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In today’s economy, it’s never too early to early to learn about work readiness, entrepreneurship and money management, and more than 600 Coteau-Bayou Blue Elementary students got a glimpse of what roles they will play when they join the country’s workforce.

“Research shows that programs like this helps increase test scores,” said Lorretta Tanner, the school’s counselor. “Our principal was all about hosting the event when I told her that. The students learn life-long skills that will help them in the future. Every school should take the time to have this program.”

The school has hosted the event, organized The Society of Louisiana CPAs, the Louisiana Banker’s Education Council and Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, for the last 10 years. It teaches students the basic concepts of business and economics, their roles as consumers and workers and how these roles fit into the local economy.

“They learn how a business operates, make up their own business and learn about debits and credits,” said JA Program Manager Ronnie Musacchia. “The program teaches them the value of money and how the monetary system actually works and how to manage money, make a budget and balance a checkbook. The volunteers also talk about loans and borrowing money and the difference between good and bad debt.”

The Financial Literacy programs are tailored for each grade. First- through sixth-grade students participated in the financial learning experience. First graders learned about earning, saving, sharing and working ethically, while second graders learned about citizens’ roles in the economy, the importance of work and the tools and skills required to work and make a living. Third-grade students were briefed on life outside of home and school, what makes a community run and the interdependent roles of people in a city, while fourth graders took a look at relationships between the jobs people do and how their work impacts the city’s well-being. Fifth graders explored the relationships between natural, human and capital resources and which regional businesses make goods or offer services, and sixth graders focused on globalization, business resources and careers.

“The students look forward to the program,” Tanner said. “They find out things they didn’t expect to, like what it takes for a community to function.”

The Greater New Orleans Chapter of Junior Achievement is active in 12 parishes – including Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary – and reaches more than 14,000 students in 46 schools each year.

“The overall goal of the program is to show how a community works together,” Musacchia said. “The JA organization was started in 1919, and, when it first began, high-school students visited businesses to learn how companies are developed, started, run, shut down and split.”

Since then, the organization has expanded its teachings to include programs for junior high and elementary school students. Thirty volunteers from local branches of Chase, Mid-South Bank, Regions Bank, South Louisiana Bank and Capital One and staff from Sam’s Club, Blue Bell Ice Cream and Manpower as well as certified public accountants from Beyer Stagni and Company took a day from their real jobs to share their knowledge about work readiness, entrepreneurship and money management.

“It’s fun to draw and design the buildings on a grid,” said 9-year-old Lauren Boquet, a fourth grader. “I also like how we are learning about the government and how a town is run.”

In addition to designing buildings, students also learned how to market a product and read a house blueprint.

“Miss Lauren (Abadie) is giving us information about all the different zones in a city,” Baron Moore, 9, also a fourth grader, said of his class’s Regions Bank volunteer. “We even designed a classroom with different zones inside of it.”

“This program is so great,” said Heather Blanchard, Moore and Boquet’s teacher. “It’s helping students get a better understanding of the City of Houma, and it allows workers in the community to come in and see what is going on in our classrooms.

“The creativeness of these children is amazing,” she continued. “They come up with stuff adults would never think of, like a candy zone and game zone in the classrooms they designed, and the reasons why they thought these areas were relevant and necessary were great.”

The Coteau-Bayou Bayou Blue event marked Steve Barbera’s second time to take part in JA’s Financial Literacy Day.

“I volunteered when I worked for a company in Baton Rouge several years ago,” Barbera, a lending officer at Regions Bank in Houma, said after addressing a group of sixth-grade students about the global marketplace. “They are a good, interested group of kids, and they took in the information well and were receptive to the experience. They asked questions about imports and exports, and they really seemed to grasp that concept well. I enjoyed it, and I want to thank JA for the opportunity to help.”

Trey Roberts, left, Brandon Collins, Brittany Carlisle and Taylor Faciane, all students at Coteau-Bayou Blue Elementary School, participate in Junior Achievement Financial Literacy Day activities. Students learned about the value of money and how the monetary system works and how to manage money, make a budget and balance a checkbook.