Senior Aleena Gharib talks to a student who has questions about one of the lessons while students file into the classroom after a short break.
Photo by Ngalula Tshishimbi/The Connection
It is 9:15 a.m. and a cop, a nurse, and a pilot walk into the main office at Westbriar Elementary School. In reality, they are elementary school students dressed up for their potential careers and for Junior Achievement Day. On Friday, April 5, members of the Marshall High School Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) visited students at Westbriar to teach them basic concepts in economics and finance. The program termed JA (Junior Achievement) in a Day, served as an opportunity for FBLA members to become mentors for the day. Meanwhile elementary school students received lessons that would reinforce career aspiration and real-world readiness. For all it served as an exercise in role play, where the high school students became teachers and the elementary students peaked into the future to explore the world of career possibilities.
The JA in a Day program was initiated six years ago by Kimberly Fields, technology support specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools. Fields drew inspiration from a program she learned about while pursuing a Master’s Degree at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. According to Fields, the localized event “first started out small [involving] two grades then expanded to the whole school.” Asked about any challenges that were experienced, Fields said the primary concern in the first year was “making sure that [the high school students] understood how to captivate an audience [and] to engage them … ” Under the guidance of Fields, Elyssa Jeter, director at Junior Achievement (JA) for Northern Virginia programs, and Rebekah Glasbrenner, business teacher at Marshall High School, FBLA members were taught how to teach business concepts.
Inside each classroom, FBLA members and their elementary student counterparts developed camaraderie over the day’s shared objective. The Marshall High School students, all having dressed up and some wearing suits, took on their roles with seriousness and purpose. “It’s funny how nervous we get beforehand,” said senior Yasamin Mojarad reflecting on general feelings at the start of the day. After getting comfortable, “it gets to be a lot of fun,” stated Mojarad. This sentiment seemed evident among the Westbriar students as well who, also dressed up, eyed their visitors with curiosity and enthusiasm. They welcomed lessons on income and sales taxes, especially when paired with clips of SpongeBob SquarePants.