It is a town with no unemployment.
All 560 citizens have a job in Uptown City.
You can find this Utopia of labor located within the walls of Downtown Magnet Academy in Columbus. Like the mythical Scottish village of Brigadoon appearing only one day every century, Uptown City exists for just one period every school day.
It is alive from 1:20 p.m. to 2:05 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“It is our microsociety and everyone works,” said Tonya Douglass, principal at the school which has grades Pre-K through fifth grade.
During that special time, classrooms become stores, factories, courts and government agencies. Hallways become streets with names such as Partnership Path and Relevance Lane.
Students learn 21st Century skills in class and on the job by managing their own miniature community, explained Douglass. “The students chose their own form of government which is a democratic republic, wrote their constitution and elected their mayor and other government leaders.”
Businesses were set up and students had to apply for jobs meeting certain qualifications. Businesses take out loans at a bank and pay for supplies. Students punch time cards, get paychecks which they cash for “Uptown Bucks” and pay taxes. The current tax rate is 20 percent.
On shopping days, students go to businesses to purchase items produced by fellow workers. A warehouse carries raw materials that businesses purchase for production. Some materials are donated by the school’s Partner in Education TSYS.
Douglass and assistant principal Vicki Currier say the program motivates a desire to be in school, prepares tomorrow’s workforce and enhances citizenship, service learning, and community engagement.
“The thing learned in the microsociety are things they can apply to the real world,” Douglass said.
A parent, Riley Maxwell, whose son Austin Davis is a first-grader at the school, was so impressed with the program that he now volunteers.
“These children are getting an advanced education,” said Maxwell, a retired soldier. “They are learning a lot of things that kids this age usually don’t. It gives them at an early age a real idea of how the world works.”
Training for teachers comes from Microsociety Inc., a national non-profit education organization. Currier said that some of the money the school receives for staff development is used.
The current mayor is Emily Lopez, a fifth-grader. The mayor works out of the department of economic growth. The mayor supervises the whole society to ensure that goods and services are being provided for sale. She supervises government spending and presides at council meetings. The mayor also makes public appearance and speeches.
Emily works with all of the government agencies, as does Deriyana Clay, a fourth-grader who is the city manager, and Malachi Caines who is the vice mayor. “We’re a team,” Emily said. Asked why she ran for mayor, Emily replied, ”I ran because I felt like I could to a lot for the city.”
Uptown City has its own newspaper -- probably the most expensive anywhere as it sells for $15. It is the “Uptown Times” which has been the “trusted source of news for Uptown City since 2010.”
The top story in the latest issue is about a first-grader who went on trial for changing the amount of money on his check. He was found guilty and sentenced to community service. There was an Uptown Court reminder for everyone to pay their tickets on time. A loitering ticket is $3, chewing gum is $3, littering is $4 and so on. Willie Williams of the Uptown Post Office was the city’s employee of the month. He said in his profile that his favorite food is broccoli. There are personal ads in the paper and coupons for various stores.
Jacobi Cunningham, is a member of the peacekeepers, Uptown City’s police force. “I ticket people who are running in the hall or disturbing the peace by being too loud,” he said.
Kemiah Pugh works for the welcome center. “It’s fun,” she said of the program. “I can see what it’s like to be grown up.”
The youngest workers are the Little Litter Getters and wear purple similar to the Uptown Columbus Ambassadors.
There is a Reader Theater where “The Gingerbread Girl” is currently being performed.
The census bureau makes charts and graphs. Recently, it did a survey to see which businesses have more males than females.
At Celebration Station, students learn about different celebrations and holidays and at Math Maniacs students who need help with math can get tutoring.
“The older students work well with the young ones in our microsociety and help them,” Douglass said. “Everyone works together to make the city run well.”