An old adage exists for a reason and the one “the children are our future” holds true perhaps today with more sense of urgency than ever before.
A fundamental key to success inside and outside the classroom, experts say? Financial literacy.
“Financial literacy — more simply: Knowing how to manage money — is a critical component to succeeding as an adult,” said Anne Landers of Junior Achievement of Arizona.
“Knowing how to manage the personal economics of adulthood prepares our students to better enjoy the life they dream for themselves. Too often, in today’s world, adults are overburdened by debt or unprepared to make smart financial choices, leading to a cycle of financial stress, inability to cover emergency expenses, and struggles to break out of poverty cycles that hinder their future.”
Since the early days of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Junior Achievement of Arizona, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has been seeking to meet the charge “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.”
Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement was the first U.S. organization offering entrepreneurship education to children. Junior Achievement officials say since the organization’s inception nearly 2.5 million students have gone through the program.
“The success of our community depends on how prepared today’s students are to succeed in work and life,” said Ms. Landers, who serves as vice president of marketing and communications. “Our programs are far-reaching and have meaningful, measurable impact — not just for the students we serve, but their families, their future employers and the community overall. We are giving these students the tools and confidence to break poverty cycles and achieve new heights.”
Ms. Landers explains JA serves students from all walks of life with a specific focus on connecting the financial dots young people encounter in their daily lives.
“Our hands-on, age-appropriate programs focus on three key areas: financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship,” she explained of core programming. ”Throughout each of those focus areas, we also equip students with the ability to think critically. JA is shaping the college- and career-readiness conversation, and we play an important role in Arizona’s workforce and economic development.”
The vicious cycle Junior Achievement seeks to break? The link between the fundamental understanding of economics and breaking the cycle of poverty.
“In 2017, a CareerBuilder study found that eight in 10 American workers live paycheck-to-paycheck to make ends meet,” Ms. Landers points out. “Additionally, a 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Board found that 40% of Americans were unable to cover a $400 emergency expense. Finally, student debt totaled $1.5 trillion in 2018, and consumer debt (not counting mortgages) has climbed to $4 trillion, according to an August 2019 Wall Street Journal article.”
--- Anne Landers of Junior Achievement
Without a foundation of financial literacy, many students today can find themselves part of an economic machine they may not fully understand, Ms. Landers explains.
“These issues are even more critical for low-income students because many of their parents may not have the education or background necessary to teach their kids these financial and career literacy skills and concepts at home,” she said. “This makes a productive path in life even more difficult for this group. As a result, JA places an emphasis on teaching low-income students, providing them with the skills, behaviors, and attitudes that they will need to break the cycle of poverty and live successful lives.”
This current grant year, Fiesta Bowl Charities provided Junior Achievement with a $25,000 grant going directly toward the financial literacy education of 431 low-income Arizona students.
The program? JA BizTown.
“JA BizTown is setting up our students for success at an early age by getting them ready to enter the workforce, understand money and become successful adults,” she explained of the hands-on program. “JA BizTown starts with teachers leading their students through 14 hours of in-classroom, preparatory lessons. During these lessons, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students learn about careers, paychecks, taxes, economics, city government, resume writing, profit and loss statements, bank loans, teamwork and leadership.”
Kristina Chumpol, Fiesta Bowl Charities community relations director, explains the mission of the Fiesta Bowl charity arm and Junior Achievement go hand-in-hand.
“Among our pillars are youth and education,” she said. “Financial literacy — especially how Junior Achievement goes about it — hits both of those pillars. To equip youth with skills today that will allow for a better life tomorrow is what Fiesta Bowl Charities is all about.”
Ms. Chumpol, along with those at Fiesta Bowl Charities, see the connections being drawn between financial literacy and success later in life for Arizona youth.
“They mentor and teach to a wide variety of kids, but especially youth from low-income situations,” she said. “They empower these kids with knowledge and skills in business, but also life skills that aid in creating well-roundedness. The volunteers and mentors who lead JA programs are committed to excellence in providing top quality instruction, but in a way that kids can understand.”
Ms. Chumpol says the partnership between Fiesta Bowl Charities and Junior Achievement is making a difference in the lives of children across the Grand Canyon State.
“Certainly, understanding all things financial is a big part of development for any of us,” she said.
“In fact, it might be one of the most important skills we learn in our educational process. For us to invest in JA who teaches financial literacy as part of their program not only matches our goals, but it provides us with a great partner who does the work every single day for thousands of kids across our state.”
Executive Editor Terrance Thornton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org