Junior Achievement

We designed and developed an entirely new version of the JA Finance Park simulation that introduces students to real-world financial topics.
Opportunity

Preparing Students For Life In The Real World

Junior Achievement’s experiential learning programs help millions of students gain a better understanding of work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. The JA Finance Park program introduces students to topics like employment and income, budgeting, spending and saving, credit and debt, financial decision making, and investing and risk management.

After one month of teacher-led learning, students have the opportunity to actually visit the JA Finance Park, either on-site or virtually. This realistic simulated community allows students to put everything they’ve learned into practice over the course of the in-class lessons. First developed in the early-00s, the JA Finance Park virtual simulation was in need of an overhaul in both design and technology.

“As a non-profit, we typically go through an RFP process to ensure that we’re doing our due diligence in vetting new development vendors. MentorMate submitted a proposal and had everything we were looking for in a partner like a strong .NET background and established Agile practices.”

Jeannine Reilly, VP of Education Delivery & Technology Solutions

Solution

A Whole New Way To Learn About Finance

Junior Achievement enrolled MentorMate to design and develop an entirely new version of the JA Finance Park simulation. The result is a powerful back-end system with a clean, modern design and user experience at the front-end. In addition to improving and updating the look, feel, and technologies behind JA Finance Park, we also incorporated new key features into the product.

One major feature update is the ability to budget and make personal financial decisions across multiple life stages. Previously, the simulation only accounted for a single month’s budget. In the new version of the simulation, students can plan a budget around four different life stages. This leads students to better understand the impact of short- and long-term financial decisions, and also prepare them for real-world scenarios.

“Since JA Finance Park spans across multiple grade levels, we were really looking at how we can differentiate the experience as students use it from grade to grade. Working with MentorMate allowed us to have flexibility and customization and really hone in on what those different engaging experiences are for students.”

Crystal Law, Director of Financial Literacy Experiences

Process

Streamlined Data Management

In addition to updating the look, feel, and features of JA Finance Park, we paid close attention to the CMS that feeds the back-end of the simulation. After cleaning up and streamlining the process for making changes to the data in the templates, we added a dashboard for volunteers, teachers, and staff to view student progress. This was something that was missing from previous versions of the program but vastly improves tracking and reporting capabilities.

“We captured a lot of positive feedback from students, volunteers, teachers, and staff during the alpha testing phase. It felt really great to hear that we're taking JA Finance Park in the right direction with this new version.”

Crystal Law, Director of Financial Literacy Experiences

What's Next?

Beta Testing and Full Implementation

In November and December 2019, JA Finance Park wrapped up alpha testing with a select group of students and staff. After receiving positive results, it’s on to beta testing beginning in March 2020. From there, Junior Achievement will roll out the new and improved JA Finance Park to the JA network at its annual conference in July. Schools can start implementing the program into their Junior Achievement curriculum beginning in August 2020.

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