MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 27, 2011

Junior Achievement provides hands-on financial experience

By Rebecca Walkup
Nonprofit Buzz

— Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement is a worldwide organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. Junior Achievement of Oklahoma was founded in 1966 and has the mission to inspire and prepare children to dream about their future, develop relevant skills and pursue attainable goals.

The organization’s goal is to connect classroom lessons to real world applications in the business world through a classroom curriculum combined with practical experiences. Junior Achievement serves students in grades pre-K through 12 with age appropriate curricula focusing on topics such as the economic roles of individuals and families, economic development, local businesses and career opportunities, state, regional and national economies, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and free enterprise. Each five-session JA curriculum augments the core curriculum in social studies, reading, writing and math and fosters critical thinking.

All fifth-graders in Muskogee Public Schools are participating in the BizTown program. The four-week curriculum includes daily lessons and hands-on activities on topics such as writing a résumé, the job application process, balancing a checkbook and developing a business plan. At the end of the course, students spend a day at BizTown, where they run a city as elected officials, business owners and nonprofit staff to practice financial management, customer service and other business skills.

In addition, the Junior Achievement in A Day program is being provided to 2,000 students in five Muskogee elementary schools. The program brings local business volunteers into the classroom to present all five lessons of the JA curriculum in a single day. A third program offered in Muskogee is the JA Investor Challenge, in which ninth- through 12th-graders participate in a mock stock market.

Junior Achievement places strong emphasis on the local community with an advisory board composed of Muskogee residents who help to raise funds, recruit volunteers, and most importantly, determine the what programming is offered, how the program works and who is served. The board works with Junior Achievement District Manager Lisa Harris, who divides her time between the Muskogee and Bartlesville programs. Muskogee is one of only four communities in Oklahoma that offers districtwide JA programming.  

Junior Achievement programs are funded through donations from the local community, and all funds raised in Muskogee go directly to support the programs offered in Muskogee schools. All classroom programs are provided at no charge to the schools or students, and schools pay only half the cost of the trip to BizTown in Tulsa. This year, the school received a grant from the City of Muskogee Foundation to cover the cost of the BizTown trip.

A Rock-n-Bowl fundraiser is planned for April 28 at Green Country Lanes. Sponsors include OG&E, Indian Capital Technology Center, Northeastern State University, Best Buy and Mazzios. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and will include bowling, pizza and fun.

Information: Lisa Cassels Harris, (918) 663-2150 or lharris@jaok.org.

To recommend an organization for an upcoming column, reach Rebecca Walkup at rwalkup@thenonprofitresourcecenter.org or (918) 683-4600.