Filming for the program took place at South Kitsap and Bremerton High Schools
South Kitsap High School students Lindsey Porter and Jolynn Jernigan aren’t regulars in the school’s acting class, but on Tuesday, they stood outside the school cafeteria, facing a large microphone and a television production crew for an upcoming Public Broadcasting Service program called “JA’s BizKid$.” The show is set to begin airing this fall on public television stations nationwide.
Producers of the program, Seattle-based McKenna/Gottlieb Productions, hope BizKid$ will do for financial literacy what Bill Nye did for science. The show is produced in cooperation with Junior Achievement (JA) Worldwide and is exclusively underwritten by America’s Credit Unions, including Kitsap Credit Union.
South Kitsap High School and Bremerton High School, both of which have a Kitsap Credit Union branch on campus, were chosen as filming locations through connections the Credit Union’s publicist, Cathy Brorson, made to PBS. The crew also filmed at Bremerton High School Tuesday.
During the taped interview, Porter and Jernigan described how, as members of the school’s Future Farmers of America, they earn up to $800 in a year raising and selling pigs. The girls have other jobs as well, and they’re saving their money for cars and college.
Students like Porter and Jernigan are the types of youngsters Jeff McKenna, the show’s executive producer, hopes will serve as easy-to-relate-to role models for his audience.
McKenna has had considerable experience reaching young viewers. It was his company that created and produced the Emmy-winning “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which transformed science from a subject for geeks into something truly cool.
McKenna will use the same fun, fast-paced approach in BizKid$. Using a cast of teenage actors, including South Kitsap High School senior and aspiring actor Kaelon Horst, McKenna will introduce topics like “net profit” and “compound interest.”
During one segment of Tuesday’s filming, Horst, dressed with style in a T-shirt and rumpled jacket, stood in front of the South Kitsap’s Credit Union branch explaining the term “transaction.”
“Money, when it’s not moving, it doesn’t have any value,” Horst said. “At my high school, South Kitsap High, money’s moving every day at Kitsap Credit Union. … “
“He makes my job a lot easier,” said audio man Todd Schmidt of Horst, who made the cut out of 500 teens auditioning for the BizKid$ cast of 10.
On-location segments are just part of the show, which features antics of the BizKid$ — think Mouseketeers with money — and a crew of other fun characters, including Zib (a giant purple nose with a nose for business; his name is Biz spelled backwards) and Financial Genius (who shows kids how to learn from his mistakes).
Fans of the Seattle-based comedy show “Almost Live” will recognize former host John Keister and funnyman Pat Cashman, who will be regulars on BizKid$. Keister is head writer for the show and stars in a segment called “Cave Man Negotiations.” Cashman plays a character called “The King of Ka-Ching.”
McKenna, who was a co-creator and assistant producer of “Almost Live,” met Nye of the set of that show, which was when their alliance began.
Kitsap County’s connection to BizKid$ traces directly to publicist Brorson, part of whose job at Kitsap Credit Union is to promote financial literacy among young people. As president of a group called the National Youth Involvement League, she organized a convention in San Antonio, Texas, where BizKid$ executive producer Jaime Hammond of PBS was invited to film a focus group involving young people.
In March, Washington Credit Union League, of which Kitsap Credit Union is a part, held an event profiling the three-way partnership between PBS, Junior Achievement and Credit Unions of America in the production of BizKid$. The event raised more than $2.2 million for the show from Washington credit unions alone, and money is still coming in. Washington Credit Union League’s involvement has been instrumental in raising money for the show, Brorson said.
BizKid$ fits right in with Kitsap Credit Union’s mission to educate youth about money. Brorson herself teaches classes on a variety of financial topics in Kitsap schools. The Bremerton branch of Kitsap Credit Union opened in October, 2001. South Kitsap’s branch opened in December, 2006.
Tellers at both branches are volunteer students, selected through an interview process. But the transactions they take care of are real. Students like Porter and Jernigan have convenient access to banking on campus, while classes in the school’s marketing program reinforce the principals of smart money management.
Julie VanCleef is a teller at the South Kitsap Credit Union branch.
“It’s been great for references and networking,” said VanCleef. “ And it’s been great for our people skills and computers.”
In college, VanCleef said, she will likely major in marketing or education. “I’m really not sure. It could change next week.”
Regardless of VanCleef’s path in life, at least this BizKid will know how to manage her money.