Kids' Finance Park to be built in Tampa

Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 17:54:45-05

Many students graduate high school with little knowledge of budgeting or money-management skills. As a result, some quickly become bogged down by credit-card and college debt.

Now, Hillsborough County Schools, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay and SunTrust are all working to combat the problem head on by building a financial literacy and career readiness center in Tampa.

The 16,000-square-foot facility will give middle school students valuable lessons in money management and the world of work by letting them run a "micro-city" for a day.

"It's an investment in the future," said Pam Muma, Junior Achievement Florida chairperson.

This is very similar to the Financial Park and Enterprise Village model, located in Pinellas County and managed by the Pinellas Education Association.

Fifth-grade students will learn business skills, working in shop fronts modeled and sponsored by real local Hillsborough businesses.

Eighth grade students will focus more on family and personal budgeting. Instructors will give them an age, a salary and a family they need to provide and "budget" for.

"It's good to learn how to manage your money [...] because you don't want to have a bunch of debt," said Elizabeth Wertz, a Hillsborough County student. "You actually get to live it."

"I think they walk away with an understanding, a deeper understanding, about not just academics but life decisions and challenges they may face in the future," said Jeff Eakins, Hillsborough County School superintendent.

More importantly, those behind the effort say this gives kids critical life skills.

"Teach them to budget, to invest, to save to even give back to their communities," Muma said.

Junior Achievement expects the new JA Finance Park, located near USF near North 22nd Street and East Fletcher Avenue, is expected to be complete by fall 2017, JA officials said.