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Construction of Mission Fed JA Finance Park begins

A new interactive learning campus for San Diego teens is slated to open this fall, as construction is underway on the $4.4 million Mission Fed JA Finance Park in Mission Valley.

The Mission Fed JA Finance Park, a partnership of Junior Achievement of San Diego County and Mission Federal Credit Union, will be an interactive learning campus that is designed to teach teens and young adults how to make intelligent financial decisions during a one-day experience and classroom curriculum.

“High schools aren’t always able to offer the types of economics courses that help students learn to budget their money,” said Angie Lasagna, vice president of community relations for Mission Federal. “That is where Mission Fed JA Finance Park can play a key role.”

Junior Achievement is a national program that forms partnerships between the business community, educators and volunteers to help educate children in grades K-12 in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

The San Diego chapter offers a variety of programs, including a day at the McGrath Family JA BizTown, a mini-city in which fifth-grade students discover how the "real world" works by working in one of the town's businesses.

Lasagna said the curriculum at the Finance Park is designed to better prepare teens for financial success through the technology they use on an everyday basis, like their smartphones.

“On average, 44 percent of teens look at their phones more than six times an hour,” she noted.

A rendering of the $4.4 million Mission Fed JA Finance Park in Mission Valley. Courtesy image

Students will be placed in tangible, real-world scenarios, where they have to take control of their financial decisions. The 6,300-square-foot high-tech facility will be divided into three sections, including an outdoor terrace.

The Situation Room will be one of the first areas visitors will see upon entering the park. Here, students will be given a unique adult life-situation, consisting of a job, salary, age, marital status, FICO score and monthly taxes. The Situation Room will feature technology, like a tablet wall and a large green screen for video production.

After students receive their life situation, they will have to make the best choices for their make-believe family based on their income. This starts in the Shops in the Park section.

There will be 14 shops and five freestanding kiosks, where students have to buy a car, shop for groceries, purchase a home, establish a savings account, make investments and donate to charity. At the end of the day, students must have a balanced bank account.

The shops are sponsored by San Diego organizations, including Mission Federal Credit Union, the United Way of San Diego and the YMCA of San Diego.

The third area of the Finance Park will be the Career Center. This will be the home to a digital database of lectures, salaries, job openings and tools to help students plan for a successful future in their field. It is sponsored by the San Diego International Airport and the Farrell Family Foundation.

The outdoor terrace, sponsored by Laurie and Carlee McGrath, will have a spacious patio area consisting of several large decks and terraced steps for seating and lunch.

The project will also feature several sustainable features, including energy- and resource-efficient plumbing, mechanical, and lighting fixtures, as well as eco-friendly finish materials throughout the facility that will complement the solar panels.

Architectural firm Gensler and general contractor Balfour Beatty Construction are in charge of the design and construction of the Mission Fed JA Finance Park. Twenty-eight different trade contractors are also involved.

Many construction team members have donated materials, labor and equipment to the project to make sure it is completed within the set budget. It is estimated to take 20,000 hours to complete the new Park.

"JA Finance Park has been in our plans since we opened McGrath Family JA BizTown in 2006 and we are so thankful to all of our supporters who have personally given, along with the corporate and family foundations, for making Mission Fed JA Finance Park a reality,” said Joanne Pastula, president and CEO at Junior Achievement of San Diego County.

The Finance Park will be located at the Junior Achievement of San Diego County headquarters at Capdevilla Gillespie Center.

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