Start-up Discovery Center opens on the south side of Savannah


Hundreds of local college students will soon gain real-world experiences like running a business, balancing a budget and applying for a loan, thanks to a new collaboration between Junior Achievement of Georgia (JA) and Georgia Southern University (GS), which will bring a new JA Discovery Center to the Armstrong Campus on the south side of Savannah.

JA and GS executives made the announcement on Friday at the monthly JA board meeting, held on the Armstrong campus in the former student recreation center, which will become the new discovery center. .

The Savannah Discovery Center will be the state’s fifth location.

Currently, there are three active centers serving over 88,000 students per year, the JA Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center in Atlanta, the JA Discovery Center in Gwinnett, and the Mike and Lynn Cottrell JA Discovery Center in North Georgia in Cumming. The fourth facility, in Dalton, is under construction and will open in 2021.

“I think this is a game-changer for K-12 financial literacy education in this area. It’s very exciting, ”said Robert Grant, Director of Development, Junior Achievement of Georgia.

Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero said the university is excited to partner with JA and host the Discovery Center on the Armstrong Campus. “The renovation of the student recreation center, funded by Junior Achievement, could start later this year,” he said.

“We anticipate that this partnership will include many opportunities for our students to work, volunteer and / or mentor college students who will be visiting our campus.”

Two main programs will be run from the Discovery Center. JA BizTown is a simulated economics program for sixth graders. JA Finance Park teaches seventh graders the ins and outs of budgeting.

Students will spend three to four weeks doing various classroom assignments before their visit to the Discovery Center where they will put into practice what they have learned, Grant said, adding that the Center will host 100 to 150 students each day.

“They will be students from all walks of life in the region. Our expectation, or our hope for the future, is to have at least five to ten counties around us that would be ready to come, ”he said.

With Chatham, the opportunity would be extended to the counties of Effingham, Bulloch, Bryan and Liberty. The Atlanta Discovery Centers are also partnering with private schools and running homeschool events, which are working well, Grant said.

“So this is a regional opportunity for K-12 education. Even if Glynn and Camden (counties) wanted to come, we would say yes, ”he said.

“And it doesn’t cost the school systems anything. The only thing we asked of the school systems is that they provide the transportation to get (the students) to and from. “

Center details

The former student recreation center spans approximately 25,000 square feet and Grant said downtown Savannah will be built to resemble one of the city’s historic plazas with the 18 replicated storefronts surrounding the green space of fortune.

Grant said the JA has strong partnerships with a few large companies in the state, such as Publix and Bank of America, and the organization is open to conversations when it comes to partnering with companies to develop the 18 showcases of the Center.

“We have naming opportunities everywhere, so it doesn’t have to be just a big showcase. There are also all kinds of opportunities, ”he said.

Showcases cover most of the operating expenses and range from $ 15,000 to $ 30,000 per year.

“We really do a lot to make sure it looks how you want it to look. So we’re asking for a three-year commitment, ”Grant said.

The JA will need $ 3.77 million to get the Center up and running, which includes everything from furniture and signage to iPads for students, Grant said. The organization plans to launch a fundraising campaign in the coming weeks.

“If everything goes according to plan, we should be able to start construction in February,” he said, adding that the Center could tentatively open in spring 2022.

The goal is to reach 15,000 to 17,000 students in the region per year, five jobs will also be created once the Center opens and it will also provide new opportunities for GS students.

“The Discovery Center will bring a new focus to southern Savannah and help make the Armstrong campus a destination for the region. In addition to providing an unparalleled innovative learning experience to 15,000 college students across the region, this project will also provide experience and employment opportunities for Georgia Southern students, ”said Marrero.

“This is exactly the type of partnership that demonstrates the added value of a collaborative approach to education and talent development.”

The programs

Inside the center, students will find 18 replicated display cases, and through the programs offered at the center, students will take on real-life roles and scenarios such as working in a company, applying for permits in city offices, applying for loans as well as create and market. a product.

“For example, Home Depot has always been one of our real, strong partners. And so a student of this BizTown program will actually come and he could be the CEO of Home Depot for the day, or the CFO or the marketing manager, so they really have to learn how to start a business, ”Grant said.

“In sixth, they come to do BizTown and they learn how to make money, then in seventh, they come to Finance Park and they learn how to create a budget and how the savings work.”

In Finance Park, students are assigned a profession, an annual salary, and a life scenario. They make stops in the 18 windows to help them balance their budgets. Storefronts include a grocer, banks, car dealerships, communications such as cell phone or cable provider, entertainment, and a non-profit organization.

“So we think that’s something that we should instill in kids to think about, you know, as they get older, and how they can have a positive impact on their community,” Grant said of the philanthropic aspect.

Grant said when it comes to budgeting, it’s all about choice. In Atlanta, JA is teaming up with the Atlanta Falcons and Mercedes Benz, and students have a variety of choices to choose how much they want to spend on football tickets and their car.

“Kids always come looking for the most expensive, and then they realize as they start to go through the budget they’re going to spend on Publix and they’re going to be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got 50 cents for this. ‘grocery’.” Grant said.

“Because they bought the most expensive car, they have the most expensive accommodation or the most expensive entertainment package, so it’s all about choice and how it all balances out.”

Aside from the opportunity to show the campus to thousands of potential students each year, Marrero said the university was pleased with how the Discovery Center and the work of Junior Achievement of Georgia aligned with their mission, their values ​​and their strategic plan.

Marrero said that Junior Achievement is “dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to take ownership of their economic success, plan for their future, and make informed academic and economic choices,” while Georgia Southern’s mission is “to promote talent and economic development to improve quality of life through scholarly activities, cultural enrichment, student life and community involvement on separate campuses.”

“As you can see, there is a great synergy between our two organizations,” he said.

Grant said the Center is a win-win for everyone involved.

“We believe financial literacy is for everyone and therefore anyone who is willing to come and work to make it happen, we are with open arms,” he said.

Watch a video on the JA Discovery Center, with this article at

Robert Grant, Director of Junior Achievement South / Coastal Georgia, explains how the Junior Achievement Discovery Center will be used.

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