JA Impact: Emma Totten

Posted in: Alumni Stories, JA Impact

Emma Totten is a Junior Achievement Alumna. Here’s how our JA BizTown program helped shape her future:

“What am I going to do with my life?” For most, it’s an age-old question that plagues us from elementary school well into adulthood. Fortunately, thousands of Arizona students, like Emma Totten, are given a boost in that personal discovery through their JA BizTown experience.

Emma came to JA BizTown with her 5th-grade class. Her journey began in the classroom with 14 hours of preparatory lessons. She remembers, in hindsight, the preparatory lessons serving as the puzzles pieces that she put together to form the big picture during her day-long simulation at JA BizTown, a student-sized town built just for our students.

As Emma walked through the doors of JA BizTown, she remembers being amazed by how much detail it housed. Looking at the businesses, streets, and facades centered around JA BizTown City Hall, Emma recalls, “It looked like an actual place where people would go to work.”

Emma took on the role of JA BizTown Newspaper Editor, leading a team of her 10- and 11-year-old peer journalists. She’d never been an editor before (she was only 11!), nor had she even heard of the career, but she was excited to try her hand at something new. Emma got first-hand experience leading, prioritizing, organizing, managing time, and thinking critically. She managed her team, helping them to accomplish all of their goals, edited the writing, reviewed the financials and kept the business focused on success. Emma worked so hard during the simulation that she wound up skipping all of her breaks in order to help her team complete the Paper’s objectives. With hard work comes reward – the JA BizTown Newspaper paid off its business loan from the JA BizTown bank and finished in the black (a feat that even the real pros struggle with!). At the end of the day, Emma’s tenure as the JA BizTown Newspaper Editor ended, but it was just the beginning of her journalism career.

Nearly a decade later, Emma set her sights on Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. After graduation, Emma drew on the entrepreneurship skills she learned through her JA education and formed Buzzly Media, a digital marketing agency that combines her journalism skills with her marketing instincts. Emma has worked with a wide range of companies such as TGen and Arizona PBS, helping them navigate the constantly shifting marketing and social media landscapes.

If you asked 11-year-old Emma what she was going to do with her life, would she have told you that she would one day form her own business, rooted in the same industry she worked in JA BizTown? Unlikely. However, without a doubt, the mature, professional Emma today acknowledges the impact of her JA BizTown experience on her future success.

Emma – and her success – is why Junior Achievement exists. Through programs like JA BizTown, we equip 80,000+ students each year with the skills to succeed in work and life. We connect the dots between their classroom experience and the real world, showing them what is possible and giving them the skills to pursue that success. We’re proud of you, Emma! And honored to count you among the JA family.