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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
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
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
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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