St. Pat’s fifth graders learn business basics at JA Biztown

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The St. Patrick School delegation to the JA Biztown event included, front row from left, Fifth Grade Teacher Megan Peppard, Gus Ruiz, Kaylee Wuebker, Isabella Burgos, Cadence Hurley, Grace Garrett, Tori Vodenik and Cruz Calderon; middle row from left, Mindy Farmer, Ella Farmer, Lilly Riley, Ahury Perla, Trenton Carr, Sophia McDevitt and Nate Lutterman; third row from left, Third Grade Teacher Julie Hudnell, Andy Hudnell, Jody Lutterman, Matt McDevitt and Principal Eddie Diaz.

St. Patrick School fifth grade students got a jump on planning for their economic futures this year by participating in a Junior Achievement (JA) business and financial literacy program that culminated with a trip to the Richard O. Jacobson JA Biztown in Des Moines.

The JA program aims to empower students to take responsibility for their own economic success.



Fifth grade teacher Megan Peppard and volunteer parents helped deliver lessons in work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The lessons varied from budgeting and purchasing stocks to completing job applications and proper job interview etiquette.

All 16 students applied for jobs at Biztown in Des Moines and were given job interviews by St. Patrick School Principal Eddie Diaz. Diaz said he was impressed by the effort and preparation the students demonstrated in their interviews.

“I was blown away by some of their interview skills,” Diaz said, “from their confidence in their answers to the small things like eye contact, posture and a firm handshake. These students came ready to take on the world when they stepped into my office.”

The students were then “hired” for positions in Biztown, ranging from the CEO of a financial center to the CFO of a farm operation, an engineer, mail operator and many more.

Matt McDevitt, one of the parent volunteers, said he enjoyed the experience and thought fifth grade was a good time for students to start learning about financial literacy. McDevitt said the JA program “gave the students an opportunity to role play in different positions in a business. They were truly making decisions, planning, receiving bills, doing services and creating invoices.”

Junior Achievement’s experiential learning aims to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential. By connecting the students with relevant learning and the importance of staying in school, they were able to develop competitive skills and confidence.

Ahury Perla, a St. Pat’s fifth grader, was one of many students who had a great time on the trip and learned a lot doing so.

“It was really fun and a learning experience,” Perla said. “You learned about writing checks, deposits and work. You get to run a business, and you get to feel how it is to have a job. You get to do stuff that you don’t get to do everyday.”

When asked whether holding a job takes a lot of work, Perla said her classmates were exhausted at the end of the day. She said it made her feel happy because now she knew how her parents felt every day after a long day of work.

“All schools should go there, because it was really fun,” she said.

Although students and parents all felt the trip was fun and well worth the time, a new twist will be added to next year’s plan. The cost of the trip will now include a $17.50 fee per student. The program has been free for the past five years.

Peppard said she thought it was a valuable experience and looks forward to taking her class next year. In addition to finding funding for the field trip, St. Patrick school will be looking for community partners to help defray the cost of a financial literacy curriculum and training for the next academic school year.

Maybe this year’s fifth graders can start using their newfound economic skills by helping the school find money for next year’s fifth graders.

Third grade teacher Julie Hudnell and volunteer parents Andy Hudnell and Jody Lutterman also helped to shepherd the group on the daylong field trip.

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