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Seeking solutions: Improving the economic outlook of CMS students

For years now, local businesses, nonprofits, and CMS have worked together to improve the economic outlook of its students.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — It’s been almost 10 years since a Harvard study found that a child born in poverty in Charlotte had the lowest chances among 50 major U.S. cities of making it out of poverty.

The pandemic reversed years of progress to improve this outlook. 

After schools closed during the height of the pandemic, CMS saw a slight decline in its graduation rates and student test scores across the board.

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For years now, local businesses, nonprofits, and CMS have worked together to seek solutions and improve the economic outlook of its students.

They've found success in its partnership with Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas.

"Particularly in the Charlotte area, we know that there is an upward mobility challenge," Dorothy Gorman, Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas president and CEO, said. "And if we, Junior Achievement, can provide learning at a young age to give students access to financial literacy, work-readiness, then that will affect their long-term trajectory." 

WCNC Charlotte caught up with, Payton Freeman, the mayor of Junior Achievement Biz Town. She was signing checks and running the day-to-day operations of the flourishing economy. 

"If I were to become the mayor of a city? I would do it here," Freeman, a fourth grader at Oakdale Elementary said. 

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For years now — thousands of CMS students have used this simulator to learn financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness as early as elementary school.

"It was not until college that I actually wrote checks out, got my first real bank account," Sharrone Powell, Oakdale Elementary School Principal, said. "It was not until I bought a house that I really understood about loans." 

Learning these experiences early is not just a chance to have fun, it impacts students' long-term career paths. 

"This simulation gives students the opportunity to build their soft skills in terms of communication, building leadership skills, learning what it means to be an adult," Brian Elliott, CMS assistant director of Career and Technical Education, said. 

Both before and after the trip to JA Biz Town, the lessons learned there are also in the classroom. 

"The teachers will begin teaching a series of lessons in the class, they'll integrate it with their current curriculum that they're teaching," April Carpenter, Career and Technical Education Middle School Liaison, said. 

Their experiences here lead to students having clarity on career and technical courses at the high school level. 

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.  

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