Hatching nest eggs, a walk in Finance Park

Native youth attend Junior Achievement camp

Upon entering Finance Park, students are given an identity complete with a salary, a family, pets, and a debit card, to learn how to juggle their finances in "real world" situations.

Upon entering Finance Park, students are given an identity complete with a salary, a family, pets, and a debit card, to learn how to juggle their finances in “real world” situations. Photo/Andrew Gobin.

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

Students from the Tulalip Tribes Summer Youth Program spent the day in Finance Park at Junior Achievement World in Auburn, on Thursday, August 15th. The day at the park is the culmination of a two-week educational JA (Junior Achievement) camp at Tulalip. The camp is unique to the tribes as it targets what Tulalip students are calling their “18 money,” the trust fund per capita that the tribe sets aside for them until they graduate. The Tulalip camp focuses on the trust fund, and teaches how to make that money go further.

“Junior Achievement is actually a k-12 curriculum,” explains Gary Hauff, regional director for Junior Achievement. “Typically we go into schools and offer education programs for class credit. For the tribes, we are trying something different. The summer camp is unique to Tulalip, geared towards teaching personal finance responsibility and budgeting agendas.”

“At JA we work with the youth to plant the seeds of financial responsibility and stability,” added Sue Elkin, manager at JA World.

Finance Park is designed as a virtual city where students can practice being adults, and put into action what they learned at camp. Arriving at JA World, the students are given an identity complete with a salary, a family, pets, and a debit card. Students then buy or rent a house or apartment, purchase a car that adequately fit the demands of their virtual life, collect and pay their bills, and even make time for vacations. Along with projected costs, kids learn to deal with unexpected costs that arise in everyday life.  Students tour the park, collecting bills and shopping, and making the dreaded stop at the chance station, where they draw cards that may result in an unlucky additional cost to their budget, such as taking their pet to the vet.

“We get a real look at life, and what the costs are,” said Bradley Fryberg. “Here [Finance Park] I make $48,000 a year, I have no kids, I’m single, 30, and have an apartment and a sports car.”

Some students juggled two or three kids and drove mini vans.

“Junior Achievement teaches us to be responsible with our money,” said Bryce Juneau Jr. who is planning on saving his trust money until after college.

Students learn about stocks and bonds, compound interest accounts, the risks associated with both of those, and the possible gains they offer.

“Just as life is multi-faceted, we at JA are diversifying,” explained Elkin. “We used to be strictly business oriented, then last year we started branching out into the sciences and other fields. This year we worked to incorporate art and music into the program.”

Tulalip Tribal Member, Israel Simpson, and his winning shoe design. Photo/Andrew Gobin

Tulalip Tribal Member, Israel Simpson, and his winning shoe design. Photo/Andrew Gobin

This included a little fun competition working with shoe designs and a special appearance by Native shoe designer Louie Gong.

Gong spoke to the students about his designs and the work it entails. He provided shoe forms called “mockups” for the kids to express their creative talent on. The shoes were then voted on and the student with the winning shoe design received tickets to a Mariners game.

Tulalip’s Israel Simpson designed the winning pair of shoes. “I just picked up the pens and kept going. Inspired from my auntie, always saying, draw what you feel.”

The camp encourages education, both in the completion of high school and in pursuing higher education. This is important, because many do not realize that should they not complete high school or get their G.E.D., they with not get their trust per capita until they are 21.

Many different post high school options are explained including trade schools, community colleges, universities, online degrees, and entrepreneurship.