"Kids really do look up to us. Even though it’s one day, you could potentially change the whole course of someone’s life."
Author: Erika O'Shea
Published: Thursday, 21 Oct 2021
Image caption: Laura Jones with CommunityAmerica Credit Union's JA BizTown CEO and CFO
Laura Jones recently raised her hand to open CommunityAmerica Credit Union’s newest branch. When she signed up for the job, she knew it might be a little different than normal. The reason? The new branch is located inside JA BizTown presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union! In the real world, Laura works as a regional market director for the organization, but in JA BizTown she volunteered to mentor and guide kids “working” at the brand new branch.
Laura was excited to bring her real-world experience to the day-long simulation for kids in 4th-6th grade. “It’s cool to get a chance to show kids the importance of having a job, earning an income, and how to budget.” After her young team finished their morning meeting led by the JA BizTown CommunityAmerica CEO, they dove right into learning what they needed to know to serve customers.
Image caption: A CommunityAmerica employee helps a JA BizTown citizen open a savings account.
Each kid who visits JA BizTown is provided a tablet computer for the day that outlines their job and responsibilities. Laura witnessed how quickly they picked up on their roles as credit union employees. “I was amazed by how fast the kids caught on to the technology. Having to do transactions like deposits, transfers, and checking balances. They adapted instantaneously!”
Laura also noted how well the kids worked together and demonstrated the friendly customer service CommunityAmerica is known for. “It was great to see them building relationships. They would say ‘Let me check your balance!’ or offer to open a savings account. I saw them really interacting and trying to help each other.” The kids practiced valuable hard and soft skills needed to be successful in a credit union career and other jobs.
Image caption: Employees from across JA BizTown wait to deposit their first check at CommunityAmerica!
Laura found her position as mentor for the branch fulfilling too. “This is a really worthwhile thing to spend your time on.” As a professional within the financial industry, she is passionate about helping children become knowledgeable and confident with money. “This is such a great age to interact with kids and really help them understand the importance of things like savings.” Laura loves that at JA BizTown kids learn the importance of exploring all their options for using money as a tool. “Yes, you can get a paycheck and have money to spend, but kids need to think about if they are making wise decisions. This is such an impactful experience. I know they’re leaving with knowledge that will serve them in their future.”
Though kids’ careers at the JA BizTown CommunityAmerica branch are just for a day, Laura’s career at CommunityAmerica has spanned more than 18 years. Her experiences have given her perspective and wisdom that she is eager to pass on to young people in the community. “There are a couple things that are really important: having a budget and saving.” Though the topics can seem intimidating at first, Laura encourages kids to persevere. “Budgeting doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It just means that you make sure you don’t spend more money than you make every month. One thing you ALWAYS need to include in your budget is savings. It’s really important from a young age to pay yourself first. Put a little bit aside from everything you make for that bigger purchase in the future, or for emergencies, or for retirement.”
Image caption: Laura Jones, Regional Market Director - CommunityAmerica Credit Union
Laura knows that helping young people develop a long-term perspective is crucial. “They don’t want to think about retirement at this age, but it’s so impactful. The earlier you start to save, the bigger benefit you get from that.” Laura also understands the impact that she has as a role model at JA BizTown. “Kids really do look up to us. Even though it’s one day, you have the chance to make an impact. You could potentially change the whole course of someone’s life.” She chuckled, “It’s a lot of pressure,” and continued, “but it’s also a huge reward to think that because you were friendly and supportive, that they may remember the things you told them. Because one day you spent a few hours of your time giving back, they’ll make better decisions.”