By Carole Townsend
LAWRENCEVILLE – More than 400 people, including teachers, Board of Education members, county influencers, and students proudly unveiled a state-of-the-art GCPS facility August 27, 2015. The grand opening of the Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Gwinnett marked a new day not only for students, but for corporations, small businesses, health care facilities and ultimately, for families in the county.
“This is an exciting day,” said John Dwyer, AT&T Sr. Vice President of Customer Experience. “Thanks to the commitment of Gwinnett County Public Schools, every middle school student in Gwinnett County schools will have a solid a foundation of literacy and entrepreneurship.”
The new state-of the-art, hands-on learning center in Lawrenceville, the result of a joint vision of GCPS, Junior Achievement of GA, Gwinnett businesses, and county non-profit organizations, will give students the opportunity to prepare for and choose a career, earn a paycheck, pay bills and taxes, shop in community stores, and even learn how to deal with the curve balls that life throws at adults. In short, the impressive, cutting-edge center will prepare students for the responsibilities of managing a career, and a personal and professional budget. “Today, we raise the bar (in education) in the largest school system in the state even higher,” Dwyer said.
“Junior Achievement will impact more than 60 percent of middle school students in Atlanta,” said Steve Voorhees, CEO of Westrock, one of more than 30 business partners in the Discovery Center. “This amazing facility will bring (students’) financial life, to LIFE. The Center is a perfect example of why Gwinnett is great.”
The Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Gwinnett, along with the two-year-old JA/Chick-Fil-A Foundation Discovery Center in Atlanta, will introduce thousands of impressionable middle school students at a critical stage of development, to real-life careers, responsibilities, opportunities and setbacks, all of which they can expect as adults.
Students who experience this comprehensive, hands-on encounter will be better prepared to enter the workforce, and adulthood, with confidence and skill. These students, as they move into their now brighter futures, will help to build an even stronger, more competitive, more successful Gwinnett County.
Sixth and eighth graders will prepare to experience the fascinating, real-life facility in Lawrenceville by undergoing instruction in the JA-designed classroom curriculum. The comprehensive preparation will culminate in a day spent at the Discovery Center. The center is comprised of BizTown (an actual city, compete with storefronts, sidewalks, streetscapes and even greenscapes, presented by Cisco) and Finance Park (a business center that includes banks and even insurance companies, presented by Assurant).
Students earn their money, pay their bills, spend money at stores, and even buy adequate insurance – or experience the pitfalls of being under-insured or not insured at all. In the “That’s Life” Center, students learn and “experience” the consequences of being uninsured and having a car accident, of having insurance and experiencing a health issue, understanding the financial realities of a growing family – many of the things that can often derail the plans of lesser-prepared young adults.
Dacula Middle School student Nathan Anderson, in 8th grade, told onlookers Thursday about his experience at the JA/Chick-Fil-A Foundation Center in Atlanta. “I was the CEO of Bank of America,” Anderson said proudly, explaining that he had to prepare a resume and interview for the job before he was “hired.”
“(The experience) was fast-paced and sometimes stressful. I used my paycheck as CEO to shop in BizTown. That was the best part.” Anderson admonished the audience, and the attending bankers and corporate executives, to remember his name. “I may be asking you for a job in about ten years,” the student quipped.
Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks , addressing Anderson later in the ceremony, joked with the well-spoken young man. “ I want you to remember my name, young man. I may be coming to you for a loan one day.”
“This is a great day for students in Gwinnett County schools. In 2015, more than 27,000 sixth and eighth graders will be the first to experience this wonderful program and facility,” Wilbanks added proudly.
The Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Gwinnett is located at 1335 Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville.