PITTSTON TWP. — Twelve-year-old Mason Shell took a step back from his role as mayor of BizTown and took some deep breaths.
As the office phone rang, business people lined up to talk to him and paperwork piled up on his desk.
Shell, a sixth-grade student at Lake-Noxen Elementary School, was not the only one learning the ropes of daily adult life at Junior Achievement’s BizTown Thursday, May 19, in Pittston Township.
Seventy-five of his peers from Lake-Noxen and Ross elementary schools learned how to apply for a job, perform job duties, hone customer service skills and budget finances.
The Lake-Lehman elementary schools participated in the hands-on learning program for the past eight years, said Kate Cronin, a sixth-grade teacher at Lake-Noxen Elementary School.
“A lot of the work is done in the classroom,” Cronin said. “The students apply for jobs, develop advertising for their businesses, determine how much of their income to give to charity. It is a four-to-five-week course.”
Then, a field trip to Junior Achievement’s indoor free enterprise learning lab called BizTown give students a chance to apply their newly developed skills.
The lab has 21 store fronts and service companies including Highmark, a health insurance provider; NBT Bank; Web Wizard, a social media company; City Hall; U Fix It, a construction business; and JA Cafe, to name a few.
Before students began their business day, John Francis, the program director at Junior Achievement, explained the red, yellow and green colors of the traffic light in the middle of town. They correspond with the color of wallets the children wore around their necks. When a colored light is lit, students with that color wallet take a break and cash their “checks” and get something to eat.
At the end of their shifts, they could spend the “money” they earned.
After Mayor Shell’s inaugural speech, life in BizTown began.
WBIZ, the radio station, set the rhythm for the town and offered their on-air personalities to advertise local businesses.
In the center of town, U Fix It employees Colby Roberts and Michael Serafin, both sixth-graders at Ross Elementary, wore hard hats and reflective vests to inspect Gertrude Hawk Bridge.
“We have to look for cracks, inspect the structure and determine its (the bridge’s) walk-ability,” Serafin said.
“It looks like it is in good condition,” Roberts said as he filled out a form on a clipboard.
Web Wizard’s webmaster, Lake-Noxen sixth-grader Jacob Simoson, was trying to keep up with the rapid pace of incoming web advertisements on “Jitter.”
“We are getting a lot of business,” Simoson said. “I could do a job like this.”
The red traffic light lit, and a line of over 10 students with paychecks in hand formed outside of NBT Bank. Inside the pretend financial institution, three tellers, a savings officer, and a manager struggled to process checking and saving account deposits and withdrawals according to their job procedures.
“The hardest part was remembering what to do,” said Jefferson Altieri, a Lake-Noxen sixth-grade student.
Mayor Shell made his rounds to the various businesses taking a census of the population of BizTown. When he returned to City Hall, his mother, Jen Cebrick, a parent volunteer, offered valuable coaching on delegating office duties to his three-person staff.
“I expected it to be hard,” Shell said. “I always wanted to be mayor. There are so many things to do.”