Tuesday, January 24th, 8:30 AM –
We filed into BizTown at Junior Achievement (JA) of Wisconsin, one by one. Twenty-five volunteers of different ages, different backgrounds, and different career paths, but one common interest: to volunteer for the day and help students make a connection between what they learn in school with real world experience as “citizens” in the simulated city’s economy.
Delzer’s Draw to JA and BizTown
Delzer Lithograph Company has been involved with JA for years, with Eric Delzer and his wife, Lynn, serving as active board members for almost 20 years and involved with in-class education of financial literacy and education. Lynn is also a lifetime member with the Junior Achievement of Wisconsin Women’s Association.
What drew Eric and Lynn Delzer to this organization is the mission JA lives: to give young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. Their interest and dedication to supporting economic education, financial literacy, and vital life skills has since paved a way of continued business community involvement for the Delzer team today.
Last month, Delzer became a new JA BizTown shop sponsor (view shots of the 12.16.16 ribbon cutting ceremony on our Facebook page.) BizTown citizens who operate the Delzer Print Communications shop collaborate as a team to produce the day’s newspaper issue for the local newspaper, the JA BizTown Gazette. BizTown also has banks, restaurants, various stores, and even a City Hall where citizens exercise their right to vote for mayor.
My Day at BizTown
As Delzer’s Communications Manager, I chose to volunteer for a day to experience first-hand how the company’s shop sponsorship helps JA’s mission and to share my experience. On paper, I was prepared with the tools JA provided to all volunteers–training videos, PDF overviews and checklists, and orientation–but I still felt a bit overwhelmed.
My mind raced as I waited for students to arrive: Would I do a good job as a volunteer? What if I couldn’t help a student figure out a problem they were facing? Would I fail them as a mentor? When would I get a coffee break?!? It seemed other volunteers were facing similar questions as we chatted amongst ourselves.
The kids on the other hand, were feeling much less concerned about the unfolding day than us adults–there’s nothing like that 5th grade confidence! Wide eyes, energetic little bodies, and excited chatter filled BizTown as students crossed the simulated city’s threshold and became citizens for the day.
Well before BizTown opened its doors, the students had also been preparing for the day. They learned how to fill out checkbooks, the importance of a healthy economy and how citizens contribute towards it, and even about scarcity (surprise: when a hot commodity like a whoopee cushion is gone, it’s gone!) They read job descriptions and interviewed for the roles they earned in BizTown.
We were a fully staffed operation in Delzer Print Communications and everyone was working full-steam ahead. We had a CEO, CFO, two photographers, two journalists, two advertising executives, and an editor. Everyone had a role and learned how they impacted the well-being of the business.
BizTown All Abuzz
Throughout the day, BizTown buzzed with activity as citizens fulfilled their assigned roles; CEOs signed checks processed by the CFOs, utility workers checked business meters and air filters, bank accountants deposited employee and company checks, restaurant workers prepared for–and recovered from–the lunch rush, and all citizens attended Town Hall meetings.
Team meetings were run in every business, where payroll was distributed to employees who then filled out their checkbooks and deposited their earnings to the bank to buy lunch and go shopping in the other stores.
All businesses had to be ready with their products by the time shopping began and employees left in shifts to make purchases from other stores. Sunglasses, pencil sharpeners, whoopee cushions, bobble heads, newspapers, and headphones flew off the shelves as consumers gleefully bought their treasures with their hard-earned BizTown Bucks to the tunes being pumped through the city’s speakers by the local Disc Jockey. Employees working during these shifts made sure their shelves were stocked and their stores were clean.
When the Whirlwind Stopped
And just like that, the whirlwind of the day came to a close. Shops were cleaned and shut down for the day, and citizens gathered for the closing Town Hall meeting. The Mayor gave a speech reflecting on the day’s activities, thanking citizens and volunteers for all their efforts to keep BizTown’s economy booming. And one-hundred-some citizens transformed back to students as they loaded onto their school buses to return to class.
I have to admit, I was somewhat thrilled to arrive to my car at the end of the simulation–a desk job leaves one ill-prepared for a day full of standing, and my dogs were barking. But aside from my aching feet, I felt good about volunteering for the day…perhaps I should apply the lesson learned from the day’s simulation myself and contribute towards the economy by purchasing some arch support shoe inserts.
For anybody looking for a constructive way to help kids develop critical skills that they will need to possess as they enter adulthood, I’d highly recommend participating at Junior Achievement of Wisconsin’s BizTown.