Imagine you were able to practice being an adult before you actually became one. Do you wish you had a greater understanding of taxes or insurance? Maybe you wish you had some guidance on family budgeting. Junior Achievement’s (JA) Finance Park, presented by Transamerica, located inside of American Furniture Warehouse (AFW) in Thornton, CO, enables teens to learn and actually practice life lessons such as these. Placed in a real-world simulation of a town with storefronts and streets, teens are gaining the opportunity to learn about financial responsibility and family budgeting before they enter adulthood.
Banks, grocery stores, healthcare facilities, and more make up the 7,000 square feet of JA Finance Park. The space was donated to JA Rocky Mountain in 2011 by Jake Jabs, president of AFW. Thanks to this partnership with AFW, as well as underwriting by JA Finance Park presenting sponsor Transamerica, thousands of teenagers have been able to participate in the program.
“In addition to providing the physical space for the park, AFW has donated furniture over the years, and built an office for JA staff in 2016. AFW staff clean the park every day. These contributions enable students and schools to participate in this incredible program at no cost, compared to other JA offices who have to charge participation fees,” said Kristi Shaffer, executive vice president for JA. “For students and teachers, JA Finance Park is a fascinating and fun place. They experience a surreal town with streets and store fronts that represent goods and services such as groceries, housing, cars, health care, banking, energy and entertainment.”
Before going to JA Finance Park, students participate in classroom-based curriculum that focuses on topics like managing a budget, the difference between a credit and debit card, as well as ways to save money. After they complete these lessons, they take a field trip to JA Finance Park to apply what they’ve learned by taking on a fictional adult persona who is challenged to create and manage a household budget.
“I take my students to Finance Park because it’s a fun, immersive experience that gives them the opportunity to practice the crucial life skills of budgeting, saving, and financial planning,” shared one local middle school teacher. “The work my students do at JA Finance Park seems to sink in far better than any of the financial lessons I teach in my classroom.”
For Jake Jabs, focusing on helping others learn how to manage their finances and become self-sufficient is a personal passion.
“I am a strong believer in financial responsibility; it makes life happier,” said Jake. “Teaching financial responsibility to young people in today’s credit world is very important. All of us at AFW are happy to support JA and this important program!”
While many Coloradans are familiar with Jake and his animal friends, not many know how financially savvy he is and that he started his furniture business using cash, not credit.
“Jake Jabs is tremendously generous,” said Shaffer. “We couldn’t do it without him, and the amazing staff at AFW!”
In 2012, Jake was honored for his business leadership and philanthropic contributions to the state of Colorado when he was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame.