Under the program, local middle school and high school students receive four weeks of in-classroom financial education lessons and mentoring from volunteers at local businesses, including Capital One and Verizon. At the completion of that instruction, students put their skills to the test by spending a day at the interactive Finance Park, where they are assigned fictional jobs and required to make real-life financial management decisions using kiosks and other technology funded by Capital One.
Roughly 5,500 students statewide have passed through the mobile Finance Park since the program's national pilot launched in 2006, but Ed Waterfield, New Jersey market president for the banking giant, expects an additional 5,000 students in Newark and the city's five surrounding counties to expand their skill sets at the site within the next three months.
Bill Foshay, president of Verizon's Mid-Atlantic area and a Junior Achievement of New Jersey board member, said in an e-mail the Finance Park program "gives students the skills companies like Verizon want, because it builds financial literacy in a hands-on way, developing skills student will carry forward in business."
"We believe that education is the foundation of individual and economic success, and Verizon's commitment to New Jersey's youth empowers them, creates possibilities and prepares them to succeed in the global economy," Foshay said.
Like Verizon, Waterfield said Capital One believes "the quality of education is the most important determinant of future success for children."
"Like reading, writing and arithmetic, financial literacy is a fundamental component of that quality education," he said. "As this program provides children a solid foundation for continuing their financial education throughout their lives, it provides us with a very sound foundation for our future educated work force."
Since the New Jersey Department of Education enacted a financial literacy standard for high school students statewide, Waterfield said the new mobile Finance Park will relocate in fall 2013 to a site in Central Jersey that has not yet been determined, and will tour throughout the state over the next several years to expand its reach and impact.
According to the latest pre- and post-program evaluations by Junior Achievement, New Jersey students who participated in former pilot versions of Finance Park increased their average score by 21 percentage points on subjects that meet the state's personal financial literacy standard.