By Sarah LaRosh
Intense, exciting, strategic, and eye-opening are all words I would use to describe my brief experience with Young AmeriTowne® of Kansas. Lenora is similar to the majority of rural communities in western Kansas: small businesses lining the downtown streets, friendly smiles and waves from patrons as they pass by, and a once abandoned high school building. It is inside this high school where the magic of Young AmeriTowne® happens.
Young AmeriTowne® of Kansas (referred to as Towne) is a six-week curriculum designed for 5th and 6th grades that teaches basic economics, banking, money management, government, communications, philanthropy, and employment. The culmination of the classroom experience is a field trip to Young AmeriTowne of Kansas in Lenora. Nex-Generation Round Up for Youth, Inc. partnered with Young Americans Center for Financial Education in Denver, CO, to bring a financial literacy program to their service area in northwest Kansas.
As part of the pre-work, students interview for a variety of positions and are “hired” prior to arriving in Towne. Positions range from business owners, newspaper editors, law enforcement and many others. The mayor and judge are elected through a campaign cycle and elections. Every student has a key role and responsibilities. Towne is initiated with a town hall meeting and ribbon cutting where the elected officials are sworn into duty. After that, an adult might describe the experience as organized chaos. To the students, it is a wealth of learning plus a dash of fun as they experience their classroom lessons in real life for a few hours.
Among many other life lessons, Towne participants learn supply and demand as they strive to sell products from their designated stores they are in charge of running. Students get to experience the importance of simple actions such as surveys and questionnaires, the cost of marketing (or lack thereof) and the use of logos, graphics and media. They also get to experience more serious actions such as the cause and effect of not abiding by the laws, regardless of how goofy they appear to be. Additionally, they learn the value of philanthropic giving as they donate a portion of their “earnings” to charities. (A private benefactor gives a real donation to these charities based upon what the students donate at Towne. - WOW!) All of these instructions, lessons and experiences are important, but most important is putting all of this together and learning how a town works.
Entrepreneurship is the foundation of a strong economy. More than 80% of all businesses in every state are started by local entrepreneurs. At NetWork Kansas, our mission is to establish an entrepreneurial environment in our state, and we strive to support both communities and businesses that are working toward this shared goal. I am always eager to observe and assist E-Communities as they implement various programs and activities to help foster and grow their ecosystem. I was blessed to be a fly on the wall for a day as Phillips and Norton County students participated in AmeriTowne. I observed many students experiencing “Ah-Ha” moments as their eyes were opened to everyday happenings they have taken for granted since they are basic but essential parts of strong economies. Who knew learning could be so much fun!
To learn more or to enroll your school, please contact Jacque Beckman, Executive Director for Nex-Generation and Program Director for Young AmeriTowne of Kansas by calling 877-567-7872 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on how NetWork Kansas can help you grow your entrepreneurial ecosystem, please contact email@example.com or (877) 521-8600.