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New Financial Literacy School Breaks Ground in Landover

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Junior Achievement of Greater Washington broke ground for their new facility on Oct. 31 in Landover Md. Photo By Alexis A. Goring

Junior Achievement of Greater Washington broke ground for their new facility on Oct. 31 in Landover Md. Photo By Alexis A. Goring

Published on: Tuesday, December 31, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring, Special to The Sentinel

Oct. 31 marked a historical day for Junior Achievement of Greater Washington as they broke ground for their new Finance Park on campus of the G. James Gholson Middle School/Cora L. Rice Elementary School in Landover, Md. 

Edward Grenier, President and CEO Junior Achievement of Greater Washington was present for the groundbreaking and described the ceremony as “terrific”.

“It’s been four years coming,” said Grenier. “It’s a great moment for everybody. My hope is that every student graduates with the fundamental understanding that they need to spend less than they make and that they understand personal finance and they use that knowledge to be successful in their lives.”

Representatives from Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, Capital One Financial Corporation and Prince George’s County Public Schools and leaders from the community such as U.S. Representatives Donna Edwards and Steny Hoyer were featured speakers for the ceremony.

“I have been dying to get this finance park here in Prince George’s County right here in the 4th congressional district and it’s going to happen,” said Edwards. 

Junior Achievement Finance Park is on a mission to break the cycle of financial illiteracy. According to the Department of Treasury, the average high school student scored a 56 percent failing grade on the Financial Literacy Challenge which is purposed to assess financial knowledge. However, 90 percent of Finance Park graduates credited the program from building their confidence in their ability to be successful when they enter the grown-up, working adult real world and earn money. Currently, this program which uses lessons that adhere to the national curriculum is designed exclusively for 8th graders but for good reason. 

“When you think about it, it’s fundamentally when kids start making money, when they start learning how to make money it’s when their spending habits begin and so we start in 8th grade,” said Grenier. 

Capital One invested $2.5 million invested in the new Junior Achievement Finance Park. Celia Edwards Karam, a vice president for Capital One Bank, shared two reasons behind her passion for enabling kids to learn about financial literacy.

“As a mom myself, I know how important it is to me to ensure my kids are learning about the basics of financial management so that they can go into being successful adults and I am thrilled that the students of Prince George’s County are going to get that same opportunity,” said Karam. “The second reason that I think it’s really important people talked about here today which is as kids learn—8th graders, young adults learn—about financial management that’s not just empowering them for the future. It’s empowering them to take those lessons back to their parents. It’s empowering them to take those lessons to their friends who are not in this particular school system and it’s empowering the generation that will come after that. It’s really about changing the base of financial literacy and understanding in our country so that we can go on to be successful generation after generation.”

Finance Park will be designed similar to a shopping mall with storefronts that look like a bank where students can go get their mortgage, a car dealership where they go and figure out how to buy a car, and even a home supply store. The storefronts are all the categories students will need to build a budget.

Here is how the program works: Students are taught about financial literacy in their middle school with a six-week curriculum prior to coming to Finance Park. Once there, they will be able to apply their lessons from the classroom to a mock reality. 

Upon entering Finance Park, students will filter into an auditorium where they’re given an overview of their experience and then are given a card which details their make believe adult identity, and financial situation. A student may receive a card that says they are a 40-year-old woman with three kids, and an annual salary is $50,000. The students are to take the details on their cards and do business at the storefronts in Finance Park until they complete their budget keeping in mind that they have to pay for groceries, a car, mortgage, etc. While the students will walk through Finance Park in groups of five to six accompanied by an adult volunteer, they will not able to leave until they balance their budget. 

Construction of Finance Park is projected to conclude by Fall 2014 so that it will be open for the new school year, providing 9,000 students in Prince George’s County as well as other individuals throughout the region who need to learn how to manage their money with innovative, informative and enriching financial literacy education. 

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