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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Alexis Wilson, 14, uses an iPad to calculate her savings while participating in the Junior Achievement Finance Park financial literacy program.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Lena Yarian, President of Junior Achievement in Northern Indiana.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 8:24 am

Plugging in for financial wisdom

Paul Wyche The Journal Gazette

Students won’t feel as if they’re stepping back into the stone age when they visit JA Finance Park.

The only tablets they’ll use are iPads.

Instead of using paper and pencils, eighth- and ninth-graders began using the popular gadgets this year.

Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana officials touted the change Friday at the park, 4031 N. Clinton St.

LaShé Hill is all for it.

"Working on computers makes everything so much easier," the 14-year-old said.

Hill was one of 100 New Tech Academy students from Wayne High School participating in the four-hour financial literacy program Friday. Each student had an iPad to use.

"We work on laptops at school already, so it was cool to have the iPads when we came here," Hill said.

JA Finance Park offers a crash course that attempts to develop personal financial literacy and money management skills. The effort uses hands-on experiences to help students learn about incomes, budgets, various expenses, savings and retirement planning.

Participants are put in real-life situations, as well as being introduced to different careers. There are 14 JA paperless programs in the country, but Fort Wayne is the only one in Indiana.

On Friday, Hill was a married mom with a 6-year-old boy.

"My job is an electrician," she said. "I know I’m not having kids until later in life."

Various companies have sponsored "storefronts" inside the center.

They include 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, Allstate, Frontier, PNC Bank and Vera Bradley.

This year, officials expect 10,000 students to go through the finance school. A $75,000 grant from the Foellinger Foundation made the switch to mobile technology possible.

Lena Yarian is president of Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana. Prior to discussing the use of computer tablets, she had several students crumple up sheets of paper and toss them into a nearby wastebasket.

Some missed, but the iPads are a hit.

"This is great," Yarian said. "It makes no sense for the kids to have computers in school and not have them when they come here.

"I know they respond to technology better than having to write things down all the time and carry around stacks of paper."