One of the perks of being a kid includes not worrying about working or paying bills. But organizers of Enterprise City say it’s not too early to start learning.
For seven weeks, nearly 100 kids ages 7 to 14 get a taste of what it’s like to be an adult and handle grown-up responsibilities by “working” one of seven departments in Enterprise City. Every week they earn a “paycheck” which they use to cover expenses, pay taxes, invest and shop with after they complete their shifts.
Families and Youth, Inc. AmeriCorps hosted Enterprise City this year at Lynn Middle School. Supervisor Glynis Miranda has been with the program since 2004. She said its main focus is to help children avoid the so-called “summer slide” which happens when students forget what they’ve learned during the school year.
“They’re at home watching TV, playing video games and they’re not practicing any of their reading and writing and it’s statistically proven that kids lose about two month’s worth of educational academic skills during the summertime. So, this seven weeks is like almost half the summer and so it really does help a lot,” Miranda said.
Kids in Enterprise City can choose to work in a number of industries from retail to public safety to woodshop. Here at the bank, customers can pay their bills, balance their checkbooks, make deposits and even withdraw cash from an ATM.
Children switch jobs every two weeks during the program. Those working part-time can work up to three departments while full-time kids can work up to six.
It’s 11-year-old Isabella Fierro’s third year in the program. Fierro works in the woodshop department where kids learn basic carpentry skills and work with real power tools. Fierro said her older brother used to be a junior counselor in the department and now that she’s old enough, she’s trying her hand at the craft.
“This week and last week I was in woodshop and during those two weeks we get to make a personal project and my personal project was like a little shelf to store my books or my art supplies and the two hooks on the side were to hold like buckets or something out of crayons or markers or colored pencils,” Fierro said.
AmeriCorps Member Melissa Herrera heads the city’s retail department where kids can get their nails and faces painted and visit the salon. The store also makes arts and crafts for citizens to buy including snacks like fruit pizzas, which are sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting as the sauce and strawberries and blueberries as the toppings.
Herrera said the work teaches kids fundamental customer service skills and how to save their money for an auction at the end of the program where they bid on prizes.
“Luckily I've seen enough kids that will come into our retail department like 'I really like this, but I'm saving it for the auction or I'm saving it for something else' and that to me is really good because that tells you that they're starting to build that ability to think about spending money and making budgeting and deciding what it is that they want,” Herrera said.
12-year-old Caden Black, who works as a bank teller, doesn’t need to be told twice how to manage his money responsibly. Black is participating for the second year and said he’s learned the importance of paying bills on time.
“You pay them as early as you can because everything like the theater ticket, the bills and the newspaper, they all add in price and the amount of money,” Black said. “Some kids have a little bit of trouble because they don’t understand sometimes that you have to go and pay your bills before the deadline or else you get a late fee which costs a lot more money, almost $200 which is a lot in your account.”
Fierro said Enterprise City has taught her self-confidence, independence and what she wants to do when she grows up. She said other children who want to get involved have to be willing to help others.
“You have to be willing to take your time to work on your main thing, you have to be willing to take money out of your account where some kids don’t really want to because they want to save up,” Fierro said. “You’re willing to pay the bills, you’re willing to help others be a part of this.”
Miranda said the program also hosts guest speakers and receives help from community partners who donate supplies. She said having families with multiple siblings take part in the program showcases its success.
“It’s grown, it’s expanded and for having a family stick with us for multiple years means we’re doing something right and you know it’s, that’s what I really enjoy. Knowing that we succeeded not just with one child but with an entire family and it goes to their friends and it just really expands out,” Miranda said. “I can’t tell you how much I really love this program.”
Miranda said she hopes to secure more funding for Enterprise City and bring it to other school districts in the region.