Joe Berkey wears many hats: he’s a small business owner, father of two Spring Hill Elementary School students, the mayor of Spring Hill, Kansas, and, on this otherwise normal weekday in spring 2023, he’s a volunteer at JA BizTown, presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union!
At school, Joe’s fourth grade son had been learning about JA BizTown for weeks.
“They’ve been preparing for JA BizTown for about a month and a half, so he’s talked quite a bit about it at home,” Joe said. “He told me that every student would have a specific job in the town, and since I’m actually the Mayor of Spring Hill, he was really hoping to be the Mayor of JA BizTown.”
While Joe’s son didn’t end up being appointed as mayor, he was chosen to be the Election Commissioner, another position in JA BizTown’s City Hall.
“Since he’s seen me run for election, it gave me the opportunity to explain to him what an Election Commissioner does in the real world,” Joe said. “I got to tell him how they’re responsible for making sure that elections are safe and secure, and how they encourage all members of the community to vote.”
As the day went on, their shared passion for civic duty became increasingly evident.
“Before he actually got to JA BizTown, I think he knew it would be fun, but he didn’t fully understand what his job would look like. Now, he’s really gotten into it, and he’s already come over to me at least three times to say, ‘I love my job! This is awesome!’” Joe shared.
As an active entrepreneur in his own community, Joe’s especially excited about the entrepreneurial and independence aspects of JA BizTown.
“I own a small business – construction companies, actually – which is my main job besides being Mayor of Spring Hill,” he said. “That makes it extra interesting to see the kids going into these businesses, receiving services, paying their bills, checking on taxes – and I’ve seen so many smiles on these kids’ faces while they’re doing all of it.”
While volunteering in JA BizTown, Joe made a point to provide mentorship and support to the fourth grade girl that was appointed to be mayor for the day.
“As she’s running around, doing all of her responsibilities as Mayor, she said to me, ‘This is a lot of pressure,’” Joe said. “And I was able to affirm that, yes, it’s a lot of pressure – but there’s so much reward in it, too.”
All in all, Joe is thankful for the opportunity to share his wisdom as a father, an entrepreneur, and an elected leader during his JA BizTown volunteering experience.
“I’m posted in City Hall today, so I got to be a part of the students’ decision making for the pricing of dog and cat adoption fees,” he said. “I enjoyed being able to support their ideas, while also reminding them of the business loan they want to pay off, and the profit they want to make.”
He’s also grateful that elementary school students are being exposed to these concepts in such an engaging environment.
“At this young age, I think it’s awesome for them to get these experiences with jobs, responsibilities, and rewards,” he said. “I think there’s a sense of financial security and confidence that students are getting out of this experience because they’re learning how to provide for themselves, while also getting to take advantage of rewards when they have the money to do so. They’re getting so excited about working hard, too, which I think is really cool to witness.”