A day at JA Finance Park
By: Sergio Salgado
WALESKA, Ga.— As a part of my First-Year Seminar Class, I was required to be a volunteer for a day at the JA Finance Park. I will be honest with you, at first, I was not too thrilled about the idea. Volunteering would mean waking up early at six in the morning and driving forty minutes just to go be a part of something that I was convinced I would not gain anything from. I did not see how teaching eighth graders about finance could in any way be of any benefit to me. I am happy to say that I was terribly wrong.
As I and the other volunteers arrived, we were greeted with a smile by the JA staff and led into a briefing room. After we had been told what our purpose for the day was, we headed into the finance park where we began our training. Each of the volunteers was handed a tablet that contained instructions for each phase of the day and questions we were to ask the students. Each of us was also assigned a business that we would use to help us educate the students. Some of the businesses that were a part of the simulation were ones like Publix, Zaxby’s, and Georgia State University.
At this point, our training wrapped up and we each headed to our stations to await the arrival of the students. As the students poured into the finance park, I made sure to greet each member of my group and to try to make them as comfortable with me as possible. Once we were inside the station I began by introducing myself and trying to get the students engaged. At first, they were shy and that’s understandable, but as the day went on they got less tense and by the time it was time to leave it was like we were a group of close friends.
Our simulation began with everyone being given a hypothetical scenario of their life as an adult. Some were married while others were single and some had 2 kids while others had none. Everyone also had a certain level of education and a different type of job. I also took part in the simulation but the goal for the volunteers was to guide the students and to help them figure out how they should manage their budgets based on their hypothetical life scenarios.
There were several different phases that the volunteers led the students through. We discussed the idea of a savings budget and why it’s important to “pay yourself first” and then as a part of the research phase all of the groups went to all of the other businesses in order to learn about the different budget categories. After a quick lunch break, we helped the students to create a budget plan and then we went online shopping for products and services. I made sure to emphasize that they should make necessities a priority and then if they have any money left over they could indulge themselves. To end the day we sat down with our groups and we reviewed the budget choices that they had made.
I am extremely grateful to the JA staff for giving me and my peers the opportunity to impact the lives of those who will come after my generation. I did not think that this process would benefit me but through this process, I learned with the students about budgeting and in coaching them I got to practice my leadership skills. Before the students left they handed me an extremely touching card thanking me for volunteering and I would like to thank them and Lincoln County Middle School for trusting me and my peers with their students. My day at JA Finance Park was a delightful experience and it’s one that I would recommend to anyone who is interested.
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