Every child dreams about what they want to be when they grow up, and fifth-graders from Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary School were able to spend a day performing their dream jobs last week at Junior Achievement’s BizTown in Tempe.

JA BizTown is a miniature city that emulates real life with jobs ranging from a TV station and newspaper to retail stores and an airline. Students prepare for the day with 21 lessons in their classrooms before the four-hour simulation at BizTown.

“The lessons are built into the curriculum at school, where the students apply for the jobs they will perform at BizTown and put business plans together,” said Kimberly Barber, director of JA BizTown. “There are 130 jobs available at BizTown, including positions as CEOs, salespeople, reporters, advertisers, bankers and broadcasters.”

Fifth- and sixth-graders from as far as Lake Havasu City come to BizTown, and more than 17,000 students attended last year.

“We want them to learn business and financial literacy skills as well as banking from a business and personal perspective,” Barber said. “This is the first and only business interaction the students will get until high school when they have to choose to take business courses as electives.”

Lagos student Leann Cooper, who spent her time at BizTown as a Web designer, found her position very informative.

“I pick out the logos and designs for the companies’ Web sites,” Cooper said. “I’ve been learning a lot about computers and how they work.”

While the students put in most of their time working at their respective BizTown jobs, there are also two breaks built into the schedule.

“The students get paychecks, which they then deposit into their bank accounts,” Barber said. “After they deposit the money, they work to balance their checkbooks and spend money at BizTown stores.”

According to Barber, the mix of available jobs at BizTown is a realistic representation of the jobs available in Phoenix.

“When we created BizTown we looked at our local industries and businesses,” she said. “Some local businesses volunteered to sponsor us, and we created the simulation based on the real information they gave us.”

The BizTown field trip is also a good time for parents to volunteer and interact with their children. Parent volunteers who helped at BizTown were required to go through an hour-and-a-half of training to help run the various businesses.

“I volunteered because I knew this was going to be a fun experience for my child,” said Stephanie Hanson, a parent volunteer. “Before they came my son and his friends were talking about the countdown to BizTown.”

JA BizTown is now taking reservations for field trips during the 2009-2010 school year. Schools pay $18 per student to attend BizTown, which is less than one-quarter of the total program cost. For more information, call (480) 377-8500 or visit www.jaaz.org.


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