The Miami Dolphins visited Junior Achievement of South Florida in Coconut Creek on Tuesday to help inspire young children to participate and succeed in our complex, ever-expanding global economy.
Fifth-grade and eighth-grade students from across Broward County participate in programs year-round at the World Huizenga Center’s JA BizTown and JA Finance Park that reinforce foundational business concepts by providing a total hands-on environment.
Students are assigned a job at a specific company based on his or her interests. The companies include organizations such as Florida Power and Light, Sun-Sentinel, Bank Atlantic, the Miami Dolphins, and national entities such as Comcast and Ernst and Young. The students then put concepts and strategies learned in the classroom to use in an interactive town setting.
Dolphins players, including placekicker
The children were eager to have the opportunity to meet and interact with Carpenter and Misi. The kids couldn’t just play hookey from work. They had to wait until they were off the clock to visit the Dolphins storefront.
“We walk in and they’re excited, but they’re also working. So they’re going to their bosses, their CEOs, trying to get an early break so they can run over and get an autograph,” Carpenter said. “It was very interesting to see this kind of structure for fifth graders and also eighth graders.”
The students’ experience at the JA BizTown is the culmination of a 16-hour classroom curriculum that focuses on basic business principles and personal finance activities such as maintaining a checking account.
When they complete their jobs, the fifth-graders turn from producers into consumers, depositing their paycheck into a bank account. They then can take these funds to buy some Dolphins merchandise at BizTown’s Dolphins store, such as bookmarks and team photos, which are donated by the Miami Dolphins.
“They learn about businesses—how to run a business and how important each job in a business is, no matter if you’re the CEO or if you’re a bank teller or a recycle manager, so they know that everybody has an intricate job in running a business,” said Denise Zoub, a program coordinator at the Young Achievement of South Florida. “And they also get adult experience. They get to appreciate what mom and dad do.”
The program for eighth-grade students, located just around the hall at the World Huizenga Center’s JA Finance Park, takes things to more of a macro level, requiring students to take complete control over their personal finances, something more akin to the popular board game, “The Game of Life.”
Here they were given the life-like experience of shopping for a home or choosing the proper health insurance to fit their personal needs. If they couldn’t afford the mortgage that they took out on their faux home, they were required to find housing that fit into their budget.
It’s one thing to read about the housing market in an Economics textbook; quite another, though, to learn by simulating real-life experiences.
“It was really shocking, in a good way, to see what they had done here for kids to come in and be able to go through an experience of the workplace,” Carpenter said.
Learning the ins and outs of a free-enterprise system can be a harrowing experience, especially for a carefree kid—the onslaught of jargon and concepts can turn off even the most dedicated of students.
But by taking a child out of the classroom and giving him an exciting, practical education, the Junior Achievement of South Florida is adding another element.
“I had a teacher tell me the other day that her kids were kind of like, ‘I don’t understand this. I don’t understand this,” Zoub said. “But her students were telling her after they were here, ‘I finally get it.’”