FAIRMONT - Junior Achievement, the Chamber of Commerce-run program dedicated to teaching students concepts of money management and business skills, is in a financial bind.
It has only raised two-thirds of the cost to run the program, and if $3,000 doesn't come in before the beginning of the new year, the program will be trimmed until it fits its budget.
That means kindergartners and first-graders, the youngest beneficiaries of the program, will not be able to participate this spring.
Junior Achievement is a national non-profit program. It contacted the Fairmont Chamber of Commerce in 1997 about starting up in town.
The Chamber struck a deal with them. Instead of Junior Achievement bringing a board of directors to town to handle the fund-raising and volunteers, the Chamber would take care of those items in return for a discount on materials.
What began as an experiment in 18 classes has grown to more than 50 classes, serving grades K-6, plus a personal economics class for eighth-graders.
While the growth of the program has been a good thing, at $175 per class, the growth has meant an increase in cost.
Junior Achievement has primarily been funded by business.
"Our businesses have been very generous up until this year," said Chamber president Bob Wallace.
The entire program costs about $9,000, plus the cost of the personal economics class, which has been funded by a grant in the past, but now must be paid for locally.
Volunteers go into the classrooms once per week for five weeks, teaching from the program's kit.
Things begin in kindergarten, teaching children about themselves and where they fit into the economy. Each year, the program builds on itself, with each grade level learning another piece of the financial and economic puzzle.
Wallace said the program pushes students to think about difficult concepts and try to make sense of things they probably have never considered. The coursework aligns with state standards.
Kits are updated every three years to keep the information relevant.
Students enjoy the program as much as the volunteers, bringing home stories of how they got to write a check or learned about ATM machines.
Volunteers who teach the program come from the community, giving businesspeople an opportunity to get inside the classroom. Students, in turn, meet people from their community they may not otherwise meet.
Wallace said the program has been successful in finding the help needed to carry out the program.
"We are not short of volunteers," he said. "It is only one hour per week for five weeks."
The Chamber will decide if it needs to cut back on the program after the first of the year. Those interested in donating can send a check to:?Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 826, Fairmont, MN 56031.