Junior Achievement Park
The Junior Achievement Finance Park in Landover, Md. currently provides a financial literacy curriculum to Prince George’s County eighth graders. The center is the first of its kind in the county and the second in the region. (Photo Credit: Junior Achievement of Greater Washington)

Prince George’s County Public Schools, along with several community and business partners, are working to strengthen students’ financial literacy education by opening of a technology driven financial center. The Junior Achievement Finance Park opened on the campus of G. James Gholson Middle School and Cora L. Rice Elementary School in Landover on Oct. 27. It is the first student-oriented finance park in Maryland and the second one in the region.

“It strengthened my confidence and hard work,” former Junior Achievement student U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) told the AFRO, reflecting on the gains she received from attending the organization’s academic programs. “I’m excited, for what this building will do for our young people.”

Through an alignment the finance park made with Prince George’s County Public School, the 13,500-square-foot supercenter is designed to help 9,000 8th grade students experience the challenges of making real-life financial decisions. They will learn how to responsibly conduct future financial responsibilities and maintain financial success. The lessons at the center are a mandatory part of the curriculum for the students.

“This is big for our generation of young people of the Greater Washington area to help them financially,” president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Greater Washington Ed Grenier told the AFRO. “Prince George’s County is based on relationships.”

Before students can participate in the finance park, they must first take part in the organization’s 14-lesson classroom curriculum, designed to educate them in personal finance and give them the skills needed to take to be successful at the finance park.

“If we’re going to get better as a community, we have to get better as a school system,” Dr. Kevin Maxwell, CEO, Prince George’s County Public Schools told the AFRO.  By “helping our students learn about jobs and colleges, together we will become great by choice.”

Once students enroll into the learning center, they will be placed in a life scenario with an avatar, a career, salary, credit score, debt, a family, and financial obligations. On tablet computers, students will make their way through various phases of the day, budgeting and adjusting for life’s unexpected events. “This program is not only for young people to learn, but also for them to take this home to their families and teach them as well,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said.

Volunteers are needed to assist with the students. “We’re serving the community with the community,” Ashley Emerson, the park’s education director, told the AFRO Nov. 4. To become a volunteer, call 240-487-7550 or email Emerson at [email protected]

According to the Junior Achievement of Greater Washington website, another finance park is scheduled to open on the fourth floor of the new Thomas Edison High School of Technology building in Wheaton, Maryland during the fall of 2017. The first finance park in the area opened in Fairfax, Virginia in October 2010.

Washington D.C. Editor LaTrina Antoine contributed to this article.