Toyota Financial Services (TFS) provides Toyota’s team members with volunteer opportunities to engage with community partners and teach financial literacy to Dallas youth.

Junior Achievement and Toyota are preparing North Texas kids for successful financial futures

by Gefen Kusin-Kline, Special Contributor | April 18, 2019

It’s an unfortunate truth that many Americans are just one emergency away from a catastrophic financial situation. And according to a study conducted by the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance and Visual Capitalist, only about half of Americans are considered financially literate — meaning they don’t have the basic skills and knowledge they need to make informed, effective decisions about money. This is unsurprising, considering that the same study concludes that less than 17 percent of U.S. students are required to take personal finance classes in school.

To that end, the United States has recognized April as Financial Literacy Month since 2003 in order to highlight the importance of personal finance education and to encourage Americans to educate themselves about saving, investing, budgeting and other crucial financial skills.

Toyota recognizes that teaching financial skills at an early age can help people build a solid foundation for making smart financial decisions in the future. This is precisely why Toyota Financial Services (TFS) provides Toyota’s team members with volunteer opportunities to engage with community partners and teach financial education to Dallas-area youth. One of these partnerships is with Junior Achievement of Dallas, a nonprofit that encourages and prepares students to succeed in a global economy. Of Junior Achievement’s many programs, JA BizTown® is perhaps the most notable.

The Dallas JA BizTown is a 10,000 square-foot kid-sized city located inside the Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center. It’s a fully interactive, simulated free market where students can become business-owning adults for a day in order to learn some important financial skills. Students, however, don’t start their financial education journey at JA BizTown. First, they take 12 classes on topics ranging from financial literacy to the economy and the community to business management and more. The program culminates in a five-hour visit to JA BizTown, where the students can apply everything they’ve learned during the course.

By working in one of JA BizTown’s 14 stores — which includes a Toyota dealership — students develop an understanding of the relationship between what they learn in school and how it applies to the real-world global economy. Dallas’ JA BizTown sets students up for economic success throughout their adult lives — and Junior Achievement of Dallas has worked with a lot of students: over 44,000 from over 2,000 classrooms in 21 school districts.

Elim is one of the students that has benefited from — and loved — JA Biztown’s program. Elim is a 6th-grade student at the Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School in Garland, TX. Each day in her social studies class, Elim and her classmates would excitedly advance through Junior Achievement’s curriculum in anticipation of their big day at JA BizTown. As the lessons progressed, Elim grew increasingly excited to put what she learned in the classroom into practice.

Once she made it to JA BizTown, Elim took on the significant role of CEO of Business Services. She quickly learned that running a business was much harder than she had initially assumed, but with the challenges she faced, she learned how to pay bills and work with colleagues and customers to fulfill financial responsibilities.

Now Elim is already thinking about saving for college. Her sister has been an inspiration, motivating Elim to become a special education teacher one day. Her time at JA BizTown has helped Elim learn the importance of saving for the ambitious financial goal of attending college. Through her hours spent in the classroom and her hands-on experience at JA BizTown, Elim has acquired a deeper understanding of responsible money use and management.

“Money itself isn’t something to make me happy, but it’s a resource to help me live a better life every day with my family,” she says.

While Toyota’s sponsorship of JA BizTown ensures students have the tools they need to succeed, engagement with the company’s team members brings the understanding full circle for the students, providing them with lifelong skills.

“Stories from youth like Elim are why we do what we do,” says Erika Doolittle, National Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility at Toyota. “These kids are inspiring our team members every day, and we hope that by sharing our expertise, it will spark an excitement that will drive them to never stop short of success.”

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