Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay has been teaching fifth graders about potential careers since 2005 through its JA BizTown program. Now, it’s making plans to expand its curriculum and teach eighth graders finances at a new facility slated to break ground in late February.
“JA Finance Park gives 8th grade students the rare opportunity to experience their personal financial futures firsthand,” says Richard George, President of JA Tampa Bay. “We’re going through permitting now. We’re hoping to be open probably in November .”
While JA Biztown gives fifth graders a chance to work in a mock economy, JA Finance Park lets them explore personal finances. They’ll have to make spending choices based on their income and family needs. A Career Depot will help them understand the connection between careers, salaries, and the money they make.
“We’re exploring Tampa Bay opportunities, from trades to professional jobs, what it takes to get those positions and what it pays,” George says. “It’s going to be pretty innovative.”
The facility is officially named JA Finance Park presented by SunTrust Foundation, in recognition of SunTrust’s $1.7 million grant, which kicked off fundraising. The $4.6 miillion,18,000-square-foot building will be on Hillsborough County Public School property on North 22nd Street. JA still is attempting to raise $5 million to operate the facility for 10 years.
Construction is by EWI Construction, with architecture by FleischmanGarcia Architects, both of Tampa.
The ultimate goal of the park is to help students become leaders in their household and community, George says.
“JA Finance Park creates a real-life model which encourages students to focus on their life goals and complete their education,” he adds.
The new facility is expected to serve 180 students a day. Throughout the Tampa Bay region, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay reached 98,662 students last year.
“JA Biztown has done pretty well,” he adds. “It’s been operating in the black since Day One.”
JA is supported by businesses represented in its facilities, including Publix, MacDonald’s and Kane’s Furniture, as well as donors like Pam and Les Muma and the Bill Poe family.