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Saturday February 24th, 2018 5:32AM

University of North Georgia partners with Junior Achievement on Discovery Center in Cumming

By AccessWDUN Staff

The University of North Georgia is partnering with Junior Achievement  to sponsor the Career Exploration Center in The Mike and Lynn Cottrell Junior Achievement Discovery Center near UNG's Cumming Campus.

Sponsored by Mike and Lynn Cottrell, the new Discovery Center is scheduled to open in August on the grounds of Alliance Academy for Innovation in Cumming. The center will serve 15,000-plus middle-school students from Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin, and Dawson County schools along with Gainesville City and Calhoun City schools, said Lee Highsmith, executive director of the North Georgia District of Junior Achievement of Georgia.

"Based on the successful experience UNG has had with Junior Achievement over the years, we knew we wanted to partner with the organization when we learned the location of its next Discovery Center was in Cumming," said Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of UNG's Gainesville Campus. "We felt that we could have the biggest impact on middle-school students by sponsoring the career center to give students the opportunity to explore different career options and the education programs available at UNG to help them to reach that career goal."

In the Discovery Center, sixth-grade students will participate in JA Biz Town, where they will learn about the roles of running a business. Eighth-grade students will participate in JA Finance Park, where they will learn about financial literacy. Before students visit the Discovery Center, they will participate in 20 in-class lessons. Students then will have a 4 ½-hour simulation experience at the center.

The plan for the Discovery Center is to feature UNG alumni, students and faculty members to highlight career and educational opportunities in the Career Exploration Center.

"The vision is to have 17 career pathways that eighth-grade students choose from represented by someone from UNG in that field," Highsmith said. "For example, if a student explores the medical pathway, he or she will hear from a UNG graduate through augmented reality talk about that pathway and how he or she progressed through it at UNG."

UNG students also may volunteer at the Discovery Center and teach middle-school students and showcase UNG.

"We remember 5 percent of what we hear, 70 percent of what we experience and 90 percent of what we teach," Highsmith said.

Middle-school students will not be the only beneficiaries. UNG students may use the facility, including its personal finance simulation, in the evening hours.

Highsmith explained eighth-grade students learn about personal finances during the Junior Achievement classes and then go through a simulation at the Discovery Center.

"It is like playing a giant version of the board game Life," Highsmith said, noting a similar two-hour version is available for adults. "We plan to make available to UNG students a shorter version of the simulation where they can learn about budgeting, including what happens when you try to pay bills on a certain salary."

Oates said the personal finance simulation falls in line with UNG’s Student Money Management Center. The SMMC's focus is to improve financial literacy, empower students to make good financial decisions, and help students exercise their new financial muscles.

Oates added this is just one example of how Junior Achievement's teaching concept aligns with UNG's vision. He said Junior Achievement focuses on interacting and engaging with students and teaches them about ethics, integrity and community service.

"All of those things are UNG's core values," he said. "So, this partnership was a natural fit."

The Discovery Center is the third of its kind in Georgia and the first to have a Career Exploration Center sponsored by a university. One is located inside the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta and sponsored by the Chick-fil-A Foundation. The second is in Lawrenceville, with its main sponsor being Gwinnett County Public Schools.  

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