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New simulated business town run by kids comes to KCK

Renderings of JA's Youth Learning Lab
Posted at 10:02 AM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 20:00:18-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — From the classroom to the real world, Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City is giving kids a chance to run their own town.

It's called the JA Youth Learning Lab and will debut next year.

"It's been quietly in the works for many, many, many years," JAGKC President Megan Sturges Stanfield said. "I think it's a really good time when our kids just need a little bit more hope and find ways to not give up on those future dreams. We're really ready to open the doors and get things going."

The center, presented by the Mallouk Family Foundation, is meant to give students of all grade levels a chance to try out different careers and learn life skills outside the classroom with mentors who can help them hone their entrepreneurship skills.

Through its partner, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, 14,000 square feet of the center will be reserved for JA Biz Town, where there will be simulated storefronts, in partnership with local companies across the metro.

Those companies include: CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Children’s Mercy Hospital, JE Dunn Construction, Evergy, KC PBS, Creative Planning, Hallmark and Price Chopper.

Sturges Stanfield explains how the simulated storefronts, like Price Chopper, would work.

"The kids will actually apply for a job within Price Chopper or CommunityAmerica and they will take on that role when they enter the facility for the day," she said. "They will be charged to sell product or provide services to their peers, who will come visit when they're on their break, or using their discretionary time while they're not working in the other storefront. So we're truly using this as an opportunity to develop a talent pipeline to expose kids to opportunities that they wouldn't generally think about."

In addition to the JA Biz Town, there will also be a Career Center and an Innovation Lab for students to enhance and build on their entrepreneurship skills.

The new center will be located at 2842 W. 47th St. in Kansas City, Kansas. Sturges Stanfield said finding the right location was critical.

"We scoured the city for months trying to find the right location. We needed to make sure that it was in an area that was safe and secure because if parents and teachers and principals were going to allow their students to leave the security of a school building for a day, they had to make sure that that safety and security would be continued and offered in the JA experience," Sturges Stanfield said. "But also, we have dedicated our time and resources to serving on Kansas City's urban core for decades. And we didn't want to leave and remove that part of our mission and our focus for the future."

Sturges Stanfield said this will this be a great place to house the center.

"This will be a great opportunity not only to support the kids in that community, but to bring in other Kansas City residents to see how awesome the community is," she said. "And we're grateful that we get to work with Unified Government and finding ways to encourage exposure, but it's centrally located. Kansas City's a really big geographic area. Time is money on buses, and it's time away from learning. So we wanted to have a place that was equal distance and centrally located for kids from all over the Kansas City region."

This project is in partnership with a handful of companies including: CommunityAmerica Credit Union, the Mallouk Family Foundation, the Sunderland Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, and financing partners Wells Fargo and Central Bank of KC.

The Youth Learning Lab is expected to be complete by April 2021.