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Fifth-graders learn about business, finance and civics in day-long workshop

PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA TYLER - Fifth-grader students from McBride Elementary School take part in a program called BizTown offered through Junior Achievement on Monday, Dec. 11. Nearly 80 students from the school took part in the program, each taking on a role that simulates a real life job.It's not every day you see a fifth-grader from McBride Elementary School serve as the CEO of a major company.

But it's not an unusual sight in Biztown.

On Monday, Dec. 11, fifth-grade students from McBride Elementary School took part in the BizTown program, where they learned all about what it takes to run a city, how the economy works, how to contribute to the community as a business owner, and the basic skills it takes to be financially literate.

BizTown is a program run by Junior Achievement of Oregon and SW Washington that takes students out of the classroom and places them in a simulated city environment, one where students are required to take on job titles like chief executive officer, chief financial officer, bank teller, news reporter, delivery manager and Internal Revenue Service agents. There are 19 total different roles.

Students got to choose their jobs, and when students arrived at BizTown in Portland earlier this week, they were each given a set of instructions that taught them how to complete the job they signed up for.

Throughout the daylong program, students act as professionals and are required to go through the process of running a businesses. They must apply for bank loans, cash paychecks, pay taxes, balance checkbooks and learn to be financially savvy with their choices.

Fifth-grade teacher Chris Stewart said taking part in the program was a great way get students out of the classroom and engaged in real-world activities. It also showed students the correlation between classroom lessons and real-world applications.

"I think it was a great opportunity to see kids shine in different areas that you don't usually see," Stewart added. "Students who may struggle in school found jobs at BizTown they really enjoyed."

Kati Crouch, the McBride Parent Teacher Organization president, accompanied students on the trip and said it was fascinating to see students work in the real world and learn about finance and life skills in a safe environment.

Students were on their own when it came to budgeting money, balancing bank accounts, and remembering to deposit paychecks. In some instances, student-run companies thrived, while others failed.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA TYLER - Students work as clerks in a Fred Meyer grocery store during their day-long visit to BizTown. Students selected their jobs prior to the field trip, but learned how to do their jobs on the spot."It was the coolest experience. It was such a great way to get them to experience the real world without actually having to go into debt," Crouch said. "And it was a great way to start having those conversations early."

Leading up the field trip, Stewart said she and parents, grandparents and volunteers who offered to help the nearly 80 participating were anxious and excited.

"For all of us involved there was combination of nervousness and excitement," Stewart said. "Coming out of it, 90 percent of the students thought it was the best day ever. For a lot of them they learned a lot about real life."

Afterward, several students told Stewart they were interested in potentially pursuing careers in some of the roles they took on in BizTown.

This was the first year McBride students have taken part in the BizTown program.

Leading up to the trip, students spent nearly 12 hours learning about financial literacy, the economy and what it means to be a citizen in their classrooms, Stewart explained. Annette McCoy, a former McBride teacher, took a special training course from Junior Achievement BizTown.

Stewart said she hopes to take students again in the future, if funding is available.

The McBride Elementary School PTO contributed more than $1,500 to help pay for McCoy's training and to subsidize the cost of the field trip, which requires an $18 payment per student. The financial help made it easier for all fifth-grade students to participate.

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