May 6, 2016
Madilyn Schacht was busy scurrying around her town. She stopped at the radio station to record a public service announcement welcoming everyone, stopped by the television station to be interviewed, visited the businesses along the town’s main street to make sure everything was going well, signed paychecks for all the residents, and encouraged everyone she met to vote.
A typical day for the mayor of the JA BizTown.
Schacht, a fifth grade student at Immaculate Conception School in Clarksville, was part of a group of fourth through sixth grade students from Middle Tennessee attending the JA BizTown, sponsored by Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee, on Wednesday, April 27. She served as the mayor of the miniature town, which included a variety of businesses, such as a bank, restaurant, wellness center, retail store, newspaper, and others.
“I liked the idea of having that much responsibility. Responsibility is my thing,” said Schacht. “I like doing things.”
She was one of 13 students from Immaculate Conception and 17 from St. Ann School that were able to attend JA BizTown thanks to scholarships funded by the Catholic Business League, an organization of Catholic business professionals who meet monthly to network and support several causes, including Catholic education.
“I enjoyed getting the feeling of how adults’ everyday life is like,” said Schacht, the daughter of Amber and Jamie Schacht. “It helps you learn what you’re going to do when you get older.”
The visit to the JA BizTown is the culmination of a two-month curriculum designed to give the young students a glimpse into the adult world of work, operating a business, collecting a paycheck, and managing personal finances. It dovetails nicely with the interests of the Catholic Business League, said Tom Boles, the organization’s treasurer.
“We try to promote business and promote it with Catholic ideals,” said Boles, a retired certified public accountant and a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood. “We want to get kids interested in business and help them understand how businesses work. When we can get them interested in business and see what it’s all about, it will help them as they progress and as they get out in business themselves, hopefully.”
The program begins well before the students show up at BizTown. “For the last two months we have followed a strict curriculum,” learning how to write checks and deposit slips, fill out a check registry, how to calculate the costs of operating a business and set prices for the products or services they are selling, said Shiloah Fenn, the fifth grade homeroom teacher at St. Ann. The students also learned about paying taxes, and how to advertise and market their business so the other students would be interested in buying their products, she added.
The program teaches the students several subject areas, Fenn said, including economics, math, and how to write a business letter. Students also learn about the importance of teamwork, she added.
The students from St. Ann staffed the Journey’s retail store in BizTown, the television station and the wellness center. Immaculate Conception’s students worked at the radio station and city hall. Each student has to apply for a job at BizTown and be interviewed, explained Anita Tolleson, the fifth grade teacher at Immaculate Conception.
As the date for their day at BizTown grew closer, the students got more excited about it, said Fenn. “They were excited, nervous. Serious, very serious.”
Once at BizTown, the students go to work at their jobs, deposit their paychecks at the BizTown bank, pay their taxes, and meet and visit with students from other schools.
“My son … is getting super excited,” said Immaculate Conception parent volunteer Nicole Whitfield. After starting the curriculum, her son started saving his money rather than spending it as soon as he got it, she said. “He’s understanding that money doesn’t grow on trees.”
Tolleson is convinced what the students learn in the program will stick with them long after their day at BizTown is over. Immaculate Conception’s second grade teacher told Tolleson that her daughter, who is now in the eighth grade, still talks about her experience at BizTown.
“This is invaluable information they can’t get anywhere else,” Whitfield added. “They get to be an adult for a little bit.”
This is the first year that the Catholic Business League funded the scholarships, and Boles was one of several members who stopped by the JA BizTown to check on the students from Immaculate Conception and St. Ann. “I went by and visited and the teachers were just delighted at the program. The kids were having fun,” he said. “I was tickled to see how involved (the students) were.”
“It’s just a great program,” he added.
Looking back on her day as mayor of BizTown, “I liked the idea of working together and getting to meet new people that I got to work with,” Schacht said. “Me and my best friend were talking about how we wish we could do it every single Wednesday.”