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Moneythink: OSU organization teaches personal finance to high school students

By: Priyanka Jain

Empowering local high school students through mentorship, financial literacy, and college-readiness is Moneythink OSU’s mission. Starting with just a few mentors at one high school three years ago, they have grown to over 40 mentors that go to Columbus North International, Independence High School, and East High School weekly. They are now both a student organization and a chapter of the national nonprofit.

Each week, the mentors go over the lesson plan for the week and then 3-5 mentors, depending on the classroom size, work with teachers during an entire class period and teach personal finance. The overall curriculum focuses on 3 aspects: financial literacy which includes financial independence, budgeting, and paying taxes; basic economics, such as someone’s role in the macro economy; and college-readiness, which includes writing essays, the Common App, interviewing and applying for scholarships.

“[The curriculum] builds upon itself, so we start out with personal budgeting and then move from college to jobs and then from personal finance into financial institutions like banks,” explains senior Alisa Feng, president of Moneythink at OSU.

In the beginning, the organization used the curriculum provided by the national nonprofit Moneythink. However, since the original curriculum was created at the University of Chicago for inner-city high school students in Chicago, it does not exactly fit the students that the OSU chapter works with. Therefore, a few members decided to rewrite the entire curriculum. Every semester they review it and make any necessary revisions based on the teacher and mentor feedback gathered by their program’s committee.

The Moneythink national nonprofit organization has made a recent push in the realm of technology. They have a free smart phone app called MoneythinkMobile offering basic financial tools that are not readily available for inner-city students. The app features a savings and spending tracker as well as a college tuition calculator to increase students’ financial awareness.

Manit Jain, a Fisher senior and former Moneythink mentor and intern had the opportunity to assist with their app development. Jain was involved with user experience, so he would go into the classes and ask for students’ feedback on the app and then report it back to the developer.

Jain believes that one of the most difficult parts was making himself, a college student at a large university, relatable to the students he was talking to.

“A lot of these kids do not have the structure either at home or in the school system where they know about [personal finance] so it is all brand new to them,” Jain describes. “You cannot just go in and start talking about money. You have to develop a relationship and connect over something that is not money like music or sports […] to get the conversation going and then transition into it.”

Inner-city kids are very protective of themselves because of their unstable environment, so once students opened up to him, then Jain was able to ask questions about basic financial topics like bank accounts or debit cards.

Jain adds “that relatability is an undervalued skill” and “there is not enough emphasis on financial literacy and personal finance in the US.”

Feng agrees, stating that “finance gets overlooked very often because there is a lot for high schools to juggle. What is more important is that we build relationships with students, so they have a familiar face to talk to every week.” Mentorship is not only about the learning but also the bond between a mentor and a student and the long term impacts of that connection.