By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A new town has emerged in our region. It’s JA BizTown, where 19 local businesses are operating, and they’re all run by kids.

Junior Achievement, the world’s oldest and largest youth development organization, serves about 70,000 kids in Western Pennsylvania in 3,000 classrooms, teaching them about business. Now, the kids are also taking field trips to JA BizTown in Bridgeville where they get to practice the skills they’re learning in a simulated business world.

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The school bus arrived from Claysville Elementary School in the McGuffey School District Tuesday morning, the first group of kids to experience JA BizTown. The 4th-graders were all dressed-up for the professional world. They quickly got to work at their companies, doing many different jobs.

Each of the 19 local companies has a storefront with a CEO. Alexandra Henry is “CEO” of Calgon Carbon. “My job is to keep the company running, and so far I’ve been running around making orders,” she explains.

Kaylee Demchak says, “My job is the CEO of Federal Credit Union, and I fill out loan applications and I help my co-workers.”

Josie Ziegler says, “I’m CEO of 100.7 Star (radio station). The CFO and I right now are working on the loan application.”

A lot happens at school before the kids get here. They apply for different jobs, interview for them and learn about the skills they’ll need to do them.

Claysville Elementary School principal Sheryl Fleck says, “This is a great opportunity for students to really make real world connections with what they’re learning in school at the elementary level.

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“Turn on your radio and tune it to 100.7. We got all the music,” says Kash Main into a microphone. He loves music and got to be a DJ for a day with Star 100.7.

The kids are trying out jobs in all kinds of businesses — in health care with UPMC and Highmark, retail with Ace Hardware, Sheetz and Giant Eagle, science and manufacturing with Koppers, government with a city hall and media.

“I wanted this job because I’ve always loved music, and I thought maybe it would be nice to run a (radio) station,” Ziegler says.

Junior Achievement CEO Dennis Gilfoyle says it also gets kids thinking about local jobs. “To get them to think about their career opportunities that are here in the region. There are a lot of jobs here that they probably never thought existed.”

Jannah Jablonowski, spokesperson for Giant Eagle, says, “The concept of going to a grocery store is something that many children and many families are familiar with, but they don’t really think beyond that as to how many career opportunities really are available within those four walls of a supermarket.”

Up to 12,000 kids a year will get to go to JA BizTown, now the 39th like it around the country. JA BizTown in Western Pennsylvania is booming with these kids who are already learning to conquer the world of business. Alexandra Henry has big plans… “to learn be a CEO so when I grow up, I could be a CEO of a company.”

Junior Achievement is always looking for sponsors for schools that need financial help to come to JA BizTown and for volunteers to help at that facility and at their school programs.

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Kristine Sorensen