Tri-Village News

Junior Achievement BizTown

Simulation offers look at life beyond school

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

It isn't very often that fifth-grade students are upset when winter weather forces school to be canceled, especially in Grandview Heights where snow days are rare.

But students were upset when classes were canceled Feb. 22.

Fifth-grade teacher Megan Shea said she received more than 20 emails from parents and students expressing dismay, with one parent saying her child was in tears.

The students were scheduled to take part in the BizTown program that day at Junior Achievement of Central Ohio's facility on East Second Avenue in Columbus.

"They've been excited about attending BizTown since the start of school," Shea said. "A lot of them had heard all about it from their older siblings who participated in the program when they were in fifth grade."

The students finally paid a visit to BizTown March 28.

During the day-long BizTown simulation, students take on the roles of citizens, business owners, employees and consumers in a mock town set up in the JA facility, a former school building.

The students operate a variety of businesses, including retail stores, television and radio stations, a utility service, restaurants, a bank and a city hall.

"It's a great program because it really gives the students a close-up look at what it takes to run a business and a town," Shea said. "It has so much more impact than just reading about things in a textbook."

Each student applied for a job at BizTown and was interviewed by Shea, along with fifth-grade language arts teacher Melissa Sylvester and intervention specialist Shannon Crackel.

"It was a serious job interview and the students took it very seriously," Shea said. "They filled out an application and wrote a cover letter. A lot of them came dressed up for their interview, and they were so cute."

Students also listed two other jobs they would be willing to do in case their first choice didn't pan out.

"Some of the jobs were more popular than others and we had a lot of students apply for them," Shea said.

The students also completed a four-week classroom curriculum on economics, she said.

"BizTown fits in really well with our regular curriculum, especially with the new Common Core standards that are coming into effect," Shea said.

Mabel Mattingly worked in the BizTown sign shop, designing signs for the other businesses.

"I like to draw, so this was something I wanted to do," she said. "It's been a lot of fun, but harder than I expected."

That's because she had to limit using her own creativity and imagination and follow the preferences of the business owners, Mattingly said.

Charlie James, Sam Amurgis and Alex Sternecker were working in the bank, depositing the paychecks other BizTown citizens brought.

"When they cash their paycheck, we deposit most of it and give them $2," Sternecker said.

"It's a lot of fun, because you get to work with money," Amurgis said.

But he added that he has a greater appreciation now for what happens at a real bank.

"I just thought you took their money, but it turns out they have to go through a lot of steps to open an account and start depositing money at your bank," Amurgis said. "You have to work with the customers."

Taylor Beight and Linnea Milner were working as shift managers at the Raising Cane's restaurant. The girls were getting student customers and really trying to sell them small items, some with the Raising Cane's logo, as well as coupons usable at the real restaurants.

"I wanted to do this job because this is my favorite restaurant," Beight said.

"My brother works as a shift manager at a real Raising Cane's and he's told me a lot about it," Milner said. "I wanted to see if it was like he said."

Beight said her favorite part of the job was setting up the restaurant for customers.

"You have to make sure you put out the items people are going to want to buy and don't put out too few or too many items," she said.

Going through the job interview process "was a little scary," Milner said. "But I think it was great, because now we know what it's going to be like when we have a real job interview. We'll be a little more prepared."