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Junior Achievement's 'finance park' set to open Thursday

The nonprofit Junior Achievement of San Diego County will be holding a grand opening ceremony on Thursday to officially launch its newest education center, the Mission Fed JA Finance Park.

The $4.4 million interactive learning campus in Mission Valley is designed to teach teens and young adults how to make smart financial decisions during a one-day experience and classroom curriculum.

The 6,300-square-foot JA Finance Park experience allows students to imagine who they want to be, while providing hands-on tools to plan for their future and reach their full career potential through real-world scenarios, where they take control of their financial decisions.

The JA Finance Park is divided into three sections, including an outdoor terrace.

Students will go through the simulation using Samsung tablets and mobile app technology. They will receive a “life situation” and income based upon a San Diego job they chose in the classroom. The students are then challenged to research and make the best choices for their simulated families based on their salaries.

This life situation activity starts by visiting 14 shops and five freestanding kiosks, where students have to buy a car, shop for groceries, purchase a home, make investments and donate to charity.

The shops are sponsored by the following businesses: YMCA of San Diego, Ford Motor Co. and the San Diego County Ford Dealers, Mission Federal Credit Union, Kaiser Permanente, United Way of San Diego County, and Samsung in partnership with Eastridge Workforce Solutions.

Qualcomm Inc., San Diego International Airport, the Farrell Family Foundation and Laurie and Carlee McGrath are also sponsoring key learning centers inside and outside the park.

During the students' experience, they face real-life situations and financial problems such as what kind of house they can afford, what type of vehicle works for their family’s needs, and the importance of their credit rating.

At the end of the day, students must have a balanced budget. They will also have the opportunity to visit the onsite career center to explore job opportunities in San Diego.

Junior Achievement of San Diego County works with local high schools to host classes for one day at the JA Finance Park.

Clairemont, Lincoln and Helix high schools were the first three to attend the JA Finance Park last week.

Vivikah Cuevas, a 16-year-old student at Clairemont High recently had the opportunity to put her money management skills to the test during a school field trip to the Park.

“Wow,” Cuevas said in a statement. “I had no idea San Diego is so expensive. I quickly realized getting an apartment on my own, at the age of 18, is not going to happen unless I start saving lots of money now or have lots of roommates.”

Poway, El Cajon and Hoover high schools are slated visit the JA Finance Park in October.

It costs $24 per student to attend the one-day seminar.

Junior Achievement of San Diego County is currently recruiting schools to take part in the one-day experience, but eventually the organization wants the JA Finance Park to recruit itself via word of mouth like Junior Achievement‘s Biz Town

The JA Finance Park will also be open in the evening and on the weekends to serve families, community groups, businesses and adults. A group of four costs $40.

The JA Finance Park was built by Balfour Beatty Construction and designed by the architecture firm of Gensler.

Mission Federal Credit Union provided $1 million in funding to name the new financial literacy center.

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.

* Related content: Mission Fed JA Finance Park (March 31, 2015 video)

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