March 18, 2019 5:37 pm

Middle school students from Greeley explore their simulated budgets at the JA Finance Park Rockies booth

Courtney Fay, Chappelow K-8 Arts Magnet School Counselor

JA Finance Park, presented by Transamerica, was easy for Courtney Fay to pitch to her school district. As a middle school counselor at Chappelow K-8 Arts Magnet School, Fay was thrilled to tell colleagues about the program that meets all 21st century college and work readiness requirements, not to mention its $0 price tag for schools. She’s taken four groups of Chappelow students to visit JA Finance Park, and continues to build the hype throughout her Greeley community.

Fay brings students from Chappelow in Greeley to JA Finance Park in Thornton at the start of each year to kick off their career path research projects. Once students have an understanding of what it takes to pay the bills, Fay says, they can see the relationship between their jobs and their spending.

“They gain an understanding of what having a salary really means,” says Fay.

The goal of JA Finance Park is to help students build a foundation for making intelligent, lifelong, personal financial decisions through a hands-on, realistic simulation experience. Most JA Finance Park students come from Denver Metro, but this year, students from two additional Greeley schools, McAuliffe S.T.E.M. Academy and Prairie Heights Middle School, had the chance to become adults for the day because of Fay’s enthusiasm. She brought information about JA Finance Park to a Greeley middle school counselors’ meeting, which prompted additional schools to start filling their busses to Thornton as well.

When she experienced JA Finance Park for the first time this year, McAuliffe school counselor Jaime Cranson said, “I think it’s amazing. It’s a fun way to take the learning from the classroom into a culminating experience.” Many kids from Cranson’s school don’t have opportunities to leave Greeley other than field trips, so to have this type of exposure to the “real world” outside their routine is crucial.

The Toyota booth at JA Finance Park teaches these middle school students how to apply for a car loan and spend within a budget

The impact doesn’t end with the students, in Fay’s experience. At parent/teacher conferences, parents and guardians often tell Fay about what their children taught them as a result of JA Finance Park as well. It’s because of the combined effort of educators like Fay and Cranson, JA staff, volunteers, supporters, students, and their families that young people throughout the Front Range are learning to make reality-based financial decisions.

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