Standards of Learning and the one credit hour requirement for Economics and Personal Finance.

The experience culminates with an exciting visit to JA Finance Park, a reality-based simulation that gives students the opportunity to put their new money management skills to the test.  Upon entering JA Finance Park, students receive a personal ‘life scenario’ from one of over 200 occupations – now via digital tablets – complete with job, income, education and family information.

Working with trained business volunteers, students visit businesses within the simulated city to make purchasing decisions such as housing, transportation, savings, and investing, among others.  Volunteers guide students through the simulation, facilitating important conversations about personal finance.  This eye-opening experience gives students a solid foundation on which to build effective financial habits for life, as well as exposure to career opportunities.

The digital and paperless curriculum and custom software enables students to engage in real-world financial activities such as online banking and paying bills via tablet PCs, while being introduced to concepts like insurance, credit and long-term investments. The curriculum also supports real-world simulations through which students are assigned a salary, interact with merchants, and can make payments via issued debit cards.



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