Students exploring Linked Learning through Junior Achievement

Thanks to a $30 million federal Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant HISD won in 2013, students at 119 campuses are connecting the concepts they learn in the classroom to the real world that awaits them after graduation. 

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Through the district’s Linked Learning initiative, high schools are developing career pathways that will allow students to “learn through work” and obtain skills and certifications that will lead to jobs in high-growth, high-demand career fields upon graduation. Preparation begins in elementary school, as students “learn about work” and continues in middle school where students “learn about interests.”

RTT-D funds provide a variety of opportunities for students to learn about college and career choices. This has led to a strong partnership between HISD and Junior Achievement (JA). Through 2017–2018, RTT-D funds will be used to send every fifth-grader at an HISD Linked Learning elementary school on a trip to JA’s BizTown, and every eighth-grader at a Linked Learning middle school to JA’s Finance Park each school year. More than 40,000 students will have the opportunity to benefit from these field trips by the time the grant ends.

Both programs allow students to experience life as an adult for a day, complete with pretend jobs, families, and other responsibilities that will help them learn how to manage time, budget money, and even exercise their civic duty by voting in an election. Corporate partners serve as hosts for each visit and guide the students through the activities, along with staff and volunteers from each campus.

“We are so excited about this partnership,” said HISD Grant Manager Lisa Sullivan. “The lessons they learn in the classroom are culminated in their visits to BizTown and Finance Park. What they learn there is eye-opening and has a lasting impact. Students are learning things I wish I had learned when I was in school. These are lifelong skills that will be invaluable as they make the journey into adulthood.”

Students from HISD’s Bastian Elementary School were at the Houston BizTown location (3710 Dacoma) on Nov. 16 to help JA representatives formally open a new Chick-fil-A storefront.

“The fact that it is a familiar brand that they recognize is a major plus,” said DeJeania “De” Jones, who serves as vice president of JA’s Capstone Programs in the Houston area. “The kids are so excited about something they can identify with. Some of the other companies in BizTown are Kroger, Woodforest Bank, Centerpoint, United Airlines, and State Farm, to name a few.”

Teachers at participating HISD schools will also receive a financial literacy curriculum to use with their students.