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Paul Nelson, KSL

Program that teaches kids to build companies looks to expand

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Jan 24th, 2014 @ 9:45am


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SALT LAKE CITY — Organizers of a very popular mock city program for fifth- and eighth-graders are trying to keep up with demand.

It’s called Junior Achievement City, and students plan for more than a month before they participate. There, kids can practice running miniature versions of businesses like RC Willey, Best Buy, and even KSL.

“They elect their own mayor in the classroom," said J.A. Assistant Vice President Kara Shaw. "We host opening and closing town meetings where CEOs get to introduce their businesses. Then, what we do is open the city for business where they actually implement their business plan.”

Shaw said the program can monitor the expenses of the children and can tell if they’re starting to have money problems.

“We’re able to know exactly when Jimmy bounces his check and we can go up to him and make sure he has visual aids and understands the concept of the check register," Shaw explained.

Students not only have to create a business plan for their companies, but they also have to apply for jobs, sell their goods or services and even find funding for their organizations. Junior Achievement City CEO Phil Cofield says students who run their respective businesses must apply for loans.

“That CFO is busy, all day, cutting checks. The CFO is also helping the CEO fill out the application for the business loan, then they have to go to the bank and get it approved," he said.

When the program first started in 2007, organizers worked with 30 schools. Now, they work with four times that number. Students from as far away as Sanpete County travel to the Gateway Mall to participate in the program. But in order to make the program accessible for all children, it would need to expand.

“We would need two to three more J.A. cities to reach every fifth-grader, and the governor has publicly stated that he wants to see Junior Achievement City reached by every fifth-grader in the state of Utah,” Cofield said.

Expansion is still a few years away, but J.A. Chief Development Officer Christy Tribe said they’re trying to raise funds now.

“Most of our money comes from corporate funding. We’d like to expand our reach to individual givers and more foundation giving,” she said.

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