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Junior Achievement’s Biztown, Old National Bank Foundation Team for Unique Student Financial Literacy Experience

Biztown, a simulated town with storefronts that provides a unique and popular learning experience for elementary and middle school students, is part of why Old National Bank provides grant support to the innovative Junior Achievement (JA) of the Michigan Great Lakes, located in Grand Rapids, Mich.


“In our high school they had a Junior Achievement Business Program which allowed you to run your own company by yourself or with your classmates,” said Noah, a student and Biztown alumni who has already parlayed his business experience into multiple profitable companies. “I ran a small jewelry business for about three months, made about $1,000 in profit, and I used that money to start a new company which I'm still working on right now.”

Visiting classes during the day-long visits to JA’s Biztown learn to operate banks, manage restaurants, write checks, vote for a mayor, and connect the dots between what they learn in school and the real world.

“My job was to be mayor, and mostly get all the taxes, and run things like the vet,” said Wolfgang, the vote-winning mayor of his 5th grade class. “I thought it was an awesome experience because there was lots of interacting, and you also got to know how to use a credit card and cash. You also had to pay your taxes, which actually isn't that fun.”


Biztown provides teachers with post-experience classroom discussion material regarding the roles students play as citizens, workers, and consumers in their community, and relate those roles to the free enterprise system. They also discuss the importance of citizen rights and responsibilities in a community, develop an understanding of basic business practices and responsibilities, and realize and work on the “soft skills” needed in the working world while building money management skills.

Recommended for grades 4–6 students, a Biztown visit is preceded by 12 teacher-led classroom sessions that alignment with national and state teaching standards.

“Junior Achievement and BizTown have bridged the gap between these concepts that children are learning in the classroom with real world situations,” says Winona Tinholt, a 4th grade teacher in the East Grand Rapids Public Schools system. “These are not just random words that they need to memorize, but they have real world implications. It's just a really powerful, engaging opportunity for them to really deepen their understanding of how the real world functions, and what are these [credit] cards that parents use, and what is cash, and how do we get those things. It's just a wonderful opportunity to make these deeper connections for children.”

Jay Ediger, Senior Vice President of Development for Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, says that while approximately 27% of the populace reports they are working in the field they studied in college, for JA alumni the number is 73%. On top of that, 69% of JA alumni report they are working in their “dream career.”

“Old National Bank Foundation has been a key partner of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes for the last 10 years, providing more than $80,000 in financial support and directly impacting the lives of literally thousands of young people,” says Ediger. “We are just delighted and grateful for that partnership, as young people begin to understand what the opportunities are for them in the working world.”

Joe Kiser, President of the Old National Bank Foundation, the giving arm of ONB, says financial literacy remains a “huge need” across the country. Financial literacy is down 19% among U.S. adults over the last decade, with only 36% of Generation Z (currently aged 12-27) considered financially literate.

“The Old National Bank Foundation appreciates JA because they're taking care of our kids,” Kiser says. “I'm a dad, and you don't really know how hard it is to understand our financial system until you try to teach it to a kid. We understand how hard it is to learn about money, and JA makes it fun to learn about money -- that's why we partner with JA.”

To learn more about Biztown or Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, go to

To learn more about the Old National Bank Foundation and available grants, visit

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