A visit to JA BizTown is a four and a half hour program driven by organized or unorganized chaos (depending on the day). This highly impactful JA Capstone program for elementary school students is one that volunteers, educators, and students always enjoy attending. It’s also filled with reminders that simple human interaction can go a long way.
Recently at our JA BizTown Alief location, the Assistant Principal from Youngblood Intermediate shared that a couple of their students attending were international refugees with language barriers. It was their first day of school, second day in America, and rightfully so, these students quickly found themselves “lost” during the JA BizTown simulation. Without hesitation, Capstone Manager Tiffany Spates attempted to provide these students with extra assistance throughout the day. Still, due to culture shock, the students remained hesitant to participate. However, as the day progressed, they continued warming up to the experience and found themselves more comfortable communicating with hand gestures and shadowing.
During the hustle and bustle of a typical day at JA BizTown, students only have a few breaks throughout the simulation. Before the last interval was complete, Karen handed both students a brown paper bag filled with goodies to serve as reminders from their day. The bags contained items from the BizTown shops such as seeds from a Plant shop, “vitamin candy” from Health Science, plus arts & crafts from the Athletic Shop and Art Center. As they departed JA BizTown to head back to school, the young boy smiled at Karen and appreciatively said, “thank you.”
Karen St. Fort, Senior Capstone Manager, stated, “I believe the smile was his way of saying thank you for taking the time to give us extra assistance today, for being patient, for seeing me as a person even if we don’t speak the same language, and thank you for allowing me to be an “adult” for 4 1/2 hours.” While they may never know the direct impact they made on both students that day, the experience reminded Karen and Tiffany that a little brown paper bag from JA BizTown has the power to give students a new perspective on their bright futures.