By Beverly Perkins
McArthur High School Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher, Eileen Santiago likes to provide real-world experiences for her students. Her goal as an educator is to teach math, reading, science, social studies and social skills beyond the classroom. Therefore, she is always searching for opportunities to do so.
Santiago learned about Junior Achievement Biz Town through her 5th grade daughter who was working on the curriculum in her class at the time, and she knew this would be an amazing place for her students to visit. The indoor center contains a mini city with up to 18 public and private businesses, sponsored by the real businesses. The appearance is that of an actual marketplace to give students real life experiences such as operating a bank, voting for a mayor, selling merchandise, depositing paychecks, reporting, and interviewing business leaders.
Biz Town, also known as JA World, had never worked with high school special needs students, so Santiago began adapting and creating a smaller version of the curriculum to fit the needs of her 9-12th grade students, as well as her students in the Postgraduate Alternatives for Secondary Students program. Before visiting the facility, students need to complete a pre-visit curriculum where they learn basic economic principles to prepare them for their “jobs”.
“My goal was for our students to work on basic life skills such as how to manage their own personal bank accounts,” said Santiago. “Students learned to write a resume, interview for a job, write checks and deposit funds, and work with other classmates as a team. After three months, we were ready to visit and run a town.”
Upon arriving at Biz Town, Santiago’s students were given their workplace and job functions which they had to perform. Other 11th and 12th grade McArthur students came to volunteer to assist their classmates. Jobs ranged from retail sales professionals, accountants, business managers, and medical professionals to TV and newspaper reporters. The favorites among these Mustangs were the Humane Society and BB&T.
“The staff at Biz Town worked closely with us to be sure the students were able to complete their job duties,” added Santiago. “I would like to thank Junior Achievement for giving McArthur the opportunity to run a town for a day. Attending Biz Town is an experience that our students will never forget. Learning, having fun, and preparing for the real world all in one place!”