Students learn about town operations

Parent volunteer Tom Melchert assists Cole Hager as a bank teller during a Junior Achievement BizTown event May 7 in Davenport. Hager was making a deposit for customer Joseph Beard. Both students are from St. Paul the Apostle School in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT — Taking the skills they learned through Junior Achievement classes and mixing those with their given talents, St. Paul the Apostle fourth and fifth-graders ran a town for a day.

The students participated in Junior Achievement’s BizTown, located in downtown Davenport.

Students took on the role of mayor, CEOs, factory workers, radio disc jockeys and more May 7.

Kathy Michel, vice president of JA World that runs BizTown, said the event offers an economic education through entrepreneurial experience, workplace readiness and finance literacy.


The program, which began as Exchange City, had significant improvements made when BizTown was formed three years ago. It is more workplace ready, she noted.

About 5,300 students have gone through BizTown this school year.

During first semester each year at St. Paul’s, classes learn about cities, the economy and the way the world works through Junior Achievement programs. Volunteers — many parents of students — teach the classes.

The skills students learn each year include how to write checks, knowing the difference between residential and commercial zoning, advertising and more.

BizTown pulls those skills together into a hands-on activity.

Lorene Knobbe, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Paul’s, worked with the other fourth-grade and two fifth-grade teachers to plan the visit.

In April, business professionals from different fields came to the school to interview students. The volunteers included people from the banking industry, the city, media and more. Each student attended three interviews.

Teachers took the responses and matched them with the skills of the students to determine their positions at BizTown.

Teachers then sought parents and adult volunteers to assist the businesses in BizTown. Fifth-grade teacher Patty Handley said JA did the training of the parents at BizTown during an evening session. There the parents learned their roles, how to work the computers for each business and what was expected.

Michel said the training is offered several times during the year and is two hours long. “We give the parents an overview. It’s tough training because the kids aren’t here. But if they don’t come to the training they will walk blind. It’s tough for the parents, kids and staff.”

A minimum of 14 parents and other adult volunteers are needed to help assist in the city.

Fifth-grader Nicole Timmons was selected BizTown mayor. After the students were introduced to their businesses and parent volunteers, Timmons called a town meeting.

After being sworn in, she talked about the role of city hall, told about a census being taken in the city, the importance of voting, tax collection and the importance of businesses.

She then had the CEOs of each business talk about their products and/or services.

The newspaper was going to sell ads. The tech shop was producing web pages and business cards. The supply center was selling supplies and forms for businesses only, not to individuals.

Throughout the day, students could take JA money they earned to buy trinkets such as bracelets, headbands, water bottles and more. They could pay with “cash” or write a check.

The bank was a busy spot during scheduled breaks. Each student received two breaks during the day. During that time they were to go to the bank and deposit some money into their accounts. Then they could buy items for themselves (not their businesses) and eat. They also were encouraged to go to city hall and vote.

The day ended with another town hall meeting.

Fourth-grader Leo Chitwood said the day was “pretty cool.” He worked at the environmental store selling various trinkets.

Fourth-grader Lita Solbrig was the chief financial officer of the tech shop. “We create web pages and business cards. This is really fun,” she said.

Her job as CFO was to give out paychecks to the employees at the business and to pay the bills. “We learned a lot of this stuff in JA classes,” she noted.

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