Connecting Students to the Real World

After four years of working hard to finish mountains of homework and taking countless tests, Natalie proudly wore her cap and gown when graduating high school in June. Natalie, along with thousands of other San Diego graduates, will move out of her parent’s home and begin the journey into adulthood. Natalie is excited to pursue a teaching degree at California State Polytechnic University and is looking forward to her new-found freedom. This exciting time, however can mean trouble for young adults, especially if they don’t know how to manage their money.

This situation is not the case for Natalie. As a Junior Achievement (JA) alumna, she feels confident she will make the right choices when it comes to managing her personal finances. Natalie, like many others, is a graduate of three signature JA programs: The McGrath Family JA BizTown; JA for Everyone; and Mission Fed JA Finance Park. JA’s programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to prepare students for the real world. This year the nonprofit will reach 79,000 students with its life-changing financial literacy programs.

“JA has given me practical, everyday financial knowledge that is simply not taught in the classrooms. I know about needs vs. wants and that I might have to sacrifice fancy dinners because the cost of rent in Southern California is so expensive,” said Natalie.

Mission Fed JA Finance Park is JA’s newest educational program for high school students. JA’s long-time partner, Mission Federal Credit Union, donated $1 million dollars to name the program in October 2015. Finance Park is designed to prepare students for what happens after high school. When students come to the Park, they receive a “fictional family” and income based on a real San Diego job. They then have to rent or buy a home, purchase a car, shop for groceries, make investments and save for the future.

“One of the biggest surprises for these kids is that it is really expensive to live here,” = Marla Black, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of San Diego shared with Giving Back Magazine. “They think they can come out of college, get a job and buy that red Corvette, and they can’t. Once the students experience the simulation they may change their minds about what future success will look like.”

Students also have the opportunity to visit the on-site Career Center to explore career and employment opportunities. Students can research and access 220 jobs and career paths in the San Diego economy, even after their Mission Fed JA Finance Park experience. “Our goal is that every job in the Career Center will be linked to a real San Diego company, so that students are aware and familiar with local opportunities,” said Marla. More than two dozen local companies have already joined JA to sponsors the “Jobs in Park” campaign. JA is looking for more job sponsors, especially in high-growth clusters such as: clean tech; information and communication technology; life sciences; maritime; military and defense; convention and tourism; clean tech; bio tech; and, medical.

“Thanks to JA, I am ready to make smart financial decisions to help me dream for a bigger and brighter future,” said Natalie.

JA invites you to join their mission to inspire and prepare tomorrow’s leaders for economic success. Get involved now at: