The new JAKC Youth Learning Lab is an experiential learning center that will offer kids an opportunity to explore careers, develop critical thinking skills, learn financial responsibility, and understand what makes a community successful. The first students will be welcomed in May.
But at about this time last year, Megan Sturges Stanfield, JAKC President and CEO, was unsure the project was going to happen at all amid the unknowns of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. The NMTC Program was a key player in assuring the project could move forward instead of being delayed or called off altogether.
“Central Bank’s partnership brought New Markets Tax Credit opportunity to the table, allowing us to secure the resources that we needed to begin construction and leasehold improvements for the Junior Achievement Youth Learning Lab.”
The most sizable attraction within the JAKC Youth Learning Lab is JA BizTown, a 14,000 square-foot miniature city built to teach 4th-6th graders about jobs, civic engagement, and their role as part of a thriving community. The concept will feel familiar to native Kansas Citians, calling to mind and building on the foundations laid by the Exchange City program that operated in Kansas City until a few years ago.
Students will come for the day and run the city for themselves. They’ll be assigned a job at one of 16 featured businesses, shop within the fictional community, and participate in elections. All positions are based on real careers at local companies such Price Chopper, Hallmark Cards, Kansas City PBS and Evergy.
The facility will also feature a Career Center for 6th-9th graders and an Innovation Lab where students will be challenged to come up with creative solutions to real-world problems. The remaining space will be used for JAKC offices and the JA Hall of Fame.
The JAKC Learning Lab is intended to address several community objectives and concerns, many of which have been highlighted by the year’s difficult circumstances.
“The community has seen that there are some challenges that we need to solve, and they are now seeing Junior Achievement as a strategic partner to help solve many of those problems,” Stanfield said.
The past year has elevated awareness of the need for innovation as businesses continually adapted to unforeseen obstacles. By teaching applicable lessons, JAKC hopes to prepare children to be innovative members of the workforce.
Entrepreneurship is another pillar of Junior Achievement’s programming. While this year has been difficult for entrepreneurs and small businesses owners, Stanfield said, JAKC wants to continue to support those aspirations and the dream of financial freedom. New businesses are a crucial part of the city’s economy, and JAKC helps build leaders for those businesses.
JAKC also teaches strong financial decision-making, an important skill at any time but also one that has seemed particularly vital in the recent economic turmoil. Lastly, it bolsters Kansas City’s workforce by fostering excitement for essential jobs.
One of Many
The CDFI Fund has awarded Central Bank of Kansas City (CBKC) a total of $456 million in NMTCs - 85% of which went directly to projects in Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois-based communities. These projects have created and maintained around 13,000 full-time jobs, as well as construction job and part-time positions. Within Kansas City, these NMTC projects have provided support and innovation in many different sectors including education, healthcare and healthy food in distressed areas. Previous projects include Operation Breakthrough, Harvesters, Donnelly College, Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center, Truman Medical Center, The Merc Co+op and much more. CBKC is so proud to be a part of exciting projects like the JAKC Youth Learning Lab.