Cumming signs on as sponsor of Junior Achievement Center

Facility will run in conjunction with Alliance Academy

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CUMMING, Ga. — Forsyth County will be home to the first Junior Achievement Discovery Center outside of metro Atlanta next fall, and the City of Cumming will be one of its sponsors.

The Cumming City Council voted Aug. 15 to be a sponsor for the center, but the city hasn’t decided what level of sponsorship they will provide.

Forsyth County Schools College and Career Development Director Dr. Valery Lowe told council members the center will be part of the Alliance Academy for Innovation, the county’s first college and career development high school, which opens next fall.

The Alliance Academy is a 9th through 12th grade school and will have five career interest-themed academies, including aerospace and logistics, criminal justice and law, healthcare and first responders, hospitality and design, and mechatronics and energy.

The Junior Achievement Discovery Center at North Georgia will be on the campus, but not part of the Alliance Academy, and will be a middle school entrepreneurship and financial literacy experience.

All Forsyth County middle schoolers will take field trips to the center throughout the school year to learn life skills, such as how to run a business, pay taxes and balance a checkbook.

The program has two similar centers in the state, including the Junior Achievement Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center which opened in August 2013 in Atlanta, and the Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Gwinnett which opened in 2015. There are about 30 different discovery centers across the country, Lowe said.

“We visited the ones in Georgia and knew this was something we’d like to bring to Forsyth County at some point,” Lowe said. “We saved space on the Alliance Academy campus for this. Thanks to a generous contribution from Mike and Lynn Cottrell, who are from Dahlonega, they contributed the funds needed to build the Discovery Center of North Georgia.”

The North Georgia center will serve other school systems nearby including Hall County, Lumpkin County, Dawson County, the city of Gainesville and the city of Calhoun.

“We’re excited because this will bring a lot of folks into our area,” Lowe said.

Before students set foot in the center, they will spend about 20 hours of instruction time learning lessons that will help them succeed during the simulations. For the past two years, the district has piloted the program in schools so students are able to experience it in their classrooms.

The sixth graders will participate in what’s called “JA Biztown” where they will interact within a simulated economy and take on the challenge of running a business, Lowe said.

Students will come in, elect a mayor for the day, participate in business transactions and receive speeding tickets for running in the hall.

“They will learn how to work, live in an economy, buy and sell things,” Lowe said. “The centers are developed to resemble the communities they’re in. Everything you and I do on a daily basis as far as interacting with a city, they’ll do.”

Some of the storefronts in the Atlanta and Gwinnett centers include local governments, Home Depot, Wells Fargo and QuikTrip.

Currently, two businesses, Delta and Georgia United Credit Union, have signed on for the North Georgia location. Other storefronts could include colleges, healthcare, entertainment, utilities or transportation.

Students will learn all aspects of a business from the perspectives the consumer, owner and investor.

The seventh or eighth graders will participate in “JA Finance Park,” an immersive simulation that enables them to develop skills to successfully navigate today’s economic environment.

“Students will make decisions around their budgets,” Lowe said. “These will be decisions they have to make in order to survive with their simulated families. Those will include investments, balancing a checkbook and buying or renting a home.”

The center will be free for the school districts, aside from providing transportation for the students, said Lee Highsmith, executive director for North Georgia district of Junior Achievement of Georgia.

“This is a life-changing experience for the students,” Highsmith said. “You’re giving them an education to become better citizens.”

To learn about the center and academy, visit georgia.ja.org.


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