By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
Students from Limestone Elementary School in Sand Springs got to experience a day in the life of adulthood this past week at Junior Achievement Biztown. More than forty students spent a month learning how to balance checkbooks, interview for positions, request loans, and more in preparation for the day-long trip to the indoor Tulsa pseudo-city.
Junior Achievement is a non-profit youth organization with worldwide reach that aims to "inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy." The Tulsa Biztown location first opened fourteen years ago, and Sand Springs Public Schools have been sending their students there ever since. More than 100,000 students have visited the Tulsa program since it opened in April of 2004.
The program uses sponsorships from local businesses to provide authentic career experience for students in fields they may very well find themselves occupying in the future.
Before arriving at Biztown, students apply for a bank account through Bank of Oklahoma. They then learn how to endorse and deposit a check, and how to manage a checking account register. They are also taught the consequences of writing checks without sufficient funds. Focus is given to the difference between a debit card and a credit card, and students utilize debit, checks, and cash during their visit. Students fill out various job applications and practice interview skills, and elect a mayor before arriving.
Marketing is an important skill the students learn prior to their visit, and the various business teams come up with radio and newspaper advertisements to run during their visit. When they arrive the students fill out loan applications with BOK for their businesses and are expected to run a profit throughout the day and pay off the loan at the conclusion.
The students were broken up into three different groups that each had lunch/shopping breaks at different times. Employees of Arby's served drinks, cookies, and other snacks to the students during their lunch breaks. Employees of Reasor's and Linde sold various toys and activities. The Cancer Treatment Center offered brief physicals, and students could pick up copies of their own newspaper from the Cherokee Phoenix.
Cox radio employees a student DJ who takes song requests throughout the day and does commercials for the various businesses. They also had students shooting video throughout the trip and brought back the final product to school with them. At City Hall students were able to "vote" by filling out a survey on their visit.
Students from every Sand Springs Elementary school visited Biztown throughout the year, but Garfield and Northwoods kids were almost unable to attend for monetary reasons. The school district experienced major budget cuts after last year's State revenue shortfall and the schools were forced to turn to outside help to raise the funds.
I myself attended Biztown more than a decade ago when it was called Exchange City. Everyone in my class had a great time. I worked at the newspaper as the Senior Reporter and still have my copy of that paper to this day. Our Managing Editor, Shelby Lawson, went on to self-publish a book in the ninth grade, which I also keep a copy of.