By Jen Whiteaker
Most of us know the real world isn’t all fun and games. But the other day, some of us on the Quicken Loans Marketing Team were able to help show a group of students from Pontiac Northern High School how true that statement really is.
Four of us decided to give back to the community and volunteer at the Rock Financial Junior Achievement Finance Park in Detroit. Honestly, we went down not knowing what we would be doing or what the day would be like and were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a lesson for us, too.
The Junior Achievement (JA) Finance Park is set up to give students a "real life" simulation about personal finance. This isn’t your ordinary field trip. The teachers are given a curriculum to incorporate into their classrooms weeks before they arrive at the park and the simulation is the capstone of that curriculum.
So what do students do at the park? Upon arrival, each student is given budget tools, bills, an ATM card, annual salary amounts, tax amounts, whether they are married, and how many kids they have. They have to figure out their financial situation for the month and determine their monthly net income. Students move around the community and pick out what they want. They have to pick everything from groceries, houses, cars, and insurance to entertainment, travel, and charitable contributions.
Once they have picked out all their items they sit down and work out their budget. Figuring out if they have enough to afford all the things they chose or if they need to cut back in some areas. After they have a budget within their range, they work their way back around the community paying their bills.
Most of the students today got a real wake up call when they realized how much things cost and the unexpected things they had not thought of. In addition to personal finance, they learned a little about sacrifice and the reality that you can’t always have everything you want.
One common theme of the day was a new found appreciation for their parents. Countless students commented on how they now see why mom or dad is so stressed or why they can’t go somewhere or have something they want. It put things in a whole new perspective for these kids, if only for a short time.
Junior Achievement Finance Park puts on a great real life experience that all students should have the opportunity to go through. They even offer scholarships to help schools afford the experience.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to volunteer or give back to the community and like working with kids, I would highly recommend it. I know our team will be planning another visit in the very near future!