Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: Real-Life Lessons from a Fake Town

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: Real-Life Lessons from a Fake Town

Article excerpt

My child's CEO aspirations were quashed after just a day of managing fake employees.

He is one of 12,000 local students offered a dose of reality at one of the most valuable elementary school field trip experiences I've encountered as a parent.

It's offered by Junior Achievement, a nonprofit organization with 114 chapters across the U.S., which aims to educate students about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. The St. Louis chapter, in addition to about 30 others nationwide, has a mock minicity in Chesterfield in which students spend the day learning how the "real world" works.

Each of the fifth-graders in our school applies for a job and is chosen to work in one of 17 businesses. They spend the day running the town working, making financial decisions, paying taxes, shopping and running errands.

Imagine my delight when my youngest chose to work as CEO of MasterCard. (Local businesses that sponsor the hands-on learning center are named in the town.)

Perhaps this will be the first of several CEO positions, I said to him.

He headed to school in a pressed suit and tie, ready to conquer the world.

He came back a broken man.

"Oh my God, I don't want to be an adult," he said.

He ranted about his day as he took off his suit jacket and loosened his striped tie.

"First of all, there was a guy who couldn't do his work," he started. "Then, I had to sign my name about a hundred times. There was a problem with the payroll tax. I had to update the system five times before I could get it to work. And, I had to send the bill to the printer, and they denied it. Two times! Only one person paid their taxes on time. I had to work a double shift on a station I didn't even know how to do. And some people took way too long on their breaks."

Worn out and weary, he kicked off his dress shoes and said: "Everything hurts."

To anyone who has managed employees, his experience has the ring of truth to it.

Lori Jacob, president of Junior Achievement of Greater St. …

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