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This article by Jamie Saxon was prepared for the July 9, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Business in the Classroom

If you think back to your school years, can you remember

even one lesson, other than perhaps four quarters make a dollar, where

financial concepts like profit, deficit, investing, or even something

as basic as "how business works" were part of the curriculum?

Most likely you can’t — and most likely, your parents weren’t

much help either. Entering the world of business was baptism by fire.

Maybe the second graders at Antheil Elementary School in Ewing won’t

have that problem when they graduate from high school in 2013 —

thanks to the Speed-o Donut Company.

Speed-o is actually a fictional enterprise, just one curriculum component

of Junior Achievement (JA), the world’s largest nonprofit economic

education organization, which goes into schools to teach young people

the rudiments of free enterprise, business, and economics. As they

developed and promoted the Speed-o Donut Company, Antheil second graders

learned how to plan for a business, acquire supplies and talent, produce

goods, advertise, and sell.

While some might think that the very fact that JA exists indicates

yet another failure of schools to prepare children for the real world,

Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JA-NJ) president Paul Miles differs:

"We like to look at our organization as a vital complement to

the curriculum. We bring real-world people and situations into the

classroom to [a level] where the educators don’t have the time and

resources." Miles likens the program to the incentive that corporate

training and development provides; he believes JA gives kids an incentive

to better themselves and thus do better in the world.

Deborah Schaller, facilitating teacher at Antheil, agrees. She doesn’t

believe the program fills a critical hole, but rather considers the

program "a supplemental activity to enrich our current curriculum."

She lauds JA’s approach, which, she says, "really involved the

students actively" with hands-on elements like simulating different

production strategies.

Businesses and corporations serve as sponsors for area

schools, underwriting the cost of the programs (an average of $500

per session), often providing their own employees as volunteer instructors

who bring real-world examples and situations into the classroom. In

turn, JA develops the curricula and classroom materials, trains the

volunteers, and serves as a liaison between the sponsors and the schools.

Area sponsors include Computer Associates; Bristol-Myers Squibb, which

underwrote the program at Antheil taught by students at the College

of New Jersey; Bovis Lend Lease; Goldman, Sachs; First Union National

Bank; PNC Bank. Two sponsors, Janssen Pharmaceutica and its division

Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, together

have "adopted" Grant Elementary School in Trenton, creating

what Catherine Milone, JA-NJ vice president, calls "one of the

most significant partnerships that has blossomed over the course of

the last two years."

In elementary schools, JA focuses on simple concepts close to home.

Miles’s wife, Lisa, and her business partner recently taught a program

to fourth graders at Riverside Elementary School in Princeton. Principal

Bill Cirullo, who was head football coach at Princeton High when Paul

Miles was a student and football star there in the early 1980s, says

the program shows kids "how business is connected to the real

world."

The classroom sessions were linked to Princeton’s $85 million bond

referendum to renovate the district’s schools as a way to discuss

how a construction project is funded and what expenditures it involves.

By the closing lesson, Cirullo heard students using terms like "profit

margin" and "business transaction." He considers the program

"much like an artist-in-residence program" and notes that

JA "brings people in the building with a field of expertise we

don’t have. It’s no different than taking a kid to a museum or an

architecture exhibit. It expands their world."

Founded in 1919, Junior Achievement started out as a group of after-school

business clubs in Springfield, Massachusetts — the brainchild

of corporate bigwigs from the Strathmore Paper Company and AT&T. During

World War II, the clubs developed new and different products for the

war effort. Eventually, clubs began competing at a national conference,

still held annually. The involvement of leading executives such as

S. Bayard Colgate, James Cash Penney, and Joseph Sprang of Gillette

led to JA’s rapid expansion, and in the 1950s, it began working with

schools. Today, with more than 112,000 volunteers, JA reaches approximately

4 million students annually. In New Jersey, Milone says the program

reached 35,000 students last year and 39,000 students during the 2002-03

school year. Its goal is to educate 100,000 students annually by 2005.

Larry Feber, principal of Parkway Elementary School in Ewing, which

for several years has offered teachers at all grade levels the opportunity

to bring JA into the classroom, explains the program helps the school

fulfill the New Jersey Workplace Readiness Standards. "For schools

to be successful, we can’t work in isolation." He adds that JA

complements other activities like the school store run by fifth graders

and field trips to hotels and grocery stores. Feber’s bottom line

assessment: "All schools should participate in JA if they want

their kids to understand the economic system."

One of the biggest challenges for JA-NJ is the same one that challenges

JA as a whole organization — the fact that interested schools,

including dozens in New Jersey, outnumber corporate sponsors. "What

are we limited by? The funding," says Milone, who brings seven

years of experience from JA’s New York office,

Glenn Paul, chairman and CEO of dotphoto.com, is chair

of JA-NJ’s Board of Directors. He says that the national office of

JA is helping to "rebuild the whole organization in New Jersey"

to consolidate the efforts of the four divisions that previously made

up JA-NJ. Outside of New Jersey, JA is "phenomenally successful,"

says Paul, who cites states like New York and others with extraordinary

funding.

In addition to Paul, the board includes Steve Goldin, president, the

Columbia Group; Charles A Bacon III, CEO, Bovis Lend Lease; Elizabeth

Brian, N.T. Calloway; Carol O. Egan, CPA, Druker, Rahl & Fein; Sharon

James, assistant vice president, First Union National Bank; Tobin

V. Levy, managing director, Investment Management Division, Goldman,

Sachs & Co.; Dennis C. McKithen, senior vice president, Kelly’s Janitorial

Service; John Miller, director of special projects, Princeton University;

Rose "Dede" Nini, dean, division of corporate & community

programs, Mercer County Community College; Marilyn R. Pearson, first

vice president, philanthropic services, Salomon Smith Barney; Loye

Rose, director, r&d affiliate funding, Janssen Research Foundation;

Donald M. Tretola, regional public affairs manager, PSE&G; Michael

Young, CEO, Meeting Dimensions; and Dave Zboray, computer specialist,

Mercer Street Friends.

For more information, call Junior Achievement of New Jersey at 609-524-4050

or visit newjersey.ja.org

— Jamie Saxon


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