JA BizTown celebrates 100,000 students
NORTH TAMPA - As Junior Achievement BizTown “Mayor” Kytzie Diaz, 11, counted, the students followed her finger until she stopped at Syann Jackson. In that instant, Jackson, an 11-year-old Ippolito Elementary School fifth-grader, went from being one of thousands of children who have visited the Pam & Les Muma JA BizTown to being the 100,000th student to have gained life, education and career empowerment skills at the center. On Thursday, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay celebrated the milestone. Located in the Bill Poe Family Junior Achievement Center, 13707 N. 22nd St., JA BizTown opened in November 2005 in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools. The center is a “mini city” with more than 20 public and private businesses inside. Each is sponsored by an actual local business, bringing the town and commerce to life for students who learn the basics of business, trade and commerce. Before visiting JA BizTown, students complete a pre-visit curriculum program, learning basic economics, such as managing bank accounts, going through job interviews, learning about workplaces and job training.Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving youth knowledge and skills necessary for economic success, secure futures and the ability to make sound educational and economic choices. “It’s a journey; this is just the first stop and we plan to be here forever, educating students,” said Richard George, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay president, who told pupils they were all “part of something special.” Guests at the celebration included current and former school administrators, teachers and employees; management from sponsoring corporations and businesses; center employees and staff; former Tampa Mayor Bill Poe; and Alex Sink, former chief financial officer for the State of Florida. Poe donated $1.5 million to help fund the construction of the achievement center. “It’s been wonderful from the first day; we couldn’t be happier to be a part of this,” said Poe, following the celebration. “It’s a big achievement for me personally.” Joe Teague, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay chairman and managing partner of Northwestern Mutual Teague Financial Group, said the children who were at the center when it first opened are now in college and preparing for real careers. Eighty-two percent of Hillsborough County fifth-graders experience JA BizTown, about 13,000 students per year. Over the next 25 years, it is estimated 300,000 students will have attended. During the May 30 event, about 200 fifth graders from Ippolito Elementary School in Riverview took part in the center’s activities.