STRATFORD — “Blues Clues” producer Dr. Alice Wilder and a host of senior leaders from Junior Achievement (JA) USA and JA New Jersey were guests at Saint John Paul II Regional School here April 24.
The school was selected as a national pilot site for JA’s third grade curriculum. Dr. Wilder, whose ”Cha-Ching” financial literacy videos are an integral part of the JA curriculum, observed and engaged third grade students and volunteers. JA USA senior vice president Mary Catherine (MC) Desrosiers joined her in the classroom.
Portions of the day were filmed and photographed by the JA USA Brand team.
“Our community is honored to have been chosen,” said principal Helen Persing. “We have sponsored Junior Achievement for more than eight years.” Persing credits the program format and content as well as the school’s volunteers with JA’s continued success at John Paul II.
JA helps young people develop practical skills to understand and manage the realities of economic choices through core content areas of work and finances. Through trained volunteers, JA reaches 4.8 million students across the United States each year.
Thirty-one volunteers, mostly school parents, led the sessions at John Paul II.
“Where do you keep your money?” a volunteer asked a class full of third grade students.
“My piggy bank.”
“My sock drawer.”
Their answers were part of a lively discussion about four choices people make when it comes to money: earn, save, spend and donate. The students had watched a three minute Cha-Ching video — one of several in a series starring cartoon characters who live in a city and earn money by working jobs and playing in a band. As Wilder puts it, “the ‘School House Rock’ of financial literacy.”
“My job in life is to talk to kids and translate that back so we know what will help kids most,” said Wilder, who believes understanding choices about money is critical at every age. “[You] have these four choices, and whatever the balance is means you’re going to be able to reach or not reach your goals.”
Through a board game, the third graders saw money come and go as every move resulted in an amount earned, saved, spent or donated. On individual journal pages, they kept track of their deposits and withdrawals.
Wilder and Desrosiers were grateful for the time in the classroom, where they could see first-hand whether the materials are on target. “The questions [kids] ask and the information they give can inspire us to be better adults,” said Wilder.
By day’s end, the JA New Jersey team provided Persing with enthusiastic feedback about the group’s experience at John Paul II. They wrote, “Volunteers inspired and mentored 336 K-8th grade children in 18 classrooms at Saint John Paul II Regional School to follow their dreams and reach their full potential. Your effort and dedication, even for just one day, leaves a life-long impression your students will always remember. We hope you’ll continue participating in JA and share your experiences with others.”
Mary Beth Peabody is communications and marketing manager, Office of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Camden.