At a sparkling new building in Landover, Maryland, students are getting a crash course in how to spend, save and look after their money responsibly.
Tuesday marked the grand opening of the newest Junior Achievement Finance Park, where eighth-graders from Prince George’s County schools will use tablet computers to practice personal finance skills they’re learning in class. An international study last year found that more than 1 in 6 U.S. teens are unable to make simple choices about how to spend their money.
The center, a mini city of storefronts, was created by Prince George’s schools, Capital One bank and Junior Achievement of Greater Washington. The first Washington-area Finance Park opened in Fairfax County, Virginia, five years ago. There are 17 others nationwide and one set to open in Montgomery County, Maryland, in 2017.
Before coming to Finance Park, students have lessons on how to save and invest, how to read a bank statement and how to make sense of debit and credit cards. They put their skills to the test when they walk inside: Students are given a career, salary, debt and family situation, and then have to put together a monthly budget.
Budgeting can by tricky. Students needs to figure out how much to spend on groceries, rent, transportation and even entertainment. They shop with virtual money, adjusting their budgets as they go.
LaChelle King, a teacher at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, said the center was exciting and surprising for her students. One of the kids told her, “Now I know why my mom gets mad at me when I ask her to buy me stuff!”