This is the first year in which Willow Creek has taken part in the Junior Achievement program. Junior Achievement is an organization that is designed to inspire entrepreneurship. The local chapter is coordinated by Laura Heyne whose email states, “Empowering young people to own their economic success.” The Junior Achievement website states their goal to be: Junior Achievement offers financial literacy, college and career readiness, and entrepreneurship education to K-12 students in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin. JA empowers students to make a connection between what they learn in school and how it can be applied in the real world – enhancing the relevance of their classroom learning and increasing their understanding of the value of staying in school.

Oak and Maple Houses have spent the year coordinating with Junior Achievement as part of their Leadership Initiative. Oak and Maple Houses have hosted a “Dress for Success” seminar as well as a Leadership Symposium. Oak and Maple Houses have worked Junior Achievement financial literacy lessons into their homeroom periods. The curriculum for the lessons is supplied by Junior Achievement. Heyne has coordinated a team of approximately 18 volunteers, from around the Owatonna community, to conduct job/career interviews with the students; this promises to be an enriching experience for the students as well as the adult volunteers.

Oak and Maple Houses will have a culminating activity at the Junior Achievement Biz Town. As quoted by Junior Achievement: JA BizTown is a 10,000 square foot, kid-sized city within Junior Achievement headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota. JA BizTown is designed to teach students about the role of businesses in the economy, the flow of money through a community, and the responsibilities of work. At the same time, JA BizTown encourages creative, critical and entrepreneurial thinking that develop life skills. The program consists of in-class lessons taught by teachers and ends with a day-long visit to JA BizTown, where the students put the lessons they learned into practice. During this experience, students get to be grown-ups for a day, experiencing the real-world responsibilities of being a consumer, worker and community citizen. By working in one of 14 JA BizTown shops, students learn what it takes to run a successful business, manage their own paycheck and work as a team.

Thank you to Heyne, Junior Achievement, and the teachers of Oak and Maple Houses for the tremendous amount of work they have done to make this leadership experience possible for the students of Willow Creek.

Jim Kiefer, Willow Creek principal.

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