Academy of Finance

Trevor Kelly, a junior at Lansdowne High School, was among the students from the school's Academy of Finance who taught budgeting and other basic components of finance, to students at Lansdowne Elementary School, March 29. (Photo by Noah Scialom / April 2, 2012)

Displaying a green, car-shaped eraser, Lansdowne High School senior Donald Nicholson quizzed a class of fourth-grade students at Lansdowne Elementary School about the eraser's production on March 29.

With occasional hints from Nicholson and their teacher, Leesa Green, the students determined the company needed teams in customer service, quality assurance, design, packaging and other departments just to sell the small piece of rubber.

"They learned that the products they use don't just appear," Green said during a break from the lesson. "It takes a lot of work to get them. It takes a lot of materials."

That lesson in business and finance was similar to ones taught to the kindergarten through fourth-grade classes at the elementary school as part of a pilot program through Junior Achievement.

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According to its website, Junior Achievement is a 96-year-old nonprofit organization designed to prepare students from elementary to high school to enter the work force.

One of the organization's programs is JA in a Day, during which business professionals come to a school and teach students about business for five hours, said Lori Kirby, senior manager of education and outreach with the nonprofit.

This year, for the first time, high school students have been tapped to take on the role of the business professionals, Kirby said.

At Lansdowne High, which has had a team place first in the state-wide Personal Finance Challenge the past two years, about a dozen students from the school's Academy of Finance were selected to be one of two Baltimore County high schools to take part.

Kirby noted that the only other schools to participate in the pilot were New Town High and New Town Elementary schools in Owings Mills, which did so on March 30.

Sophomore Zach Richards, of Lansdowne, a two-year veteran of the Academy of Finance, taught a first-grade class the differences between needs and wants last week.

Richards said the lesson allowed the kids to prioritize what they needed to spend money on and to determine what wants they would choose to save for.

Richards volunteered to teach the children because he wanted to know what it felt like to lead a class, he said.

"It gives you job experience of what it's like to be a teacher. And you act as a role model to the kids," Richards said after he had finished teaching the morning session. "I was considering being a gym teacher, but being a first-grade teacher could work, too."

Anjelica Jacobs, a junior from Owings Mills, volunteered to teach kindergarten students so she could put what she learned in a child development class to the test, she said.

"We talked a lot about saving money. That was the main financial thing," Jacobs said. "I think it might have planted a seed because they're too young to really understand it.

"This is a cool program," Jacobs said. "A lot of elementary schoolers should be exposed to this as they grow up because the lessons get more in-depth the higher the grades get."

When Jacobs finished teaching her class, she said the students "attacked me with hugs" and asked her not to leave.

It wasn't just the elementary school's youngest students who appreciated the lesson.

Jordan Oliver, a fourth-grade student, hopes to one day become an NFL running back but would own a gym if he ever owns a business, he said.

The lessons he learned on March 29 taught him that business owners had a lot to consider when starting a business, such as location.