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PHOTOS: ‘Junior Achievement’ Teaches Students About Business, Government

Volunteers helped Alice Smith students prepare for success.

Eight-year-old Gracie faced a dilemma. The Alice Smith student was working on a business plan for a new restaurant with three other students and had to pick one of three sites on a map. One of the students recommended Site B, but Gracie knew that wasn’t going to work.

“B is ‘industrial,’” she explained. “That’s more airports and factories.”

Gracie was learning about zoning categories Friday as part of a program called Junior Achievement. Volunteers from local companies—Cargill, UnitedHealth Group and American Financial Printing Inc.—went through training and then taught the third through sixth graders about government, entrepreneurship, financial responsibility and being part of a global market.

In Karen Schmitz’s third-grade classroom, for example, Ben Martinka, a Cargill senior IT analyst, walked them through the different types of zoning that communities have—business, farming, industrial, residential and multipurpose. The students then did a worksheet in which they selected which type of zoning different types of properties would have.

They then incorporated what they learned into the restaurant-planning exercise that emphasized the “Reci-Ps for Success”—place, product, price and people.

“How many of you would like to own a restaurant someday?” one of the volunteers asked.

Numerous hands shot up.

Said Martinka: “It’s important for them to learn about economics and start thinking about the kinds of work opportunities that might exist in their world.”

The volunteers stressed that there are trade-offs when answering business questions. When the students had to choose the prices of their food, the volunteers reminded the students that higher prices could bring in more money—but that they could also lead to fewer customers.

The students also got to exercise their creativity. At one point, they were asked what they would do to set their restaurant apart from others.

“I got live music from Justin Bieber!” 8-year-old Amir shouted.

Bieber fever not withstanding, the students understood the value of what they were learning. Kushi, 8, said the information is important because it can help her get a good job.

“If you just get a job and don’t do anything, it’s going to be bad,” Kushi said.

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