Prince George’s Finance Park set to open in fall 2014 -- Gazette.Net


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Financial lessons in Prince George’s County will soon have a new resource, as the groundbreaking was held Oct. 30 on a new $2.5 million facility expected to help students learn how to manage their money and prepare for the future.

“I think this is going to be an amazing, amazing opportunity for our students here in Prince George’s County,” said school board Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Boston (Dist. 6). “Financial literacy is just as important as the ability to read and write.”

The 13,000-square-foot Finance Park — a partnership between Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, Prince George’s County Public Schools and Capital One Financial Corp. — is being built on the G. James Gholson Middle/Cora L. Rice Elementary School campus, and is expected to open in the fall of 2014, said JAGW Chief Executive Officer and President Edward J. Grenier III.

The construction cost is being paid by Capital One through its philanthropic program, while Junior Achievement will own the building and provide the curriculum that accompanies eighth-graders’ visits to Finance Park.

The school system will pay an estimated $147,000 yearly for upkeep and utilities for the building, as well as $23 per student for course materials, according to school system documents.

“I think this is going to be wonderful for our community and for our children,” said schools CEO Kevin Maxwell. “I am thrilled that everyone has come together to make this a reality.

A Financial Park was built in Fairfax County, Va., in 2010. Grenier said it has had a “huge” impact on the 42,000 students who have visited it, saying 89 percent of students surveyed said they felt more confident making decisions around money after visiting.

Junior Achievement operates 18 other Finance Parks across the country, according to Grenier.

Grenier said the Finance Park facility is just one piece of Junior Achievement’s six-week financial literacy program, aimed at giving eighth-graders the tools they will need to make responsible financial decisions.

After about five weeks studying Junior Achievement’s financial literacy curriculum in their math and social studies classes, students will arrive at Finance Park for a daylong role-playing scenario, where they will each be given a real-life situation stipulating their occupation, income, marital status and dependents, Grenier said.

The students travel from storefront to storefront, making purchasing decisions based on their budget.

“It’s really about choices,” Grenier said. “What type of house do you buy? Do you buy one with a two-door garage, or do you settle for a one-door garage so you can budget more money for clothing?”

Throughout the day, students may encounter unfortunate life changes, such as a major car repair or hospital visit, for which they must then budget, Grenier said.

“I think having our kids understand how their world works can’t be understated,” Maxwell said. “We’ve come through a tremendously challenging recessionary period, and helping children understand how they interact with the economy, how businesses interact, how different industries affect each other is huge. All of those pieces of financial literacy are very, very important, and this is going to fill a tremendous void for us.”

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net