You bet it's tough — Kids walk in adults' shoes

MEDFORD — Yeah, whatever about that guy running for president visiting Medford — Jackson Elementary School fifth-grader Byron Anderson was still basking in his own four-hour term as mayor.

Elected mayor of a four-class group that ventured to Portland's Junior Achievement-sponsored "Biztown," the 11-year-old was one of 100 fifth-graders from Washington and Jackson elementary schools to take part.

The students headed north on Tuesday for an overnight at a local Boys & Girls Club and then a full four-hour stint at running the mock city built just last year.

"It was fun. You had to pick what quality businesses there could be and two citizens of the day," said Anderson. "I did a lot of signing stuff like checks and stuff for other businesses. There were a whole bunch of businesses and you got to buy stuff on your breaks. I bought a Frisbee and lunch."

As mayor, Byron's take-home pay was $8.82. However, he noted, "If they didn't take away taxes I would have got $9!"

While he got a glimpse at city government, Byron's friends took jobs as construction workers, journalists, bankers and employees for Intel, among other options.

Jackson Elementary fifth-grade teacher Aaron Fox said students interviewed for jobs and earned paychecks, spent their day working and solving problems and, on breaks, took care of personal affairs and did their banking.

"The thing I was most impressed with was, as different as the curriculum was, they rose to the occasion," Fox said. "It was really empowering for them to do that. They were prepared and, as a result, were successful. It was by no means a 'fun' field trip."

"When we got there, they were working hard the entire time ... learning about personal finance, job training, job interviews, government. It really integrated a lot of different social studies course work."

The group comprised the first Rogue Valley kids to participate in the Portland event; the trip was funded with a $5,000 sponsorship by Rogue Federal Credit Union.

Before heading north, the four teachers who planned the trip were tasked with presenting some two-dozen hours of related classroom instruction.

Washington Elementary teacher Sandi English said the reaction from students is what teachers' dreams are made of.

"I almost tear up just thinking about their gasps, the oohs and ahs that came out of their mouths," said English. "It was awe-inspiring for them and truly a life-changing day for many of the kids."

Comical moments for English included kids complaining about the bank line taking too long or deciding they didn't have time to "goof around" because they had "so much to do at work." For one of English's students, 10-year-old Yasmine Kelm, the day was about getting a peek at the things parents have to deal with and about trying a potential job on for size.

As a design engineer for Intel, Yasmine earned $6.48 — after taxes, of course — and learned how to write checks, budget her money and "use break time wisely."

"Adults have it a little bit harder than kids do, but it was still really fun," she said. "I have some job ideas that aren't exactly something everybody would choose, but I got to see there are a lot of things I can pick from. Being a design engineer was really fun, so I might think of choosing that as a job when I'm an adult."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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